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Renovated Space Features Glittering Glass Gallery of Tiffany Lamps, Reimagined Display of Permanent Collection Highlights, and Additional Features of the New Center for Women’s History

NEW YORK, NY, March 22, 2017 – The New-York Historical Society will open its transformed fourth floor to the public on April 29, 2017, unveiling a custom-designed glass gallery showcasing the Museum’s preeminent collection of Tiffany lamps and a reimagined installation of historic treasures from the Museum’s permanent collection, which tells the American story through the lens of New York. New elements of the Center for Women’s History also will be unveiled, continuing New-York Historical’s celebration of Women’s History Month in March that included the inaugural exhibition Saving Washington, on view in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery on the fourth floor, and a month-long series of programs.

The fully renovated fourth floor—which has received major public funding from the City of New York and New York State—will ​offer an entirely new visitor experience, full of fresh perspectives on collection highlights, and reveal the often-overlooked stories of women who had an impact on American history. The transformative 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.

“This architecturally stunning and intellectually stimulating set of exhibitions, displays, and study areas on our new fourth floor will allow visitors to engage in and enjoy history and art in new and unexpected ways,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “For anyone who ever wondered at our oft-repeated statement that ‘history has the power to change lives,’ this innovative, 20,000 square foot space—including treasures that have not been seen by the public in years, or in some cases, ever before—will challenge conventional wisdom, make important connections between our past and our present-day lives, and inspire in us new thought and action.” 

Gallery of Tiffany Lamps
The Gallery of Tiffany Lamps, designed by renowned Czech architect Eva Jiřičná in her first New York museum project, will comprise 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 will feature 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 will highlight 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.

Permanent Collection
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, will transform the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture. The striking space will increase 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—will feature 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 will feature 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 will provide 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.

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 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 will highlight women’s history artifacts from the Museum’s collection, one featuring items from the recently donated archives of Billie Jean King, including tennis dresses, 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, will reveal 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.

In addition to 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 initiatives 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.

Education Space
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, work on group projects, or hang out with a good book. The space features an array of technology designed to fuel creativity, including a media lab with computers, scanners, and a 3D printer; an interactive media wall with three oversized screens; an audio recording booth for creating video projects; a casual working area and reading nook; and ample open space with tables and chairs to accommodate both small study groups or full classes. The New-York Historical Society is committed to providing the next generation of historians, writers, scholars, and history-lovers with cutting-edge resources that promote learning, scholarly research, and creative thinking. Funding for the space has been provided by the Thompson Family Foundation.

In conjunction with the reopening of the transformed fourth floor, New-York Historical has planned a series of fun family events to take place on weekends, holidays, and public school vacation weeks starting April 29, 2017. 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.

During opening weekend (Saturday, April 29 and Sunday, April 30), families can celebrate by interacting with Living Historians in the galleries. “New Yorkers of the Past” will be stationed throughout the fourth floor, welcoming visitors and ready to chat about their historical eras and show kids 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’s accessories.

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 Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Helen Rosenthal, and Jimmy Van Bramer. 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, 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, Helen and Edward R. Hintz, Jennifer and John R. Monsky, Amanda and Neal Moszkowski, Johanna 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., Susan and Greg Danilow, Barbara and Richard Debs, Deutsche Bank, the 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.

Press Contacts
Ines Aslan
New-York Historical Society

Julia Esposito
Polskin Arts & Communications Counselors

Image Caption: Rendering of the mezzanine of the Tiffany Gallery, Fourth Floor, New-York Historical Society. Courtesy, Eva Jiřičná Architects

Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Creative: Tronvig Group