Our story starts in 1934 when Roberson Memorial, Inc was established by the will of Alonzo Roberson, to create an “educational center … for the use and benefit of all people.” The Roberson Memorial Center (as it was first called) opened to the public in 1954 in the Roberson Mansion. At that time, the Binghamton Museum of Fine Arts transferred its collections to Roberson. This was only the beginning of amazing things to come….
Roberson’s vision to be a nationally recognized museum for the study and interpretation of history, art and science was realized when, in 1966, Roberson commissioned the world-renowned architect, Richard Neutra to design a major addition.
This addition, also known as the Martin Wing after Roberson’s first Director, Keith Martin, houses several galleries, administrative offices and the region’s only Digital Planetarium, a true asset to the Greater Binghamton area.
Additionally, Roberson was first accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) on May 1, 1973, then re-accredited on March 1, 1990 and again on December 3, 2003, with the next on November 1, 2017.
AAM was founded in 1906, but did not start the accreditation program until 1971, so Roberson was among the first to have received the coveted designation. AAM accredited museums rank in the top 3 percent of all the museums in the United States.
In 1984 the A. Ward Ford wing was added to house our modern vaults and collections preparation space, and now holds the Decker Life Science Center.
Roberson became accredited under the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) in the 1980’s.
In 1996, the Roberson Mansion’s carriage house was renovated as a multipurpose educational center, complete with Clayworks, a modern pottery studio. Also, a New York State Heritage Area Visitor Center addition, owned by the city but operated in partnership with Roberson, was built.
Roberson Museum and Science center continues to be locally, regionally and nationally recognized for it’s excellence in art, history and science education. Our offerings in events, exhibits and educational programs remain unmatched in the region as we strive to continue to deliver a unique and engaging experience for all visitors!
So Who Were The Robersons?
Alonzo Roberson Jr., the son of Alonzo Roberson Sr. and Lydia Titus Roberson, was born in Binghamton, NY on November 16, 1861. His father, a carpenter, had moved to Binghamton about 1852. An astute businessman as well as a craftsman, Alonzo Sr. purchased the Marsh and Gilbert Lumber Company and renamed it the Alonzo Roberson Company. Alonzo Jr. married Margaret Hays, a Binghamton school teacher, on December 21, 1887. In 1904 they decided to move from their Main Street home to the prestigious Front Street/ Riverside Drive area of Binghamton. They hired C. Edward Vosbury, a prominent Binghamton architect, to design the house. Vosbury designed an Italian Renaissance Revival style house with all of the modern conveniences. The plan included an elevator, central heat, combination gas and electric lighting fixtures, a dumb waiter, and our intercom system, and a private bath for each bedroom. As in most large homes in the area, there was a billiard room and a ballroom on the third floor. The design also incorporated a three-story servants’ wing in the back of the house.
Mr. Roberson chose the New York City firm of Pottier & Stymus to design the interior of the house. The final design called for silk damask stretched on the walls of the reception room and the library-living room. The Main Hall was painted, stippled and glazed before being decorated with Dutch metal, stenciling, and hand-painted decorations. Each room on the first floor has a different type of woodwork.
The Buffalo firm of Townsend & Fleming was hired to landscape the grounds. A tall wrought-iron fence, designed by the architect and manufactured by Titchener Iron Works, enclosed the property. The home was completed in May of 1907 at an estimated cost of $107,500 for the house, stable, fence, and landscaping.
Alonzo died May 16, 1934. At the time of his death, he was President of the Roberson & Son Lumber Co. and Chairman of the Board of Marine Midland Bank. His will provided for the establishment of “an education center” in the Front St home after its use by his widow. The Roberson Memorial Center opened to the public in 1954.
Funding for Roberson is provided, in part, by general operating support grants from the United Cultural Fund, a program of the Broome County Arts Council, the Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts.