NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY TO OPEN GROUNDBREAKING CENTER FOR WOMEN’S
HISTORY AND REIMAGINED GALLERIES FOR COLLECTION HIGHLIGHTS
ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY SPRING 2017
Transformed Fourth Floor to Include Unprecedented New Center for Women’s History;
Unique, All-Glass, Bi-Level Gallery for the Museum’s Renowned Tiffany Lamp Collection;
and Revamped Display of Collection Artifacts that Illuminate New York and American History
NEW YORK, NY, November 3, 2016 – The New-York Historical Society today announced it will open its transformed fourth floor to the public in spring 2017. The unveiling will present the inaugural Center for Women’s History, a dazzling glass gallery showcasing New-York Historical’s preeminent collection of Tiffany lamps, and a reimagined installation of historic treasures from its collection that tell the American story through the lens of New York. The full-floor project, which has received major public funding from the City of New York and New York State, was inspired by New-York Historical’s discovery of the unknown story of Clara Driscoll and the “Tiffany Girls,” who designed and created many iconic Tiffany lamps at the turn of the 20th century, many of which are in the Museum’s collection. The revamped floor will display collection highlights as never before and house a groundbreaking new center for scholarship that will reveal the often-overlooked stories of women who had an impact on American history.
“We look forward to inviting visitors of all ages, backgrounds, and nations to experience this exciting new floor—to engage in and enjoy learning about our American story through an ambitious suite of exhibition and study galleries, and a state-of-the-art educational technology space,“ said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Our brand new spaces dedicated to studying and telling the story of women’s history will, for the first time ever within the walls of a museum, ensure women’s rightful and permanent place within the broad American historical narrative.”
Center for Women’s History
The new Center for Women’s History will be the first institution in the nation that is fully open to the public and dedicated to showcasing the central role women have played in American history. Directed and curated by Valerie Paley, vice president and chief historian of the New-York Historical Society, the Center for Women’s History will include rotating exhibitions in the 1,300-square foot Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery; special display cases illuminating particular moments from the broad sweep of women’s history; a bold interactive digital installation; and a state-of-the-art education space funded by the Thompson Family Foundation for students, teacher workshops, classes, and intimate public events. New York Women in a New Light, a specially produced 15-minute film highlighting stories of remarkable women in early 20th century New York, will screen in the Museum’s first floor auditorium in rotation with New York Story, the museum’s signature film about the history of the city. An advisory board of leading scholars in women’s history will help guide the Center’s curatorial vision.
As visitors enter the Center for Women’s History, they will encounter Women’s Voices, a multimedia digital installation that reveals the hidden connections between remarkable women who left their mark on New York and the nation. Eight oversized touchscreens present famous faces alongside those who worked anonymously and collaboratively, driving change through creativity, faith, grit, and passion. Lead support for the Women’s Voices installation was generously provided by Daria and Eric J. Wallach.
The inaugural exhibition in the Cowin Gallery, Saving Washington, will be on view March 8 through July 28, 2017. Exploring the tenuousness of early American democracy after the Revolutionary War through the War of 1812, it recasts the traditional Founding Fathers narrative to focus on the less-examined contributions of women whose behind-the-scenes efforts helped develop the young nation and realize the Constitution “on the ground.” During the dawn of the American Republic, how could a woman be a political agent? In spite of laws restricting their broader participation, elite and non-elite women alike sought various avenues for empowerment and activism. Among those who expertly navigated the political world of the early republic, Dolley Madison was more than an example of what a woman could be in America; she was the embodiment of American strength, virtue, and honor. As wife of the fourth U.S. President, she is sometimes remembered merely as the hostess who saved the White House portrait of George Washington from British vandalism during the War of 1812. But in fact, she was the most influential woman in America during the nation’s formative years—a national, almost mythic figure. Even more, she was a powerful force during a time when women were excluded from affairs of state. Saving Washington will feature more than 150 objects—such as artworks, books, documents, clothing, jewelry, and housewares—within immersive installations evoking Dolley Madison’s famous “Wednesday night squeezes,” her popular social gatherings that drew a wide range of people to “squeeze” into the President’s mansion and encouraged informal diplomacy. Lead support for Saving Washington has been provided by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.
Two special display cases will highlight rotating installations and selections from New-York Historical’s collection. One case will debut items from the recently acquired archives of social justice pioneer and sports icon Billie Jean King, including important tennis dresses, racquets, posters, souvenir ephemera, and documents that illustrate her historic fight for women’s rights and equal pay. The other installation will reflect on the female allegorical image of America as a Native American, with objects such as a 19th-century terracotta sculptural figurehead and a diamond tiara in the form of a feathered headdress, which was created in 1957 by jeweler Fulco di Verdura for Betsey Whitney, wife of John Hay Whitney, the American ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1957-61. Generous support for this section has been provided by the Estate of Jean D. Appleton.
The Center for Women’s History will be a vibrant educational resource for scholars, students, and the public as well as a venue for discussion and exchange focused on women’s history. The second annual Diane and Adam E. Max Conference on Women’s History, “Body Politics,” will take place on March 5, 2017, and will examine the political, legal, and cultural history of reproductive rights, following on the heels of 2016’s conference “Sweat Equity: Women in the Garment Industry.” Other scholarly initiatives include three Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowships in Women’s History, for which fellows will develop exhibitions and organize programs. Educational resources will include an online course taught by Columbia University historian Alice Kessler-Harris, and curricula for K–12 students, sponsored by Deutsche Bank, available on-site and online via a dynamic, dedicated website 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.
The Tiffany Gallery, designed by renowned Czech architect Eva Jiřičná in her first New York museum project, will comprise a 3,000-square-foot, two-story space measuring nearly a city block with the soaring glass Norman S. Benzaquen Staircase. The centerpiece of the fourth floor, the gallery will feature 100 illuminated Tiffany lamps from New-York Historical’s world-class collection, displayed within a dramatically lit jewel box space that visitors can access through the Geduld Family Gateway. Curated by Margaret K. Hofer, vice president and museum director of the New-York Historical Society, the Tiffany installation will highlight the recently discovered role of Clara Driscoll and her Women’s Glasscutting Department, the designers and creators of many popular Tiffany lampshades. The exhibition will celebrate Driscoll and her team of “Tiffany Girls,” who remained hidden in Louis C. Tiffany’s shadow until the discovery of Driscoll’s correspondence in 2005, providing a powerful connection to the adjacent Center for Women’s History.
New-York Historical’s Tiffany lamp collection, regarded as one of the world’s finest in range and quality, includes multiple examples of the Dragonfly shade, variants of the original design conceived by Clara Driscoll in 1899 featuring dragonflies with brass filigree wings and gleaming glass eyes; a unique Dogwood floor lamp (ca. 1900–06) which showcases Tiffany’s extraordinary opalescent glass; a Wisteria table lamp (ca. 1901), one of Driscoll’s most iconic models; and a rare, elaborate Cobweb shade on a Narcissus mosaic base (ca. 1902), designed during a period of transition from fuel to electricity.
On the John L. & Sue Ann Weinberg Mezzanine a hands-on, “Design-a-Lamp” experience will offer visitors a chance to create their own unique lampshade by selecting glass for a Dragonfly and seeing their choices on an illuminated replica. An interactive diorama will illustrate how the rise of electrification in the early 20th century transformed homes and the urban environment, and kiosks will invite visitors to explore the sources of inspiration for Tiffany Studios’ designers, the process of designing and manufacturing Tiffany lamps, the personal stories of the individual Tiffany Girls, and the firm’s marketing of luxury goods.
A transformed Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture will present objects from the permanent collection through imaginative new displays and interpretation. Created by a curatorial team under the direction of Margaret K. Hofer, 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 fourth floor—will feature 15 themed niches that bring together a variety of artifacts and artworks, contrasted with six soaring vertical cases that feature dense presentations of objects. Niches will evoke familiar aspects of urban life through the generations, such as the “Recreation” display highlighting the bicycle craze of the late 19th century, and ship models and paintings of New York Harbor in the “Port” section. Other focused displays highlight the tools and techniques of Hudson River School artist Asher B. Durand and craftsman Duncan Phyfe; and address challenging moments in history such as slavery in New York, the Great Fire of 1835, and September 11, 2001. Vertical cases will display toys ranging from painted wooden figures to plastic toys made by New York company Fisher-Price and chairs used by New Yorkers from the 18th through the 21st centuries, including a Mies van der Rohe-designed chair from the recently closed Four Seasons restaurant. Tablets and touchscreens will supplement the installation, allowing visitors to delve deeper into the stories of objects on view.
The central corridor of the North Gallery will feature 10 historical artifacts spanning the era of European discovery in the 1500s to the late 20th century, charting key moments in the history of New York and the nation. Highlights include a copper globe from 1542, the first to indicate the exploration of the New York area by Giovanni da Verrazzano; a draft wheel (ca. 1863) 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 door covered with more than 190 graffiti tags from more than 80 graffiti artists who were active in the 1970s. New-York Historical continues to actively collect artifacts from the present day through its History Responds program, and visitors can use an interactive station to share suggestions about items from 21st century life that should be added to the collection for Museum visitors of the future.
Near the Tiffany Gallery, the Roy J. Zuckerberg Silver Gallery will showcase a display of silver and jewelry by the famed New York retailer Tiffany & Co., founded by Charles Tiffany, the father of Tiffany Studios’ Louis C. Tiffany. Featured items include a colossal punch bowl presented by Frank Woolworth to Cass Gilbert, architect of the Woolworth Building, during its grand opening in 1913 as the tallest building in the world; and a subway controller handle used by Mayor George McClellan to drive the first subway car on its maiden voyage from City Hall in 1904. Other highlights of the Museum’s collection of early American silver include the earliest surviving New York teapot (1695) and work by celebrated colonial Jewish silversmith Myer Myers.
Rounding out the fourth floor, the Robert H. Smith Family Skylight Gallery will provide visitors an airy, sun-soaked space to rest and reflect on what they have experienced at New-York Historical. The room, designed by Eva Jiřičná, will have a contemporary lounge feel, and art books will be on hand for visitors to view. The gallery will also be used to host intimate Museum programming, such as the ongoing women’s history salon series. The gallery’s historic skylight, part of the building’s original construction, is being restored with the generous support of American Express.
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, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council Members Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Helen Rosenthal, and Jimmy Van Bramer. Major funding was also provided by the State of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Empire State Development.
Leadership funding was provided by Norman S. Benzaquen, Joyce B. Cowin, the Gilder Foundation, Susan and Roger Hertog, Diane and Adam E. Max, Pam and Scott Schafler, Bernard L. Schwartz, the Robert H. Smith Family, Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Thompson Family Foundation, and Sue Ann Weinberg. Major support was provided by the Estate of Jean D. Appleton, Franci J. Blassberg and Joseph Rice, Ravenel B. Curry III, Lawrence N. Field, the Geduld Family, Patricia D. and John Klingenstein, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Joan and Joel I. Picket, Jean Margo Reid, Daria and Eric J. Wallach, and Roy J. Zuckerberg. Important funding was provided by American Express, the Barker Welfare Foundation, Judith and Howard Berkowitz, the Estate of Agnes Bogart, Elizabeth B. Dater and Wm. Mitchell Jennings, Jr., Susan and Greg Danilow, Deutsche Bank, the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, Edythe Gladstein, Helen and Edward R. Hintz, Hogan Lovells, Cheryl and Glen S. Lewy, Jennifer and John R. Monsky, Amanda and Neal Moszkowski, the Pine Tree Foundation of New York, the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, Leah and Michael Weisberg, and Anita and Byron R. Wien. Additional support was provided by Helen and Robert Appel, Claudine Bacher, the Lois Chiles Foundation, the Howard Gilman Foundation, Susan C. Klein, the Alice Lawrence Foundation, Inc., Martin Lewis and Diane Brandt, Tarky Lombardi, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, Carol Saper, and the Women’s Travel Group.
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.
New-York Historical Society
Polskin Arts & Communications Counselors
Image Captions (from left to right): Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1886 – 1969, Brno chair from the Four Seasons restaurant, 1958. Gift of Alex von Bidde, New-York Historical Society; Bass Otis, 1784-1861, Mrs. James Madison (Dolley Payne Todd, 1768-1849), ca. 1817. Oil on canvas, Gift of Thomas Jefferson Bryan, New-York Historical Society; Tiffany Studios, Designed by Clara Driscoll, Apple Blossom table lamp, ca. 1901-1906. Glass, bronze, Gift of Dr. Egon Neustadt, New-York Historical Society.