108 Orchard Street, Lower East Side
Yesterday I visited the Tenement Museum for the first time. What immediately impressed me was the museum’s choice to run on a guided tour system. Instead of entering, paying an entrance fee and walking around a museum’s vast collection of galleries and exhibitions, the Tenement Museum offers one hour tours that focus on one theme and stay within one floor of their five-story tenement building. This more focused and personalized experience makes this museum unique amongst the mega-musuems of New York. Instead of passively “attending” a museum–as highlighted by the Twitter comments on the NYTimes article on the Louvre –the Tenement Museum commands the viewer’s attention and participation. As my tour learned about the stories of the people who lived in the apartments with in the tenement building, many were inspired by the stories or objects and how they reminded them of someone or something from their own personal history. Thus the museum had an ability to not only tell stories of those people who actually lived there, but was on another level re-telling the histories of those on the tour, connecting the visitor to the history and the space.
I think this museum is challenging the commercialized nature of museums and it feels like they are really trying to do more than just offer the facts and the stories. One cannot just “attend” the Tenement Museum, one is present at the Tenement Museum. This difference sets the Tenement Museum apart in a city full of museums offering a more corporate, disconnected feel.
Im going to be honest. Before the Museum Lab class I have NEVER heard of the Tenement Museum. I visited the museum and fell in love with it.
Its a “different” museum than the ones that people are used to attend. Its kind of like a tour through out history, it brings you back in time, into peoples home.
The first thing they ask you is “where are you from?” and we did two tours that day and they asked the same question in both tours and everyone was from different parts of the world which is something typical of Manhattan; and also about Orchard Street back in the 1800’s.
You go into a building that looks like any other in the outside but the second you go in you know you are time traveling back in time. Its a very personal museum, you interact with the group and the tour guide, share stories and listen to the stories of the people that live there.
One question that was brought up was… How many people know this museum? and if they know about it… how did they heard about it?
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