NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY TRANSFORMATION OPENS APRIL 29, 2017
Renovated Fourth Floor Features an Unprecedented Center for Women’s History, Gallery of
100 Illuminated Tiffany Lamps, and a Reimagined Display of Historical Artifacts
NEW YORK, NY, April 26, 2017 – Opening to the public on April 29, 2017, the New-York Historical Society’s transformed Henry Luce III Center on its fourth floor will feature a groundbreaking new Center for Women’s History, the first of its kind in a major U.S. museum; a spectacular, custom-designed glass gallery showcasing the Museum’s preeminent collection of Tiffany lamps; and a re-imagined installation of historical artifacts from the Museum’s permanent collection, telling the American story through the lens of New York.
The completely-renovated and redesigned fourth floor—which has received major public funding from the City of New York and New York State—will offer a new visitor experience, with unexpected and surprising perspectives on collection highlights that reveal the often-overlooked stories of women who transformed our American history and our lives today. The project was inspired by New-York Historical’s discovery of the unknown story of Clara Driscoll and the “Tiffany Girls,” who designed and created iconic Tiffany lamps at the turn of the 20th century, many of which are in the Museum’s collection.
“The reopening of our Henry Luce III Center on the fourth floor of our landmark building marks a new and dramatic phase in the evolution of New-York Historical as one of the great showcases for architectural innovation in New York with, among other spectacular features, a bi-level glass Tiffany lamp gallery that is a major feat of design and engineering,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Virtually every nook and cranny of redesigned space provokes new thinking around the American story. And for the very first time in our city’s history, the key role that New York has played in the nation’s evolution is accorded the place of privilege it deserves. Many of the objects we now are able to display have never been seen by the public before; others have not been seen for generations. With state-of-the-art interactive media, much of which is being introduced to the public for the very first time in our galleries, the visitor experience is dramatic, inspiring, and unique.”
“New York women have led the nation when it comes to furthering women’s rights, so it is fitting that the new Center for Women’s History right here in Manhattan will provide a space to tell women’s stories, for our benefit and that of future generations,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Chair of the New York Women’s Suffrage Commission. “As we celebrate the centennial of the Women’s Suffrage movement in New York State, we must ask ourselves: 100 years from now, what will be our legacy? The new center should inspire every woman and girl to take an active part in building that legacy. I encourage everyone to visit and learn about the impact women have made on history.”
“The New-York Historical Society has a long tradition of sharing with New Yorkers of all ages the important lessons of American history,” said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The New York City Council is proud to support New-York Historical in this vital work as it opens its new fourth floor and the Center for Women's History with its mission to showcase the untold contributions of women to our nation's history. It's sure to inspire future generations for years to come.”
On opening weekend (Saturday, April 29 and Sunday, April 30), families can interact with Living Historians in the galleries. “New Yorkers of the Past” will be stationed throughout the fourth floor to chat with visitors about their historical eras and explain some of the Museum’s most treasured artifacts and artworks. Downstairs, the 3rd New Jersey Regiment’s Jersey Greys, a reenacting troop, will demonstrate military drills and share a behind-the-scenes look at a Continental soldier’s accessories. Also on Saturday, April 29 from 10 am – 4 pm, the NYHistory Store will present a curated marketplace of products by women makers, designers and entrepreneurs, with a unique range of jewelry, boutique toys, textiles, accessories, food and quality crafts.
Center for Women’s History
Directed and curated by Valerie Paley, vice president and chief historian of the New-York Historical Society, the new Center for Women’s History is the first institution in the nation within the walls of a major museum dedicated to this essential subject and will be unique in its size, scope, and inclusive spirit. The Center features special exhibitions in the 1,500-square foot Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, inaugurated in March with Saving Washington, on view through July 30, 2017. The exhibition, an immersive installation featuring more than 150 objects, focuses on the political and social contributions of First Lady Dolley Madison and other women of the era to the fledgling democracy of early America. Lead support for Saving Washington has been provided by Joyce B. Cowin and the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.
Two new display cases highlight women’s history artifacts from the Museum’s collection, one featuring items from the recently donated archives of Billie Jean King, including a tennis dress, racquets, and materials that illustrate her historic fight for women’s rights and equal pay; and another exploring the female allegorical image of America as a Native American, with a 19th-century terracotta sculptural figurehead and a 1957 diamond tiara in the form of a feathered headdress. Generous support for this section has been provided by the Estate of Jean Dubinsky Appleton.
Women’s Voices, a multimedia digital installation of nine oversized touchscreens, reveals the hidden connections among exceptional and unknown women who left their mark on New York and the nation. Lead support for Women’s Voices was generously provided by Daria L. and Eric J. Wallach. A 15-minute film highlighting stories of notable women in early 20th century New York is being created to screen in the Museum’s first floor auditorium.
Gallery of Tiffany Lamps
The Gallery of Tiffany Lamps, designed by renowned Czech architect Eva Jiřičná in her first New York museum project, comprises a 4,800-square-foot, two-story space measuring nearly a city block with its soaring glass Norman S. Benzaquen Grand Staircase. As the centerpiece of the fourth floor, the gallery features 100 illuminated Tiffany lamps from New-York Historical’s spectacular collection displayed within a dramatically lit jewel-like space that visitors can access through the Geduld Family Gateways.
Curated by Margaret K. Hofer, vice president and museum director of the New-York Historical Society, with Rebecca Klassen, assistant curator of material culture, the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps highlights the Museum’s Tiffany lamp collection, regarded as one of the world’s largest and most encyclopedic. The installation will include multiple examples of the Dragonfly shade, a unique Dogwood floor lamp (ca. 1900–06), a Wisteria table lamp (ca. 1901), and a rare, elaborate Cobweb shade on a Narcissus mosaic base (ca. 1902), among many others.
Interactive elements in the Tiffany gallery include a hands-on “Design-a-Lamp” experience on the John L. and Sue Ann Weinberg Mezzanine and a diorama that illustrates the rise of electrification. Kiosks share personal stories of the individual Tiffany Girls, including dramatic readings from Clara Driscoll’s letters as well as sources of their design inspiration and details on the manufacturing process. The New-York Historical Society is grateful to Lois Chiles for narrating the audio tour of the new Gallery of Tiffany Lamps.
Imaginative new displays and interpretation of permanent collection highlights, created by a curatorial team under the direction of Margaret K. Hofer and designed by Gerhard Schlanzky, creative director and director of exhibitions, transforms the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture. The striking space increases public access and engagement with treasures from New-York Historical’s holdings to illuminate aspects of New York and American history. Lead support has been provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.
The North Gallery—a grand double-height expanse of the floor—features 15 themed niches with a variety of artifacts and artworks that illustrate aspects of urban life through generations, contrasted with six soaring vertical cases that feature dense presentations of objects. Objects relating to themes of recreation, the port of New York, Hudson River School artists, slavery in New York, and 9/11, among other topics, will be on view. The central corridor of the North Gallery features 10 historical artifacts that chart key moments in history, including a copper globe (1542) detailing Giovanni da Verrazzano’s exploration of the New York area; a draft wheel used in the lottery that sparked the Draft Riots in Civil War-torn New York in July 1863, one of the worst urban riots in American history; and a silver subway controller handle used by Mayor George McClellan to drive the first subway car on its maiden voyage from City Hall in 1904.
The Hall of American Silver will showcase a display of silver and jewelry by the New York retailer Tiffany & Co.—including the monumental punch bowl presented by five-and-dime magnate Frank W. Woolworth to architect Cass Gilbert upon the opening of the Woolworth Building in 1913—as well as highlights of the Museum’s collection of early American silver. Rounding out the floor, the Robert H. Smith Family Skylight Gallery designed by Eva Jiřičná provides visitors an airy, sun-soaked lounge space where they can reflect on their experience beneath a historic skylight that was part of the building’s original construction, restored with the generous support of American Express.
Public Programs & Education
In conjunction with the reopening of the transformed fourth floor, New-York Historical will offer a series of fun family events on weekends, holidays, and public school vacation weeks. Designed for children ages four and up, History Detectives is an opportunity for families to discover history through games, sketching, and activities in the new fourth floor galleries. Suitcases located on the fourth floor with “detective supplies” will hold a variety of fun, interactive family centered challenges.
Opening this summer, a new digital learning center will offer young people an innovative, state-of-the-art scholarship space to conduct research, create multimedia, or work on group projects. The center will feature an array of technology designed to fuel creativity, including a media lab, an interactive media wall, a recording booth for creating video projects, a casual working area and reading nook, and workspaces for small study groups or full classes. Funding for the space has been provided by the Thompson Family Foundation.
The Center for Women’s History will present numerous scholarly initiatives, including the annual Diane and Adam E. Max Conference on Women’s History, which took place on March 5 and focused on reproductive rights. Other scholarly offerings include three doctoral-level Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowships in Women’s History, for which fellows will develop exhibitions and programming; an online course (“MOOC”) taught by Columbia University historian Alice Kessler-Harris; and on-site and online curricula for K–12 students, supported by Deutsche Bank, that aims to integrate women’s stories into all areas of history teaching. Generous support for the Center’s programs has been provided by Jean Margo Reid and Hogan Lovells.
Public funding for the capital project has been provided by the City of New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, the City Council of New York with the support of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Members Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Jimmy Van Bramer, Daniel Dromm, and Helen Rosenthal. Major funding was also provided by Empire State Development and I LOVE NEW YORK under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council Initiative. Additional public support provided by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Leadership funding was provided by Norman S. Benzaquen, Joyce B. Cowin, Ravenel B. Curry III, the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, Richard Gilder and Lois Chiles, Susan and Roger Hertog, Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, Patricia D. and John Klingenstein, Barbara K. and Ira A. Lipman, the Henry Luce Foundation, Diane and Adam E. Max, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Jean Margo Reid, Bonnie and Richard Reiss, Pam and Scott Schafler, Bernard L. Schwartz, the Robert H. Smith Family, the Thompson Family Foundation, Ann and Andrew H. Tisch, Sue Ann Weinberg, and Barbara and David Zalaznick.
Major support was provided by the Estate of Jean Dubinsky Appleton, Franci Blassberg and Joe Rice, Lawrence N. Field, the Geduld Family, Joan and Joel I. Picket, Daria L. and Eric J. Wallach, and Roy J. Zuckerberg. Important funding was provided by American Express, Helen and Robert Appel, the Barker Welfare Foundation, the Estate of Agnes Bogart, James S. Chanos, Elizabeth B. Dater and Wm. Mitchell Jennings, Jr., Diana and Joseph DiMenna, Edythe Gladstein and Matthew "Mike" Gladstein, Helen and Edward R. Hintz, Jennifer and John R. Monsky, Amanda and Neal Moszkowski, a gift in honor of Seymour Neuman, the Pine Tree Foundation of New York, the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, Ira L. Unschuld, Leah and Michael R. Weisberg, and Anita and Byron R. Wien.
Additional support was provided by Julie and James Alexandre, Claudine and Fred Bacher, Judy and Howard Berkowitz, Diane Brandt and Martin Lewis, the Coby Foundation, Ltd., Con Edison, Susan and Greg Danilow, Barbara and Richard Debs, Deutsche Bank, Howard Gilman Foundation, Hogan Lovells, the Hyde and Watson Foundation, Susan and Robert E. Klein, the Alice Lawrence Foundation, Cheryl and Glen S. Lewy, Lillian Nassau LLC, Tarky Lombardi, Jr., the Caroline M. Lowndes Foundation, Louise Mirrer and David Halle, Abigail and Jonathan M. Moses, Carol and Lawrence Saper, Laurie and Sy Sternberg, Arlie M. Sulka, Mary Ann and Anthony Terranova, Angela Vallot and James Basker, Susan Waterfall, the Women’s Travel Group, Gwendolyn K. and Timothy J. Ziek, and the Marie and John Zimmermann Fund, Inc.
About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.
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Image Caption: The Gallery of Tiffany Lamps, designed by renowned Czech architect Eva Jiřičná, comprises a 4,800-square-foot, two-story space measuring nearly a city block with its soaring glass Norman S. Benzaquen Grand Staircase. Photo credit: Corrado Serra.