Nov. 20 – A Message from Mike Miscione and Robin Nagle!

Robin Nagle is the Department of Sanitation of New York’s anthropologist-in-residence. Michael Miscione served as the Manhattan Borough Historian from 2006 to 2019. 

Michael: Hey, Robin. 

Robin: Hey, Mike – good to see you! 

M: Like so many New Yorkers, we both love the City Reliquary. But it is hurting these days and it needs more than just love to get by. So I thought we should tell people why we think the Reliquary deserves their financial support. But first, what’s your attachment to the Reliquary?

 R: The City Reliquary is a touchstone for me whenever I’m teaching or speaking or writing about New York’s history and its unique dynamic. I’ve seen the diverse exhibits, creative outreach, and gorgeously unique public programs inspire everyone lucky enough to experience them. And the Reliquary’s street-level focus and down-to-earth attitude is a model for the eventual Museum of Sanitation. 
How about you, Mike?

M: Well, I learned about the Reliquary when it was still just a glorified window display attached to Dave Herman’s street level apartment. I fell in love with the concept instantly and wanted to help out. I gave them a piece of the City Hall building for their collection.

R: Wait, what??

M: Don’t worry, I didn’t vandalize the place. It was a discarded scrap from when they renovated the roof about twenty years ago. Then I did a Jeopardy!-style quiz show for them — this was years before the Panorama Challenge. We did it out on the street and kept score with M&Ms in plastic cups. Speaking of the Panorama Challenge, I am honored that every year the Reliquary invites me to be a celebrity judge for that annual fund-raiser. 

The Reliquary is such a special institution, don’t you agree?

R: The City Reliquary represents what I think of as the real New York. It celebrates the city’s authentic quirkiness, it’s overlooked histories, and its unfamous but fascinating people. In doing that, it guards against the forces of gentrification and corporatization that threaten to consume more and more of our urban dynamic. 

M: Whenever I describe the Reliquary in one sentence I use the term “New Yorky.” But in a way that’s wrong. The reliquary is quintessentially American in a way that is entirely un-New York. 

R: How so? 

M: Whenever I take a vacation I never go to other big cities; I take road-trips through small-town and rural America. These little places all have their local homespun museums — and they all look like the Reliquary, not the Met! Here’s a rusty old tractor; there’s a display of pills and test tubes from the drug store before they tore it down; there’s an Indian blanket from the pioneer days. They are a hodgepodge of things that give that place an identity in the American tapestry. That’s what the Reliquary does, I think. It places “small town” New York City in the context of the rest of America.

R: An excellent point. The Reliquary shines a bright, loving light on objects and ephemera that are so easy to take for granted but that reflect the lived experience of so many New Yorkers, now and in the past. A subway turnstile, a phone booth — remember those? — a sign from the original 2nd Avenue Deli, a genuine wooden newsstand – those are just a few examples of the riches it holds. 
And it’s the only museum in New York that recognizes the enormous importance of Dead Horse Bay artifacts – treasures that deserve formal attention and conservation but that have been neglected by every other potentially relevant institution.

M: Oh, Robin, I know how much you love your Dead Horse Bay artifacts! 

M: As of this writing on Thursday night 11/19/20, the Reliquary only needs $580/month of sustainable memberships to reach their goal! That’s only 58 more members at the affordable rate of just $10 per month! I became a member, and I know you’ve pitched in too, right?

R: Absolutely! And here’s the thing about the City Reliquary – it’s not a high-end museum with a gajillion-dollar budget. It doesn’t attract huge corporate sponsors or deep-pocket donors. It survives because of us – just folks who care about preserving New York narratives and artifacts and histories that are too easily overlooked, and thus too easily forgotten. 

The City Reliquary has always found a way to hold on – but the challenges of this year have been particularly daunting. It’s common to hear fundraisers claim that any dollar amount can make a big difference. For the City Reliquary, that’s never been more true than now. 

M: Yes, we must keep the City Reliquary going. It’s irreplaceable. When I needed a place to celebrate Alligator in the Sewer Day — February 9th, by the way — they said, “Let’s do it here!” The same with the exhibition you helped organize about the city’s trash. Would the New-York Historical Society have been so welcoming? I doubt it.

Thank you, Mike and Robin, for your support and your encouraging words! You can join them as a Member of the City Reliquary at this link.

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