2014-11-21

New-York Historical Society to Establish Center for Women's History

Permanent Installation to Feature Stories of Pioneering Women Who Influenced American History at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

NEW YORK, NY, November 21, 2014 – Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, today announced plans for the establishment of a new Center for the Study of Women’s History, located on New-York Historical’s fourth floor within a fully-renovated Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture. A model of innovation, the new Center will include permanent and temporary exhibition galleries and a theater featuring a multimedia film, providing a venue for scholarly research, seminars, and public programs that bridge the gap between “women’s history” and American history. The new Center is scheduled to open in December 2016.

“The new Center for Women’s History will become a destination for discovery of the crucial role that New York women played in our nation’s social, political, and cultural evolution as women struggled for and eventually won the right to vote,” said Dr. Mirrer. “We will highlight the women who changed the course of our history, giving voice, in many cases, to the voiceless, who ushered in the Progressive era and emerged triumphant in the struggle for women’s suffrage.”

Exhibitions, research, and related programming will celebrate New York’s central role in women’s history, from Seneca Falls to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s appointment of the first female member of an American president’s cabinet, and will focus particular attention on New York women such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Zora Neale Hurston, Frances Perkins, Margaret Sanger and Lillian Wald. These women organized, labored, and brought about seismic social change even as they struggled for full American citizenship, above all the right to vote. This first-of-its-kind initiative will inspire visitors and scholars by showing how a specific focus on the story of women at a remarkable time for our nation can shed light on the history of the United States in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. To date, the New-York Historical Society has raised nearly two-thirds of the $30 million goal for the project.

The new Center encompasses:
• A permanent exhibition, New York Women in a New Light, focusing on the story of New York women around the turn of the twentieth century and New York’s central role in the broader timeline of women’s history, within a new all-glass Tiffany Gallery, designed by award-winning architect Eva Jiřičná;
• The New York Women in a New Light Theater, featuring a multimedia film by Donna Lawrence; and
• The Gallery of Women’s History, with rotating special exhibitions.

In 2005, research undertaken by several historians, including curators from the New-York Historical Society, revealed that a young woman named Clara Driscoll and her team of women designed and constructed most of the iconic Tiffany lamps. The little-known story of the “Tiffany girls” provides a window into a period of time when women were making inroads in many key areas of American society, and will be a highlight of the Center's permanent exhibition, New York Women in a New Light.

The all-glass Tiffany Gallery, designed by award-winning architect Eva Jiřičná, will exhibit lamps and other elements drawn from the New-York Historical Society’s extraordinary Tiffany collection. Well-known for using glass as a structural material to create museum collection installations, Ms. Jiřičná has designed a two-level arrangement of glass cabinets, dramatic lighting, and technological enhancements. Educational activities will include “Build-a-Lamp” Tables, at which young visitors will be invited to create their own Tiffany lamp.

The new, 1,000-square-foot New York Women in a New Light Theater will present a 15-minute film directed by Donna Lawrence. An immersive media experience that will sweep the audience into the world of early-twentieth-century New York, the film conveys fundamental societal changes that were occurring at the time and the tangible impact those shifts had on individual lives.

The film will draw visitors into the stories of women like Zora Neale Hurston, widely considered one of the pre-eminent writers of twentieth-century African-American literature; Frances Perkins, a witness to the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire, who became the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet; Margaret Sanger, birth control activist, sex educator, and nurse; Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest-serving First Lady in American history and one of the most influential women of her time; and Lillian Wald, founder of Henry Street Settlement and a tireless activist for the rights of women and minorities. The theater space will also be used for teacher workshops, classes, and small conference gatherings.

The Gallery of American Women will showcase rotating temporary exhibitions focusing on the history and cultural production of women through the centuries. It also will contextualize women's stories within broad themes of labor, civil rights, suffrage, social justice, and political power. The Virtual Wall of Women's History will utilize state-of-the-art touch-screen technology to allow visitors to dive deeper into the historical context of the study of women’s history and make discoveries about related objects and materials in the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library.

The Skylight Room, a stunning multipurpose space designed by Eva Jiřičná, will serve as a gathering space for teachers, students, and conference participants, as well as an elegant dining room at lunchtime and in the evening for New-York Historical Society patrons.

Continuing the New-York Historical Society’s tradition of thought-provoking public exchanges, the Center will be a vibrant educational resource fostering collaboration between scholars, students, and the public at large, as well as a venue for discussion and exchange focused on women’s studies and gender politics. Public and educational programming at the Center will include:
• A series of lectures, conversations, performances, and walking tours by prominent historians and writers;
• Symposia, seminars, and fellowships;
• An annual conference featuring well-known scholars focusing on nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century women’s history;
• Educational activities and curricula for K-12 students and their teachers; and
• A website with audio and video commentary, film clips, and interactive features—giving the Center national and international reach.

About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America's pre-eminent 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 Contact
Laura Washington
New-York Historical Society
(212) 873-3400 x263
lwashington@nyhistory.org

Date: 
Friday, November 21, 2014
Creative: Tronvig Group