Exhibit

What’s New in our Making A Museum Exhibit? St. Denis Building Directory

The St. Denis Building, at 80 East 11th Street at Broadway in Manhattan, is a case study of the changing city. Built in 1853 by renowned architect James Renwick Jr., it was the first building in New York to feature terracotta sculpted exterior decoration. At that time, the neighborhood was a fashionable shopping district, and the St. Denis was a grand hotel which drew many notable guests: Abraham Lincoln, P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, and Sarah Bernhardt among them. The gentleman’s parlor on the second floor saw Alexander Graham Bell’s first public demonstration of the telephone in New York.

By 1917, the neighborhood had fallen out of fashion. The building was sold and converted to office space with ground floor retail. The renovations removed Renwick’s terracotta detailing, rendering it ineligible for historic preservation a century later.

St. Denis’ office tenants were just as notable as its hotel guests. From the 1920s to the 1950s, many of its tenants were leftist newspapers and workers’ organizations: The Workers Party of America, the American Negro Labor Congress, and the W.E.B. Du Bois-chaired Peace Information Center were among the many groups headquartered there. The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, the last holdout of this generation of tenants, appears on our Directory board (Room 341). Marcel Duchamp kept a secret, unlisted studio in Room 403, and his deliberately posthumous final work, Étant Donnés, was installed there.

In 2016, the St. Denis was sold to developers with plans to demolish the building. The last tenants left in 2018, but remain listed on the historic Directory on view at the Reliquary. The variety and number of businesses listed are a prime example of Jane Jacobs’ maxim that new ideas need old buildings. The comparatively cheap rents, older fixtures, and smaller office spaces in the St. Denis allowed many solo therapeutic practitioners to see low-income patients and small businesses to get an affordable start.

The current plans for the St. Denis space are for a 12-story glass wall office building with a stacked box design. It is one of a cluster of new commercial developments in the neighborhood seeking to expand Flatiron’s “Silicon Alley” further down Broadway.

The St. Denis directory came to the City Reliquary as the generous donation of Richard Signorelli, a 15-year tenant of the building and one of the last to depart.

We highly recommend this excellent article about the history and vibrant life of the St. Denis by Jeremiah Moss in the New York Review of Books.

What’s New in our Making A Museum Exhibit? The 1939 World’s Fair Collection of Virginia McClellan Moskowitz

A major part of the City Reliquary’s mission is to elevate everyday objects and the stories of everyday New Yorkers. We love and celebrate the passion and curatorial skill of amateur collectors. With this collection of 1939 World’s Fair memorabilia, we showcase the work of an amateur collector who became a professional: Virginia McClellan Moskowitz.

In 1939, Virginia, a nurse from Mount Vernon, NY, attended the World’s Fair in New York City. The experiences and sights she witnessed stayed with her her entire life, and inspired her to collect many different types of souvenirs reflecting her fond memories.

After retiring from the nursing profession, Virginia’s love of collections led her to become Mount Vernon’s town historian. Her enthusiasm, and the local history she passed on, is fondly remembered by those she met, and her legacy is inspiring a new generation of local historians today.

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.

Community Collections: The Rock Collection Collection

Now On View:
Rock Collection Collection
April 6, 2018 – April 29, 2018

The City Reliquary proudly presents the Community Collections display of Ben Sisto’s Rock Collection Collection. Sisto’s collection began around 1988 when his parents gave him his first set from a spot in New England. He was largely unaware of how many of these kits had been produced by hobbyists, educators, state departments and so on. Around 2016 he was gifted a second box which prompted him research and grow his collection further, which is currently at 45 rock collections. They are prized for their homemade/DIY aesthetic.

Empire Skate: The Birthplace of Roller Disco

Now on view through November 25!

 

Empire Skate: The Birthplace of Roller Disco brings the world of 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.

Empire was a landmark in Brooklyn from the time it opened its floors in 1941 to its closing day in 2007. 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.

Empire Skate: The Birthplace of Roller Disco brings the world of Empire to life, exploring its role as a cultural icon and a community hub. Artifacts, archival materials, video, and first-hand interviews, come together to share the stories of the people who skated at Empire during the 70s and 80s and will immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of the rink.

Through the examined histories of and around Empire, connections between roller skating and larger narratives of race, class, and urbanization in America are uncovered. 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.
In conjunction with this exhibit, the City Reliquary presents Summer of Skate, a series of roller skate feature films and documentaries that will be screened in the museum’s garden the second Friday of the month, June through September. Film titles and special guests will be announced during the May 19th exhibit opening.

 

This exhibition is generously sponsored by:

Five Stride Skate Shop

Tom Tom Magazine

Hyde Park Roller Magic

Triple 8 NYC

Empire Skate Opening Reception: May 19th

The City Reliquary Proudly Presents: 
Empire Skate: The Birthplace of Roller Disco
On view May 10, 2018 through October 14, 2018

Opening Reception: May 19th, 6 PM. RSVP on Facebook!

Admission: $5 general ; Free for City Reliquary Members

This new exhibit brings the world of Empire Roller Skating Center to life, exploring its role as a national icon and a focal point of the African American community in Brooklyn. Artifacts, archival materials, video, and first hand interviews come together to share the stories of the people who skated at Empire during the 70s and 80s, revealing the true origins of a world-wide cultural phenomenon.

Beverages generously sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery.

Community Collections: The Coca-Cola Ephemera of David Argov

The Coca-Cola Ephemera of David Argov
July 13, 2017-April 6, 2018

The City Reliquary was proud to present the Community Collections display of Coca-Cola ephemera from David Argov. David started collecting Coca-Cola ephemera in 2006 while on his first trip to Europe. His collection features objects ranging from bottles to wristwatches and that come from Israel, Thailand, London, and multiple cities in the US. The global reach of the iconic Coke branding struck David as an eloquent representation of the close relationship between Americana and capitalism.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

March 5-31: Closet Archaeology + Opening Reception

Closet Archaeology—an Accidental Time Capsule: Monday, March 5-Saturday, March 31

Ace Hotel New York
20 W. 29th St.
New York, NY 10001

A reception for the exhibition will be held on Thursday March 8 from 6-8p.

During the winter of 2015, an East Village fourth grader attending Children’s Workshop School peered into the dusty crevices beneath his classroom’s closet floorboards. He wondered what treasures might have fallen there in the 104 years since the building was constructed. His classmates took notice and joined in, poking and peeking under the boards.

Through this “closet archaeology,” an accidental time capsule —built over a century by generations of students— was excavated for the world to see. Led by their teacher, Miriam Sicherman, these junior archaeologists have unearthed love notes, spelling tests, caps from glass milk bottles, portraits of silent film stars, penny candy wrappers and more. They have evenlocated the former students, now adults, who lost these items across the decades.

The collection was first exhibited in 2017 at The City Reliquary, a not-for-profit museum and civic organization located at 370 Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn. Through permanent displays of New York City artifacts, rotating exhibits, and annual cultural events, The City Reliquary connects visitors to both the past and present of New York.

Closet Archaeology will be on display from March 5-31.