Exhibit

Nov. 17 – A Message from Miriam Sicherman, Closet Archaeology Instructor!

Author, educator, and closet archaeologist Miriam Sicherman

I first visited City Reliquary during the Open House New York weekend in October 2016. I’d heard about this little museum many times, but had never made my way to Williamsburg to see it. As soon as I set foot through the turnstile I knew I had entered a space that I could relate to. From the seltzer bottles to the geological specimens to the pencil sharpeners, everything on exhibit showed an attention to how ordinary things, things that most of us take for granted or completely ignore, can actually be objects of fascination and of great value.

Installation view of the Closet Archaeology exhibit at the City Reliquary
Installation view of the Closet Archaeology exhibit at the City Reliquary

This mindset fit exactly with an unexpected project my elementary students had been working on for months. A curious kid, looking for old coins, had begun excavating lost items from underneath the floorboards of the student coat closet. When other kids joined in, it didn’t take long before a 1912 baseball card was found (Charles E. “Gabby” Street of the New York Americans, who became famous for catching a baseball dropped from the Washington Monument), not to mention an endless stream of candy wrappers from bygone brands, schoolwork, stamps, buttons, puzzle pieces, jewelry, bits of newspaper, and even cigarette boxes. These items swept us back to the life of our East Village neighborhood and its children over the course of more than a century. My students all caught the archaeological bug as we peered under the floorboards of more and more closets throughout our 1913 building. We loved finding, looking at, and researching these artifacts, from the cardboard caps of glass milk bottles to the scrawled 1950s spelling tests. And we wanted others to see them, too!

Obviously, the City Reliquary was a perfect place for an exhibit. I spoke with the person working at the front desk that day and the wheels began turning. Working together with me and my students, the Reliquary staff created a beautiful exhibit in the summer of 2017, artfully displaying these bits of detritus from generations of schoolchildren. My own students were thrilled to be taken seriously as junior archaeologists and couldn’t believe it when they learned that more than a thousand people had come to see their exhibit. The lives of schoolchildren past become real to us know through these objects in a way that the written word or even a photo could never approach.

Buttons, puzzle pieces, gum wrappers, and other items found by the closet archaeology students
Photo by Seze Devres for Ace Hotel New York

The items that the Reliquary exhibits with such care and reverence are exactly the ones we might not otherwise notice. Who cares about an old World’s Fair souvenir or a model of the Statue of Liberty? Well, actually, we all SHOULD care. These are the artifacts that teach us about our past, the past that we’re all a product of, even newcomers to New York. By bringing these objects out into the open and focusing our attention on them, the Reliquary gives us back the collective past of our daily life and situates us in history. We can find out what people of the past loved and tolerated and lived with. By extension, it gives us a fresh perspective on the ordinary objects of our own lives, which someday will be historical artifacts as well.

There is no place like the City Reliquary. By keeping it open, we keep the history of the people of the city of New York alive and visible and accessible to all.

Always civic,

Miriam Sicherman

Digital Exhibition: Mediocre Portraits of Outstanding People

Mediocre Portraits of Outstanding People is the most recent series in the City Reliquary’s slate of digital programming on Instagram! From June 12, 2020 to September 4, 2020, the City Reliquary’s neighborhood artist-in-residence, George Ferrandi, appeared on Instagram Live for an hour on to create a sketch of an reflect on someone who had been influencing her thinking during this remarkable cultural moment.

During this series, George listened to and learned from Black thinkers while attempting to honor them through portraiture, and shared the experience live with our audience.

The full series of drawings-in-process can be viewed on the City Reliquary’s Instagram Stories. You can watch and draw along if you like! – and listen to and learn from these visionary ideas. The completed portraits can also be viewed on Instagram, and will be archived in this album on our Flickr page as well.

Week 1: Civil rights lawyer and legal scholar Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. While drawing this portrait on Instagram Live, George and our audience listened to a conversation between Michelle Alexander and Angela Davis about the need to take active steps toward creating a more just society, and how these can be achieved.

Opening Reception for Glen Eden Einbinder’s Glen Eden Collection on February 20!

Thursday, February 20 at 6:30 pm at the City Reliquary Museum

The City Reliquary and Glen Eden Einbinder invite you to an opening reception for our latest Community Collections exhibit of Glen Eden items! Glen’s eponymous collection (and potentially some extras) will be on view and Glen will be on hand to talk about the many and varied Glen Eden representations he has found from across the world. Light refreshments will be served. Admission is pay-what-you-wish, and all are welcome.

Community Collection: Glen Eden Einbinder’s Glen Eden Collection

Travel brochures and postcards form places named Glen Eden, and fabric in a floral pattern called Glen Eden, from Glen Eden Einbinder's collection.
Some of the many places and things bearing the Glen Eden name.

The City Reliquary welcomes Glen Eden Einbinder and his eponymous collection to our Community Collections case! His wide-ranging artifacts – china, fabric, postcards, camp photos, soap, road maps, and more – share something with each other and their collector: all are named Glen Eden.

Glen started his collection in college when he came across a bottle of Glen Eden whiskey, a now-defunct brand. While the quality of the whiskey was not much to speak of, the coincidence of its name and Glen’s inspired him to keep the label. He subsequently took notice of other instances of objects or places sharing his first and middle name and began to collect their physical representations. The evocative pastoral, idyllic quality of the name Glen Eden lends itself well to a wide variety of products and places, a sample of which are now on view. Glen’s full collection includes numerous postcards and photos of street signs from across the U.S. and from as far away as New Zealand. Closer to home is the Glen Eden girls’ finishing school in Poughkeepsie, NY, represented by vintage magazine advertisements and a painting of an ice skater in a Glen Eden sweater.

Glen’s Glen Eden collection will be on view at the City Reliquary through Fall 2020. He will also be making a special guest appearance at the City Reliquary & Museum of Interesting Things’ Secret Speakeasy on Sunday, January 26 to discuss his collection!

You can also see a video of Glen’s collection at his website.

Chocolate Milk by Mo Pepin Opens on Friday, November 15!

Opening Reception Friday, November 15 from 6-8 pm

On view in the front window of the City Reliquary Museum through January 2020

The City Reliquary Museum proudly presents a new window exhibit, Chocolate Milk! A photo documentary series by Mo Pepin, this display follows the extraordinary perseverance of a small carton of chocolate milk on the top of a phone booth on 1st Avenue and 21st Street.

Mo first spotted the carton on March 8, 2017 on her commute and kept an eye on it in the following weeks, watching it expand in the heat and then slowly shrink. Four months later, the carton remained untouched on the phone booth, and from this point Mo kept a closer eye on this marvel, photographing it about once a month. Through snow, rain, 45-mph winds, and other vagaries of the NYC streets, the chocolate milk carton remained atop the phone booth for 405 days, through April 2018.

Chocolate Milk is a story of endurance and decay, emblematic of the persistence necessary to survive in the city on a day-to-day basis and also of the lapses in our infrastructure that feed growing inequality. It is an example of an everyday object becoming iconic, an ephemeral item gaining unexpected permanence. We are the chocolate milk carton, yet we also call for the elimination of the conditions that allow the chocolate milk cartons to exist.

Opening Reception for P.S. NYC – October 24!

Installation view of P.S. NYC

Join us on Thursday, October 24 from 6:30-8:30 pm to celebrate our new exhibition P.S. NYC: Artifacts from NYC Public Schools 1850-1970! Marty Raskin, the inspiration for this show and longtime collector of Board of Education memorabilia, will be on hand to discuss his time attending and working in NYC’s public schools and how he has come to amass this wide-ranging archive. Light refreshments will be available. You can RSVP for the reception on Facebook.

The City Reliquary Proudly Presents: P.S. NYC: Artifacts from New York City Public Schools 1850-1970

As students and teachers return to their classrooms this fall, they follow a 215-year-old tradition of free public schools in New York City. Marty Raskin, lifelong New Yorker, proud alumnus of New York City’s public school system, and retired schoolteacher, has spent decades amassing a collection of NYC Board of Education materials reflecting a significant period of this history, now on view at the City Reliquary Museum. 

Mr. Raskin’s interest in collecting NYC public school memorabilia stems from his own fondly-remembered student experience. Attending P.S. 202 in East New York, he recalls, was deeply formative: “The teachers, principals, and youngsters I grew up with made school an essential part of my life, and helped make me who I am. There was an incredible loving, caring atmosphere there. I became friends with some of my teachers and remained friends with them my entire life.” Mr. Raskin began by collecting Parker Duofold fountain pens of the style used by one of his instructors, and his collection grew from there to include school records, class photos, clothing, building fixtures, furniture, and teaching equipment. A dunce chair, used in the 1850s when pupils were taught in one large schoolroom, and a mechanical eraser cleaner, used in the now-bygone days of chalkboards, are two highlights of the collection on display.

This exhibition illustrates the lived experience of generations of NYC public school students: their fashions, tokens of school spirit, classroom decorations and attendance records. It inevitably invites comparison to the visitor’s own school experience, whether in New York City or abroad. Mr. Raskin’s positive schooling experience inspired a devotion to preserving the history of NYC public education. In prompting visitors to reflect on the similarities and differences with their own education, the exhibition asks them also to consider how to provide to all students the supportive atmosphere experienced by Mr. Raskin, and what those students might achieve as a result.

Mr. Raskin gladly accepts donations of NYC public school memorabilia. He can be reached at memorabuti@gmail.com.

The Art Neighborhood: Celebrating Ten Years of Action 2009-2019

The City Reliquary is proud to present The Art Neighborhood’s 10th Anniversary installation! Throughout June and July, the Neighborhood will grow in our gallery space and be populated with action figures made by our visitors. Come watch the installation take shape during our open hours, and join us for action figure making workshops on Saturday, June 15 and Saturday, July 13!

The Art Neighborhood is an interactive and collaborative art installation created by Brooklyn artist Lisa Ludwig. It depicts an alternate universe shantytown populated by superhero action figures built by community participants over the past 10 years.

Built from found materials, the world of the Art Neighborhood reflects the themes of struggle, beauty, hope, and transformation. It embodies the call to action necessary to address problems of poverty and conflict. Visitors participate by creating action figures – of themselves or alter egos – to add to the Art Neighborhood community installation with the understanding that artistic expression is one of many ways to answer a call to action.

Lisa will begin building this incarnation of the Art Neighborhood at the Reliquary on Thursday, May 30. Everyone is invited to come watch its progress and to create their own action figure to populate the town! Action figure workshops will take place on June 15 and July 13. The complete set of action figures, built by artists, children, musicians, activists, and museum-goers over the past decade, will be on rotating view in the front gallery space.

If you are a past participant in the Art Neighborhood, we especially hope to see you over the course of the exhibition, and hope you’ll add to your character’s story.

Patrick O’Hare: New York Landscapes Film Screening Friday, May 17

Shadowed skyline of buildings and trees against a darkening sky at dusk. Two vapor trails cross each other overhead.
Still from Chimera, New York City Landscapes

The City Reliquary Proudly Presents:

Patrick O’Hare: New York Landscapes

Film Screening & Reception: Friday, May 17th, 7 PM

Patrick O’Hare is a photographer and filmmaker who explores the architecture and landscape of the modern world. His films evoke that strange language of merging and omission that allows reality to slip and hints at the invisible. Through the cracks, something startles and vanishes – the shape-shifting riddle of inside and outside.

On May 17, the City Reliquary will screen three of O’Hare’s recent films: Chimera, New York City Landscapes; The Highlands; and The Ecstasy of Ruins. Shot in 2018 in New York City, the Hudson River Valley, and upstate New York respectively, these works explore the natural and manufactured elements of our landscape, blurring the line between permanence and the evanescent to form a more elusive state of being. A discussion with the artist and reception will follow the screening. Chimera, New York City Landscapes will be on continuous view in the City Reliquary’s gallery in the following weeks.

The May 17 screening is free with late night admission to the City Reliquary Museum, a suggested donation of $7.

Patrick O’Hare’s photographs have been exhibited at MoMA PS1, Parsons School of Design, and Rhode Island School of Design. He has screened his films at UnionDocs in Brooklyn, New York and the Unseen Film Festival in Denver, Colorado.


Synopsis:

Chimera, New York Landscapes (2018). HD, Silent, 18:00

A city as hybrid of public and private, modern efficiency and timeless elements, projected through light and weather, refracted and collaged.

The Highlands (2018). HD, Silent, 18:41

A series of Hudson Valley landscapes, the film asks what a river and its environs evoke as an ancient conduit to a present state of mind.

The Ecstasy of Ruins (2018). HD, Silent, 19:27

The quiet geography of upstate New York reveals an architecture of melancholy and a twilight civilization writ large.

Psychic City: The Medium of Mediums

Exhibit logo for Psychic City: The Medium of Mediums with crystal ball

Solve all your problems! Guaranteed results! Explore the history of New York City psychics, mediums, and fortune tellers with this vast archive of handbills and flyers collected by Harley J. Spiller. This exhibition — curated and designed by Parsons students — is a multi-sensory experience that allows visitors to ponder the past and seek their future. One visit will show you the way!

Exhibition on view April 4, 2019 – May 26, 2019

Hand-drawn flyers advertising psychic advice by phone, created by the exhibit designers.
The interactive exhibit invites you to get a reading of your own by phone.