Monthly Archives: January 2013

Building an Exhibition: Behind the Scenes at the Museum of the City of New York

Behind the Scenes at the Museum of the City of New York

Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers showcases innovative design solutions to better accommodate New York City’s changing, and sometimes surprising, demographics, including a rising number of single people. The exhibition features a full-sized, flexibly furnished micro-studio apartment of just 325 square feet – a size prohibited by law in most areas of the city.  Visitors to the exhibition will see models and drawings of housing designs by architectural teams commissioned in 2011 by Citizens Housing & Planning Council, in partnership with the Architectural League of New York. The exhibition also presents winning designs from the Bloomberg administration’s recently launched pilot competition to test new housing models, as well as examples set by other cities in the United States and around the world, including Seattle, Providence, Montreal, San Diego, and Tokyo.

What follows is a selection of snapshots documenting the installation of three models in  the exhibition, as supervised by our Assistant Registrar and Chief Preparator, starring our splendid crew of art handlers and featuring cameos of the architects and fabricators for the models.

Stan Allen Architects

Context Model Stan Allen Architects

Stan Allen Architects, a firm in New York City,  has two architectural models in the exhibition. The picture above is their Context Model being placed upon its base in the gallery.

Stan Allen Architects

3/16 Detail Model Stan Allen Architects

The 3/16 Detail Model depicts the tallest structure in the previous Context Model. Like its smaller companion, it came to us fully assembled, complete with figures, detailed below.

Detail of 3/16 Detail Model Stan Allen Architects

Detail of 3/16 Detail Model Stan Allen Architects

Team R8, also based in New York City, has four micro-studio apartment architectural models in the exhibition. Below is a series of snapshots of  the model fabricator inserting planters, beds, and figurines (created by a 3D printer!) into Team R8′s models.

Studio Team R8

Studio Team R8

SRO Team R8

SRO Team R8

Figurines Team R8

3D figurines Team R8

The architectural model that required the most assembly on site was designed by Smith & Others, a firm based in San Diego, CA.  It was the first to arrive at the Museum but it was not unpacked and assembled until opening day. The images that follow show their progress, which occurred during Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement of the winner of the competition, and the press preview following.

GoHome Smith & Others

GoHome Smith & Others

GoHome Smith & Others

GoHome Smith & Others

GoHome Smith & Others

GoHome Smith & Others

GoHome Smith & Others

GoHome Smith & Others

One of the final stages of a successful installation, the placing of the Plexiglas bonnet to protect the object inside, is usually met by a collective sigh of relief from all involved. Below are two staff members cleaning the bonnet for the GoHome model before it is placed. It is not often one steps inside the box!

Cleaning the Bonnet

Cleaning the Bonnet

And the finished product!

GoHome Smith & Others

GoHome Smith & Others

The two architectural models that are not represented in this blog were designed by GANSstudio and Peter Gluck & Partners, firms based in New York City. Visit the Museum to see those examples and learn more about those that are pictured, as well as explore the full scale micro-studio apartment and to view the winner of the competition, and perhaps imagine yourself living in one of these units, compete with a view of Central Park!

Winter in the City

In case you missed it, winter descended on New York City last week. Freezing temperatures (the coldest in two years), snow, and wind made many New Yorkers remember why they love the summer.  To observe the late arrival of winter, and the snow that’s falling as this is being written, here are some of our favorite winter images.

There is something undeniably magical about New York in the winter. The fall of snow on skyscrapers muffles the usual street noises until you can almost believe you’re walking in an earlier time. Blankets of snow transform the hard geometries of familiar sights like Herald Square and the Flatiron Building with the soft brush-like strokes of impressionist art.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) Broadway North from 34th Street. 1899. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.17918

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Broadway North from 34th Street. 1899. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.17918.

Jessie Tarbox Beals. Flatiron Building. ca. 1905. Museum of the City of New York. 91.53.38.

Jessie Tarbox Beals. Flatiron Building. ca. 1905. Museum of the City of New York. 91.53.38.

Central Park has been the place to enjoy winter in Manhattan since it opened in 1857. Generations of New Yorkers have skated, sledded, had snowball fight,s and simply enjoyed nature in its 843 acres. (If you want to see an amazing 1898 short film by Edison depicting the splendor of Central Park in the winter, especially sleighing, go here.)

Currier & Ives. Central Park in Winter. ca. 1885. Museum of the City of New York. 57.100.5.2

Currier & Ives. Central Park in Winter. ca. 1885. Museum of the City of New York. 57.100.5.2.

While this Currier and Ives print has sleighing in the forefront, New Yorkers have found ways many ways to enjoy the snow throughout the boroughs.

The ever popular sledding in Central Park:

Unknown. Sleigh riding in Central Park. 1897. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.1313.

Skating with friends:

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Brooklyn Friends Seminary – ice skating. 1940. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.12630.

And proving that New Yorkers are nothing, if not intrepid:

Unknown. Bicycle in the snow, C. W. Hadley at the handlebars. 1898. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.13336

Unknown. Bicycle in the snow, C. W. Hadley at the handlebars. 1898. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.13336.

In all the five boroughs, during winter, you can feel like you’re in the depths of nature and not in one of the largest cities in the world.

Irving Underhill (d. 1960). Central Park Snow Scene. 1923.Muiseum of the City of New York. X2010.28.362

Irving Underhill (d. 1960). Central Park Snow Scene. 1923.Museum of the City of New York. X2010.28.362.

George Miller, Jr. When Winter Comes - Riverdale - N.Y. City. ca. 1930. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.12.152

George Miller, Jr. When Winter Comes – Riverdale – N.Y. City. ca. 1930. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.12.152.

Enjoy the rest of the of winter, whatever it might bring!

Click here to view more images of winter and New Yorkers having fun in the snow from the Museum’s collection.

The Political Campaign

Certificate of Registration, 1897, in the Politics and Government Collection.  Museum of the City of New York. 38.176.

Certificate of Registration, 1897, in the Politics and Government Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 38.176.

In honor of the 57th inauguration of the President of the United States, I decided to take a look at how campaigning for political office and the democratic process is represented in the collections of the Museum of the City of New York.

Geraldine Ferraro, America's First Woman Vice President, 1984, in the Political and Civic Button Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 96.24.

Geraldine Ferraro, America’s First Woman Vice President, 1984, in the Political and Civic Button Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 96.24.

Those of you who frequent our online Collections Portal may have noticed the recent addition of hundreds of political and civic buttons and badges to our online content.  This collection is representative of the wide array of politicians, offices, and agendas encountered in New York City politics.

The collection includes political campaign buttons for female candidates running for local positions, such as Bella Abzug, as well as material associated with New Yorkers such as Geraldine Ferraro and Hilary Clinton who held local political positions, and went on to run (though unsuccessfully, in these instances) for political office at the national level.

Candidates have approached the electorate with any number of slogans and agendas, ranging from improved waterways to a clean government.

For Congress, Edw. R. Gilman, ca.1905, in the Political and Civic Button Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 96.184.204.

For Congress, Edw. R. Gilman, ca.1905, in the Political and Civic Button Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 96.184.204.

Vote for Brush and a Clean City Government, ca.1895, in the Political and Civic Buttons Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 96.184.193.

The Emigrant's Lament, ca. 1860's, in the Political Ephemera Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 41.361

The Emigrant’s Lament, ca. 1860′s, in the Politics and Government Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 41.361

The collection holds buttons related to mayoral campaigns, including those of Seth Low, John Purroy Mitchel, and David Dinkins; and gubernatorial campaigns, including candidates Nelson A. Rockefeller and Theodore Roosevelt.

New York’s diverse population is also represented in the political process, dating back to complaints related to inconsistent granting of the right to vote to immigrants, as depicted by the broadside to the left from our two-dimensional paper ephemera Politics and Government Collection; to a Spanish language campaign button for Rudy Giuliani.

Grand Sachem - John R. Voorhis - Society of Tammany or Columbian Order, 1917, in the Political and Civic Buttons and Badges Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 52.314.23.

Grand Sachem – John R. Voorhis – Society of Tammany or Columbian Order, 1917, in the Political and Civic Buttons and Badges Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 52.314.23.

One political organization well known for its alignment with the immigrant vote and its influence over New York City politics through much of the 19th century is the Tammany Society or Colombian Order, commonly referred to as “Tammany Hall.”  The Museum holds a wide array of objects in the collection associated with the Tammany Hall political machine, including ribbon badges such as the one pictured to the right, over 250 original sketches for political cartoons by Rollin Kirby, excerpts from Harper’s Weekly, and two dimensional ephemera such as programs and invitations for events.

No matter your political affiliation, the Museum of the City of New York’s collection holds a wide array of objects documenting the vibrancy of this city’s political history.

Theater timecapsule – Greatest hits of 1912-1913 season

Talking about a Broadway blockbuster today requires a discourse on the song and dance numbers involved.  The musical reigns supreme at the Broadway box office, but this wasn’t always the case.   The book musical with its full integration of song, dance, and narrative was still in its infancy 100 years ago, and the  stand out hits  of the time were straight plays.

Flier for "Within the law". 1913. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.41.3

Flier for Within the Law. 1913. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.41.3

The biggest dramatic hit of the 1912-1913 season was the inaugural production at the  Eltinge 42nd Street TheatreWithin the Law opened on September 11, 1912.    In the play, young shop girl Mary Turner is accused of theft. Though she did not commit the crime, Mary is convicted to a three year sentence.  Making the most of her incarceration, Mary studies law and discovers legal ways to exact her revenge.  Once on the outside, she assembles a team from both sides of the law and begins extorting money from wealthy men including her accuser’s son.  Tension heightens when Mary’s mark sincerely falls in love with her, and she begins to return his feelings.

White Studio (New York, N.Y.). Jane Cowl as Mary Turner. 1912. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.41.1

White Studio (New York, N.Y.). Jane Cowl as Mary Turner. 1912. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.41.1

The story is full of confidence tricks, double-crosses, police informers, triple-crosses, and a gun shot on stage (made all the more blood-tingling through the use of the fairly new Maxim Silencer).  The play ends in true melodramatic form.  The real criminals are punished and love triumphs.  Audiences were rewarded with a thrilling evening of entertainment that did not significantly challenge the status quo.  Rich people may afford better protection under the law, but the hard-work of a virtuous spirit will ultimately win.

Souvenir program for "Within the law". 1913. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.41.2

Souvenir program for “Within the law”. 1913. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.41.2

Within the Law ran 541 performances with consistently high box office receipts, but it was only the second biggest hit of the season.  That honor fell to the comedy Peg O’ My Heart with over 600 performances.  Also a girl from humble beginnings, the titular Peg (played by Laurette Taylor) travels to England to be reunited with long-lost relatives.

White Studio (New York, N.Y.). [Laurette Taylor as Peg with Michael the dog.] 1913. Museum of the City of New York. 34.79.521

White Studio (New York, N.Y.). [Laurette Taylor as Peg with Michael the dog.] 1913. Museum of the City of New York. 34.79.521

Peg’s father is poor and Irish, and her mother ran off with him to America, effectively abandoning her own wealthy English family.  Peg’s uncle has recently passed away and left her a small fortune. This same uncle also left a stipend to any respectable family members willing to take up Peg’s education and introduction into society.  Peg’s aunt, Mrs. Chichester, left desperate by a bad investment scheme, welcomes Peg into her home.

Soon the warmth of Peg’s Irish-American manners crashes against the hypocritical reserve of her English relations.  In a scene in Act II, Peg returns home from a dance with her sweetheart “Jerry” (later discovered to be Sir Gerald) and runs into her cousin Ethel sneaking out to elope with a married man.

White Studio (New York, N.Y.) Laurette Taylor as Peg and Christine Norman as Ethel.] 1913. Museum of the City of New York. 48.210.1430

White Studio (New York, N.Y.). [Laurette Taylor as Peg and Christine Norman as Ethel.] 1913. Museum of the City of New York. 48.210.1430

When the noise of their run-in wakes the house, Peg cheerily admits to coming from the dance in an effort to distract the family from the fact that her cousin is fully clothed at a nocturnal hour.  Peg’s sacrifice teaches the Chichesters the value of familial duty and care. The play ends as it must, with all parties reconciled, everyone once again financially comfortable, and Peg with her arms around her sweetheart Jerry.

The popular song “Peg O’ My Heart” by Alfred Bryan and Fred Fisher is said to be inspired by the play’s main character.  Though it did not appear in the  play, the song was performed on Broadway as part of the Ziegfeld Follies of 1913.  100 years later, the popularity of the song has outlasted that of the original play.

Sheet music for "Peg o' my heart", 1913. Museum of the City of New York. 70.49.148

Sheet music for “Peg o’ my heart”, 1913. Museum of the City of New York. 70.49.148

Peg O’ My Heart enjoyed another successful run in 1922 again starring Laurette Taylor, who also starred in a silent film version of the play that same year.  Despite the success of its first two runs, no Broadway production has been mounted since 1922. Within the Law was also only revived once on Broadway, just 16 years after its smash debut.  The play was considered too dated and closed within the month it opened.  Though record breaking hits, both productions were unable to endure the changing times.  With influence of European artistic movements in the wake of World War I, audiences were no longer satisfied with the clear cut heroes and villains of melodrama.

Remembering the New York World’s Fair of 1939

Handbill from the 1939 New York World's Fair.  1939-1940 World's Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York

Handbill from the 1939 New York World’s Fair, 1939, in the1939-1940 World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

Designing Tomorrow: America’s World Fairs of the 1930′s” opened at the Museum of the City of New York  December 5, featuring a core traveling exhibition organized by the National Building Museum, which was then expanded and adapted by the City Museum.

New York’s celebrated World’s Fair of 1939-40, held in the newly built Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, drew millions of visitors with its promise to reveal “The World of Tomorrow.” As one of the last – and the largest – of six world’s fairs that were held in the United States in the 1930s, the New York fair was the culmination of years of planning that looked to design, science, and technology to alleviate the bleak conditions of the Depression and create a brighter future.

In addition to the collection of 1939 World’s Fair architectural drawings and paintings, postcards, and photographs the Museum holds a significant collection of ephemera that documents visitors’ experiences and provides insight into the techniques used to market the fairs both to the public and to exhibitors.

I Have Seen the Future Pin, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

I Have Seen the Future Pin, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

Since the ephemera is not yet digitized, and only a small selection from the collection is showcased in the exhibition, I wanted to share further examples of the types of material that visitors to the fair took home as keepsakes.

See the New York World's Fair from a Comfortable Chair, 1939, in the 1939-1940 World's Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 96.156.86

See the New York World’s Fair from a Comfortable Chair, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 96.156.86

The visitor experience was a priority of the fair.  Attendance exceeded over 44 million people during the course of the fair’s two seasons.  In order to make those numbers, not only did the exhibits have to be interesting, but the actual experience of visiting the fair needed to be exciting and pleasurable.  The brochure to the left,  “See the New York World’s Fair from a Comfortable Chair,” advertising guide chair tours starting at $0.50 for fifteen minutes, is just one example of the materials held in the Museum’s collection that illustrate how the actual experience was marketed to the public.

The fair offered a vast variety of themed exhibits – international, state, technology, transportation, and business – and almost all of them provided printed literature and souvenirs to accompany the experience.  Many of the international and state pavilions were hoping to inspire travel and tourism to their areas.

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 1939, in the 1939 New York World's Fair Collection.  Museum of the City of New York. 96.156.62

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 96.156.62

Business and technology pavilions used the fair to share their latest innovations and promote commercial interests.

New York World's Fair: Bakelite Pin, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair Collection.  Museum of the City of New York.

New York World’s Fair: Bakelite Pin, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

Mr. Peanut Bookmark, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

Mr. Peanut Bookmark, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

Much of the ephemera shows how concepts such as color moving film and air travel, which we take for granted today, were novel in 1939.

Color Movies with 16mm Keystone, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

Color Movies with 16mm Keystone, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.291.

Excerpt from United Air Lines: Service from New York to Chicago and Everywhere West, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.67.

Innovations in transportation were essential to visualizing “the world of tomorrow,” and the General Motors Futurama was one of the most popular exhibits.

Futurama, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.17.

Futurama, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.17.

List of titles on St. Moritz Hotel envelope,  “Dream of Venus” pavilion for Amusement Zone, ca 1939.  Queens Museum of Art. Queens Museum of Art,  from the Jean Farley Levy                 Queens Museum of Art, from the Jean Farley Levy  and Julien Levy Estate, partial gift of Eric Strom (2004.2.15)

List of titles on St. Moritz Hotel envelope, “Dream of Venus” pavilion for Amusement Zone, ca 1939. Queens Museum of Art. Jean Farley Levy and Julien Levy Estate, partial gift of Eric Strom, 2004.2.15.

Currently, these objects and others like them are stored in several boxes with relatively no order, and little descriptive information for providing access.  In a collaborative project with the Queens Museum of Art, the Museum will soon embark on an 18-month project to make our collections from both the 1939/40 and 1964/65 New York World’s Fairs more accessible as a result of a generous Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).  This project will allow the two museums to process and describe their relatively unknown and inaccessible World’s Fair collections, intellectually uniting all materials in a single finding aid, and providing object-level cataloging for selected highlights from both collections.  The Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in the CLIR program.

Screen capture from a 1939 newsreel, 1939. Queens Museum of Art. Gift of Charles Locasto, 1987.1.2WF39

Screen capture from a 1939 newsreel, 1939. Queens Museum of Art. Gift of Charles Locasto, 1987.1.2WF39