Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Reading the Walls at 97 Orchard: Q & A With Historian David Favaloro

After listening to all the stories we share on our tours, visitors often ask, "How do you know what you know?" It's a great question! The answer is: lots and lots of work. Years of research have gone into each of our tours, and we continue to revise our programs as we learn more. The Tenement Museum's Director of Curatorial Affairs, David Favaloro, plays a central role in our research. Here, he talks about his professional background and favorite parts of the Museum.

Director of Curatorial Affairs and HTI Fellow, David Favaloro

What's your role at the Tenement Museum? What does your job entail?
I am the Museum’s Director of Curatorial Affairs; I supervise the Curatorial Department. Much of what I do involves research, interpretation, and exhibit development centered on our tenements at 97 and 103 Orchard Streets, in collaboration with the Education Department. I also work with the museum’s Collections Manager, Kathleen O’Hara, to ensure the ongoing preservation of the tenement at 97 Orchard Street as well as the Museum’s object collections and archives.

On a fundamental level, I see the Curatorial Department as the collecting arm of the Museum. We take the lead in acquiring the kinds of things that serve as the raw material for The Tenement Museum. However, we collect a bit differently than other museums, in that we're gathering stories linked to the tenements at 97 Orchard and 103 Orchard Street and their former residents, shopkeepers, and owners, as well as the objects associated with those stories.

What did you do before you came to the Museum?

I led historic walking tours of New York City neighborhoods for Big Onion Walking Tours, including the Lower East Side. I earned a Master's Degree in Public History from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst about a year before that. Much of my studies there were focused on American urban history.

How did that prepare you for your work here?

Graduate school gave me both the knowledge and tools to successfully grapple with the complexity of researching and interpreting the past at 97 Orchard Street.  I was also conducting historic walking tours of the Lower East Side and had conducted research on the history of New York as a graduate research assistant.

What is your favorite part of 97 Orchard Street?

I love all of the graffiti that we’ve found throughout 97 Orchard Street, the places ìn the building where former residents have “left their mark.” I think my favorite might be the “Nuts to You” written on the pressed metal in the third floor hallway.

History with a Bad Attitude: the Hallway at 97 Orchard Street

What is your favorite tour moment?

Even after hearing it thousands of times over the years, I still love visitors’ reactions to Josephine Baldizzi’s oral history that we share on the Hard Times tour. I also love the first floor hallway of 97 Orchard - the way that this space challenges visitors’ pre-conceived notions of what tenement life was like continues to be incredibly profound for me.

What are you most looking forward to over the next year, here at the Museum?

I’m looking forward to our next exhibit, Shop Life, opening later this year in 97 Orchard’s commercial basement. This new exhibit will, for the first time, tell the stories of some of the building’s shops, including John and Caroline Schneider’s German lager beer saloon, the Lustgarten family’s kosher butcher shop, Max Marcus’s Auction House, and Sidney Undergarments.

I’m also excited to begin work on creating a Preservation Action Plan for 97 Orchard Street, a project which is being funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. This will implement a holistic approach to addressing the complex and inter-related conservation and preservation needs of 97 Orchard Street and its contents over the next 15 years.

-- Posted by Institutional Giving Manager Dana Friedman and Tenement Talks Manager Alana Rosen

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.