Tuesday, October 26, 2010

All Eyes (and Hands) On Our New Exhibit

We've got plenty of cool stuff planned for our new tour about 97 Orchard Street's businesses, but one especially exciting component allows curious visitors to get handsy with the past. Typically, we have to be pretty strict about guests touching museum artifacts since many of them are rare or fragile. But for this exhibit, we've brought in a number of historic artifacts that visitors will be allowed to touch.

Sarah Litvin, our education coordinator for living history and access, is helping curate these handling objects for the exhibit. Recently, she asked some of us at the Tenement Museum to choose the objects we personally found most alluring. We didn't get any info on what these objects are or what kind of stories might be connected to them - we were just asked to pick those that spoke to us.

Here's what I liked:

Keys follow a person everywhere and are a direct link to every important place in his or her life. So what better way is there to acquaint yourself with someone than to look at their keys? These feel just like they look: a great jumbled, jangling mess.

As a former trumpet player, this one is personal. I have to hear this thing! It's a light, little instrument and its finish is very worn. I can only imagine the music and stories behind it.

I was immediately drawn to this postcard, dated October 24, 1911 and delivered to Mr. Waldo Little at 31 Mulberry Street. I like any primary historical document that you can see and read, so I loved this. With its visible horse drawn carriage in the background and its old ink, it's in surprisingly good shape too.

I chose this wallet because I could feel the old leather, snoop around inside, and take a look at the person who owned it. Mrs. Helen Lee's wallet felt very similarly to my own nearly a century later.

Sarah's curatorial work is based on personal experiences and preferences, but it doesn't end with us. You'll be able handle artifacts the same way we did, toying around with whatever your eye catches. And you'll learn something too!

So what will you choose? Decide for yourself when our new exhibit opens next year.

- Posted by Joe Klarl

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