Friday, March 16, 2012

Building a Hands-On Collection for Shop Life

Whether it sells handbags, hardware or ham hocks, every shop is defined by its merchandise. So we’re choosing objects carefully for our upcoming exhibit, Shop Life, which will explore the various businesses located at 97 Orchard Street in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Shop Life will include two different categories of objects. Many are very similar to those already on view at 97 Orchard Street. They are antique objects chosen to bring our exhibits to life. As in a traditional museum setting, visitors are asked not to touch these items.

But what’s the fun of a shop where you can’t touch anything? To give visitors a real sense of the shops of 97 Orchard, we’ll also offer “handling” objects that visitors can touch and examine. They’ll play an important role in the interactive portion of the exhibit.

From a conservation perspective, these new hands-on objects present a number of interesting challenges. First, we don’t--and can’t--expect them to last forever. With thousands of visitors handling them every year, we can expect inevitable wear, and even breakage. We accept that these objects will need to be periodically replaced, so our Curatorial Department will build a perpetual stockpile of replacements. This is an important new project, since even the humblest items help create an immersive setting, bringing to life the stories of 97 Orchard Street.

Following are a few of the special “handling objects” that we’ve collected for Shop Life:

Cocktail Shaker c.1938

A cocktail shaker like this was sold in Max Marcus’s general merchandise auction house during the late 1930s. In the c. 1938 photo of the auction house that appears below, cocktail shakers are visible in the back of the store. Pictured are Max Marcus, his brother-in-law Frank Bloom, and auctioneer Herman Brandies.

Max Marcus's Auction House c.1938

Butcher's Apron c.2010

This modern apron is similar to the ones worn by the Lustgarten family at their 97 Orchard Street butcher shop between 1890 and 1902. In the c. 1887 photograph of the Lustgarten family pictured below, you can see members of the Lustgarten family in front of their first Lower East Side butcher shop at 262 Broome Street wearing similar aprons (left to right, Goldie, Fannie, Joseph, William, Rosa, Rebecca, and Israel).

The Lustgarten Family c.1887

Pucci Bag c.1970

Customers at Sidney Undergarments might have taken their undergarment purchases home in bags like these. In the c. 1979 photograph below, proprietor Sidney Meda and his granddaughter, Batya Halpern, are pictured working in the store. Note the sign for Pucci Place in the back ground- Pucci underwear was one of Sidney’s top sellers.

Sidney Meda and Batya Halpern c.1979

-- Posted by Director of Curatorial Affairs David Favaloro and Collections Manager and Registrar Kathleen O'Hara

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