NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY TO OPEN TRANSFORMED FOURTH FLOOR,
FEATURING A NEW CENTER FOR WOMEN’S HISTORY AND A REIMAGINED DISPLAY OF HISTORICAL TREASURES, IN APRIL 2017
Renovated Fourth Floor to Include Unprecedented Center for Women’s History;
a Glittering Glass Showcase of the Renowned Tiffany Lamp Collection;
and Revamped Displays of Artifacts from New York and American History
NEW YORK, NY, January 19, 2017 – The New-York Historical Society will open its transformed fourth floor to the public in late April 2017, unveiling the groundbreaking Center for Women’s History, a custom-designed glass gallery showcasing the Museum’s preeminent collection of Tiffany lamps, and a reimagined installation of historic treasures from its collection that tells the American story through the lens of New York. The grand opening will follow a month-long series of programs in March 2017 to celebrate Women’s History Month.
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.
“The New-York Historical Society has always been a center of learning with a commitment to preserving our collective past,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Our redesigned fourth floor will provide visitors, scholars, and thousands of New York City school children with expanded opportunities to discover the invaluable lessons history has to offer.”
In advance of the grand opening of the fourth floor, New-York Historical will present a special series of programs in March 2017 to celebrate Women’s History Month. On March 5, the annual Diane and Adam E. Max Conference on Women’s History will focus on “Reproductive Rights in Historical Context,” examining the political, legal, and cultural history of reproductive rights. Other special events will include an evening with tennis icon and social justice pioneer Billie Jean King on March 7; a panel about “Women and the White House” on March 9, moderated by 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl; and a screening of the Katherine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy film Woman of the Year (1942), introduced by author Kati Marton, on March 24. (Please see the Women’s History Month programming release for a full schedule of March events.)
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 will be 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 will feature special exhibitions in the 1,500-square foot Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, to be inaugurated with Saving Washington, on view March 8 through July 28, 2017. The exhibition will explore the tenuousness of early American democracy after the Revolutionary War and the nature of women’s roles as citizens of a new republic. An immersive installation featuring more than 150 objects focuses on the political and social significance of First Lady Dolley Madison and other women of the era. Lead support for Saving Washington has been provided by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation. (Please see the Saving Washington exhibition press release for more details.)
Two display cases will highlight women’s history artifacts from the Museum’s collection. On view at the opening will be 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 an exploration of 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 on 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 the Women’s Voices installation was generously provided by Daria and Eric J. Wallach. New York Women in a New Light, a 15-minute film highlighting stories of notable women in early 20th century New York, will screen in the Museum’s first floor auditorium.
In addition to the annual Diane and Adam E. Max Conference on Women’s History, 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 curricula for K–12 students, supported by Deutsche Bank, available on-site and online 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.
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.
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 the 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 world-class collection, displayed within a dramatically lit jewel box 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 Tiffany gallery display 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. 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, 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 fourth 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); which details Giovanni da Verrazzano’s exploration of the New York area; and 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 1904 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 fourth floor, the Robert H. Smith Family Skylight Gallery will provide visitors an airy, sun-soaked lounge space designed by Eva Jiřičná, 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 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, Ravenel B. Curry III, the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, the Gilder Foundation, Susan and Roger Hertog, Patricia D. and John Klingenstein, the Henry Luce Foundation, Diane and Adam E. Max, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Jean Margo Reid, 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, Lawrence N. Field, the Geduld Family, Joan and Joel I. Picket, Daria and Eric J. Wallach, and Roy J. Zuckerberg. Important funding was provided by American Express, the Barker Welfare Foundation, the Estate of Agnes Bogart, Elizabeth B. Dater and Wm. Mitchell Jennings, Jr., 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, Leah and Michael Weisberg, and Anita and Byron R. Wien. Additional support was provided by James L. Alexandre, Helen and Robert Appel, Claudine Bacher, Judith and Howard Berkowitz, the Coby Foundation, Ltd., Susan and Greg Danilow, Deutsche Bank, Hogan Lovells, the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Hyde and Watson Foundation, Susan Klein, the Alice Lawrence Foundation, Inc., Martin Lewis and Diane Brandt, Cheryl and Glen S. Lewy, Tarky Lombardi, Caroline M. Lowndes, Louise Mirrer, the National Endowment for the Arts, Carol Saper, Arlie M. Sulka, Anthony Terranova, the Women’s Travel Group, 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.
Image Caption: Rendering of glass staircase in the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps, Fourth Floor. New-York Historical Society, Courtesy Eva Jiřičná Architects.