Stairway to the Past

The tenement is a New York City Museum that tells the stories of immigrants who loved in 97 Orchard Street, a tenement built in 1863 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side by a German named Lucas Glockner and it was home to nearly 7000 working class immigrants. These immigrants faced challenges that we understand better today; specially with the economic and moral crisis we are confronting: making a new life, working for a better future, starting a family with limited means. This museum tells their stories, the stories of the families that lived here; how they lived, what they accomplished and where did they came from. The second you enter the building the museum takes you to the days were there was no electricity inside the building and slowly take you through the years in a casual and very interactive way.

Ruth Abraham, an historian and social activist wanted a museum that honored America’s immigrants; but she accomplished much more. The museums mission: “The Tenement Museum promotes tolerance and historical perspective through the presentation and interpretation of the variety of immigrant and migrant experiences on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a gateway to America”.

97 Orchard was found in ruins, after it being abandoned for over 50 years, it took a long time to gather everything together, combing through archives, compiling evidence about tenements and their lives; but after several years of research the museum began the task of restoring apartments and in 1992 they opened the first restored apartment, the 1878 home of the German-Jewish Gumpertz family. Now, they have restored 6 apartments and are looking into the future with a lot of other new projects that will expand the ideas of tenements now-a-days. Every corner of this museum is amazing, a space were you let go your imagination and go back in time. It’s a beautiful time capsule in the Lower East Side.

It’s a great and amazing experience that everyone should visit.


One response to “Stairway to the Past

  1. It would be interesting to see the Tenement Museum expand even more; I know that they are in the process now, but to look at a broader scope of Tenement history. During the presentations, it was mentioned that the demographic for visitation was mainly centered on a white-middle class audience, even though the museum wishes to expand past this, though there are many outside influences such as location and money that effects these statistics.

    A fascinating case is the Historic Preservation effort of the Chicago Housing Authority during the 1990’s for the projects such as Cabrini Green and Robert Taylor Homes projects. During this time, there was much debate whether or not preservation of these houses was a good choice. A newspaper article, Historic Preservation: Saving High-Rise Public Housing by Sharon Maclean stated that these preservations are an important part of our nation’s heritage. Yet, in the end, the Robert Taylor Homes were demolished in 2007 and the Cabrini Green was redeveloped in 2008.

    For the future of museums, such as the Tenement Museums, will there be an expansion into more recent history of projects and tenements? When is the history to fresh for museum-goers or could this be the solution to expanding the demographic? It is also interesting to think that what is happening around us now will one day be history and how do we preserve that?

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