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What’s New in our Making A Museum Exhibit? Empire State Building Fantasy Coffin

Fantasy coffinsabebuu adekai or “proverb boxes” in the Ga language – are wooden coffins carved and decorated to look like an animal or object with particular significance to the deceased, reflecting aspirations (luxury cars, airplanes), careers (corn for a farmer, pen for a writer), hobbies (sneakers, guitars), or position (lions and eagles for community leaders). They originated with the ceremonial palanquins used by chiefs of the Ga ethnic group.

In the 1950s, a chief who had made a fortune in cocoa processing was buried in his cocoa bean-shaped palanquin. This inspired local furniture maker Seth Kane Kwei to build an airplane-shaped coffin for his grandmother, who loved watching airplanes and dreamed of flying in one. Symbolic coffins were rapidly incorporated into Ga funeral tradition, and became popular throughout Ghana. Kane Kwei’s work became known worldwide, and turned abebuu adekai into a highly sought-after export, when it was featured in a 1989 exhibition at Centre Pompidou in Paris.

This Empire State Building-shaped wooden coffin, constructed and painted by Ghanaian coffin artist Eric Kpakpo Adotey, is on loan to the City Reliquary from its owner, Sarah Murray. Ms. Murray (who is still living; this is an unoccupied coffin) commissioned this coffin to represent her life with a symbol of great meaning to her: her favorite architectural work and an icon of the city she always aspired to, and now does, live in.

What’s New in our Making A Museum Exhibit? 1964 World’s Fair Souvenir Pins

These two souvenir pins come to us as a generous donation from Lindsay McGuire of Belfast, Maine. On her recent visit to the City Reliquary, she was reminded of her childhood visit to the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens and was inspired to donate these souvenir pins to our collection.

Both of these pins were distributed at the General Cigar Company building. The White Owl was the animal namesake of one of General Cigar’s brands, and a special White Owl New Yorker cigar was sold: “A cigar that’s the very essence of New York, and the great new Fair,” according to the advertisements. The Smoke Ring refers to a mechanism outside the General Cigar building at the Fair that sent a plume of white smoke into the sky every few minutes, thus providing a notable landmark for visitors to meet by. Visitor accounts are divided as to whether the smoke successfully formed visible rings as was intended.

One of Lindsay’s most vivid recollections of the Fair is the typo – a repeated “the” – on the Smoke Ring badge. (Did you notice it?) In addition to the smoke rings (or plumes), the General Cigar building housed a Hall of Magic in which performers showed off many illusions and tricks. One of these illusions is the repeated word “the” on the smoke ring pin, which our eyes very commonly skip over because it is separated by a line break. The General Cigar Hall of Magic urged visitors to try it on their friends!

New Community Collection: Jennifer Rice’s Vintage Confetti

Now On View:
Vintage Confetti
Through Winter 2019

The City Reliquary is proud to present the vintage confetti and confetti-related ephemera collection of Jennifer Rice. She was first inspired to start collecting when she learned that workers renovating NYC’s famed Rainbow Room found confetti from the 1940s beneath the rotating dance floor. Her collection includes packaged confetti from all over the world and items depicting confetti’s history, manufacture, cultural significance, and influence in design and branding.

Modern confetti has its roots in ancient civilizations and the act of throwing plant-based materials (i.e. seeds, nuts, twigs) to celebrate life, death, unions, or sacrificial offerings. The word ‘confetti‘ hails from the Latin conficere meaning “to prepare or to make ready.” This evolved to the French confit or confiture translating as preserved meats and fruits. After the colonization of the Americas these terms came to be more closely associated with preserving in sugar eventually evolving into 18th century Italian confetti (little sweets) or the English confectionary.
In 18th century France and Italy, Carnevale, an indulgent celebration before the start of Lent, confetti in the form of candied fruits and nuts were thrown. As sugar was a luxury item at the time, by the 1830s plaster of Paris replaced candied sweets. Written accounts and illustrations from the time, as pictured on postcards in this collection, show the need for masks also known as par a bonbons to protect the face especially during batailles de confetticonfetti battles.
Wearing masks to avoid the harm of thrown candied sweets and plaster evolved to non-harmful variations of confetti. In 1875 Italy, Enrico Mangili used the refuse of paper holes punched in paper to aid hatching silkworms to introduce the first variation of paper confetti. By 1892, plaster confetti was banned in Paris and in 1894 French poster artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was commissioned by London paper manufacturer J. E. Bella to advertise their “injury-free” paper confetti.
Meanwhile, in New York City, confetti in the form of candy and paper was used throughout the late 19th century, but a unique to New York variation of confetti was first used in 1886 during a parade to celebrate the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. Ticker tape, a 1 inch wide piece of paper that recorded stock quotes, came to be known for its dramatic effect when dropped from a height. Ticker tape parades were so prevalent during the first half of the 20th century and so tied to New York’s cultural identity that the Alliance for New York embedded granite markers commemorating each significant parade along the historic stretch of Broadway known as the “Canyon of Heroes.” Another NYC confetti tradition continues today with the Times Square ball drop confetti shower at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Making A Museum: Behind the Scenes at the City Reliquary

The City Reliquary is taking visitors inside our processes of acquisition, research, and preservation of our collection. As we redesign our permanent collection and bring out some of our rarely exhibited holdings, we’re also adding new objects, studying their history, and creating new informative text panels. Our exhibition hall has become a workshop and creative laboratory as well as a display space, and every week we’ll be working on new additions. We invite you to journey with us as we learn new stories of the city and craft ways to share them.

Vintage Confetti On View & Meet The Confetti King!

The City Reliquary’s Community Collections showcase provides a place for ordinary New Yorkers to display the carefully curated objects of their devotion, be they quirky, everyday, strange, or sublime. Our current exhibitor, Jennifer Rice, collects vintage confetti and related ephemera from all over the world. She was first inspired to start collecting when she learned that workers renovating NYC’s famed Rainbow Room found confetti from the 1940s beneath the rotating dance floor.

Confetti celebrations have a special place in New York City history. The first ever ticker-tape parade happened on Broadway in 1886 when NY Stock Exchange traders watching the parade celebrating the dedication of the Statue of Liberty spontaneously tossed ticker tape from their offices onto the crowd below.

And of course, the biggest confetti event in the country is New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Did you know that all the confetti is tossed by hand? The man who makes it all happen is Treb Heining, whose company has handled confetti drops at major events like the Super Bowl, Olympics, and Academy Awards. He’ll be in New York to run theconfetti operation at Times Square for the 27th consecutive year, and will make an appearance at the City Reliquary to talk about his work!

Join us on Friday, December 28, at 7:00 p.m. to learn what it takes to be the Confetti King! Entry is included with Museum admission, and is of course free for members. We’ll have the Museum open special late-night hours with plenty of time to see all our festive exhibits.

A Seltzer Works Tour – Saturday, December 15!

In the 1920s and 30s, Brooklyn was home to more than 100 seltzer bottlers and distributors. Customers seeking the digestive health benefits of filtered, carbonated New York City water could get it delivered to their homes in hand-blown glass bottles. The City Reliquary’s permanent collection includes a number of these vintage bottles, etched with logos from companies based throughout the borough – from A&M to Windy’s, Simon Finkelstein to Standard Carbonic.

We’re bringing our seltzer bottle collection to life with a special tour of the last seltzer bottler in Brooklyn – Gomberg Seltzer Works in Canarsie,, a.k.a. the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys. They do it all the old-fashioned way, from carbonation and filling each bottle by

hand, to home delivery of vintage siphon bottles in wooden crates. Attendees will learn how seltzer is made and about the delivery business past and present, concluding with a taste of Brooklyn’s iconic seltzer-based treat, the egg cream. (Made with Brooklyn’s own Fox’s syrup, naturally!)

Our 11 a.m. seltzer works tour is now SOLD OUT! But we’ve just added a second tour on December 15, 2018, at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are available now for our second tour!  Space is very limited, so don’t wait to sign up! City Reliquary Members receive discounts on all our tours and events. Join today for special access to tours inspired by the Museum’s permanent collection of artifacts throughout 2019!

The Witching Hour Approaches!

On Saturday, October 20, the City Reliquary hosts the Witching Hour, a night of live music, theater, film, ritual, puppetry, and more! The performing coven includes: art-folk band Cookie Tongue, opera singer and violinist Tribal Baroque, transspecies drag striptease by Nadahada, Musically Advanced Kinetic Systems (MAKS), experimental film by Jess Lynch, puppetry by Heaven Limousine, theater by Half Ghost Human Collective, tarot readings, and much more. You’ll want to experience the Witching Hour for yourself.

October 20 at the City Reliquary – 7-10 p.m. – $10 tickets available here

City Reliquary Presents: Empire Skate Night at Hyde Park

Advance Tickets Available – Click Here!

Advance Tickets Available – Click Here!

A Very Special Event!

10:30 pm Saturday, November 3 to 3 am Sunday, November 4

 

The City Reliquary Museum’s popular current exhibition, Empire Skate: The Birthplace of Roller Disco, is extending its time on the floor! Empire Skate will be on view at the Reliquary through November 25, 2018. To celebrate this extended run, and in homage to Empire’s legendary roller disco parties, the Reliquary has organized a late-night skate at Hyde Park Roller Magic. Join us at 10:30 pm on Saturday, November 3 for a sneak preview of the skating documentary United Skates followed by skating til the early morning hours.

 

United Skates, a 2018 Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award winner, reveals close-knit skating communities across the country and their fights to save local rinks from closure and to preserve these hubs of African-American culture. Co-director Tina Brown and documentary participant Reggie Brown will screen clips and discuss the film. Then, Empire legends DJ Big Bob – a keystone of the Empire sound for almost 2 decades – and DJ Q spin soul, disco, and R&B to get the Brooklyn bounce going!

 

Advance tickets are on sale now for $25 ($22 for Reliquary members) and include round-trip bus transportation from Brooklyn to Hyde Park Roller Magic. The bus will depart at 8:00 p.m. from the City Reliquary, 370 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg. Hyde Park Roller Magic is located at 4178 Albany Post Rd. in Hyde Park. Tickets without transportation are $15 ($12 for Reliquary members). Deadline for purchase of tickets with transportation included is October 31.

 

Empire Skate: The Birthplace of Roller Disco brings the world of the Crown Heights Empire Roller Skating Center to life, exploring its role as a national icon and a focal point of the African-American community in Brooklyn. Converted from the old Ebbets Field parking garage, Empire was famous as the birthplace of roller disco, a skate craze that swept the nation in the 70s and 80s. Locally it was known as a place where New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds could come together; where grandparents showed grandchildren their favorite moves, and former gang members and Hasidic Jews skated side by side. Through the examined histories of and around Empire, the show reveals connections between roller skating and larger narratives of race, class, and urbanization in America. Beyond the roller disco movement, the exhibit traces the history of roller skating in the United States, highlighting the diversity of rinks around the country and the unique history of skating in New York City, which was home to over 20 rinks at its skating peak.

Join Us on the Southside!

Join us this Saturday, October 6, at 1:00 p.m. for a walking tour of South Williamsburg! Our guide will be Adrienne Onofri, author of Walking Brooklyn.

Highlights of the route include places associated with significant eras in Williamsburg’s history and its industrial and brewing heritage, as well as landmark civic, commercial, and religious buildings. The tour will last approximately two hours and end off-site, near the Williamsburg Bridge.

Summer of Skate: 8 Wheels & Some Soul Brotha Music: August 10th

Join The City Reliquary for Summer of Skate – an outdoor summer screening series featuring films and documentaries that celebrate the roller disco movement.

August’s film is Tyrone Dixon’s premiere documentary: 8 Wheels & Some Soul Brotha Music, which travels to roller rinks across the country to present urban voices of roller skating in the USA. Run time 1 hour 14 minutes.

Summer of Skate films highlight documentaries and feature films related to roller skating culture. They also provide late-night access to the City Reliquary’s special exhibit, Empire Skate: The Birthplace of Roller Disco.

 

The screening is FREE with regular museum entry. Drinks from our generous sponsors at Brooklyn Brewery will be available by donation.

Doors are at 7. Films are screened at 8 pm. The museum will remain open until 10 pm.