Archive

Oct. 20: A Message from LuLu LoLo, City Reliquary Charter Member

LuLu LoLo dressed as Valentine
The Fabulous LuLu LoLo takes Manhattan (Photo by Eric Harvey Brown)

Dear Fellow Reliquarians,

As of today, Tuesday 10/20 at 2:00 PM, we are just 1 sustainable member short of our half-way mark!  YOU can be the one to get us across that half-way goal by signing up TODAY!

Hi! You might remember me as a museum docent at the City Reliquary front desk, or from my favorite annual event Collector’s Night, where as a passionate collector I’ve shared my collections of dead bugs, paper clips that my dog chewed, vintage hats, Eiffel Towers, Ladurée macaron boxes, and my mother’s vintage holiday greeting cards—joining all of the obsessive collectors who contribute to the rich and unique City Reliquary community.

As a life-long New Yorker and a playwright/performance artist my work is rooted in the history of New York City. The exhibits at City Reliquary rekindle so many memories for me: the 1964 World’s Fair, the changing sizes of the subway tokens, the Seltzer bottle collection (reminding me of Harry our seltzer man who arrived every Saturday with a case of seltzer), the Jackie Robinson display brings back my childhood  memory of receiving a Jackie Robinson doll for Christmas from my father (a New York Giants baseball fan), the fun of researching the history and costume for the Reliquary’s famous Little Egypt display, and the magical sparkle of Manhattan Schist that is the bedrock of New York City. These collections were all built by passionate New Yorkers like me. 

The City Reliquary's Little Egypt display.
The City Reliquary’s Little Egypt display.

I have witnessed many beloved New York City sites vanish: Penn Station, the Third Avenue El, and CBGB’s—Now, I’m asking you to help prevent the City Reliquary from vanishing too. 

You can keep the Reliquary doors open by becoming a Sustaining Member for as little as $10 a month—less than a ticket to the movies or some fancy phone apps. If you prefer,  make a one-time or annual contribution and we’ll pro-rate a customized membership. 

In order to keep the City Reliquary as we know it, we must have 300 Sustainable Memberships by November 22nd! We want to thank all of our members who have joined in the first half of our sustainability drive, and ask you to help us by encouraging your friends to join us in the second half!  

I’m a civic New Yorker—I’m passionate about my city and the City Reliquary Museum—and I hope you will show your passion too by becoming a part of this vital community museum celebrating the unique history of New York City.  

LuLu LoLo as Joan of Arc in a performance of "Where are the Women?" at Union Square.

LuLu LoLo as Joan of Arc in a performance of “Where are the Women?”. (Photo by Keka Marzagao)

In honor of The Fabulous LuLu LoLo’s ongoing performance series “Where are the Women?” we have created the following membership tiers in honor of these great New Yorkers. 

$10/mo. Emily Warren Roebling Level

$20/mo.  Ruth Bader Ginsberg Level

$30/mo.  Shirley Chisholm Level

$50/mo.  Mother Cabrini Level


Oct. 13: A Message from Nik Sokol, CR Resident Geologist

Nik Sokol underground at the 2nd Avenue subway excavation
Nik Sokol underground at the 2nd Avenue Subway excavation

Last week, City Reliquary Founder Dave Herman told me that my sister Marienka had just become the 100th sustaining member of the City Reliquary. A great coincidence, but I wasn’t surprised that she had stepped up to support the City Reliquary. Like me, she treasures the City Reliquary’s enduring mission to preserve the spirit of an ever-changing New York City. Our great grandparents Rose and Josef Kratina arrived in New York in 1907. Our grandmother Lydia was born just after they arrived (apparently almost on the boat!). They were a family of artists, and Josef, having spent several years as Rodin’s lead apprentice, was seeking to make a name for himself in the United States. 

The Kratina’s struggled but were resilient, like so many other families of that time. But also like the City Reliquary of today. The story of the City Reliquary’s 18-year history, as an unlikely Williamsburgh storefront institution, has many parallels with the stories of the immigrant artist. The realization of a dream in Brooklyn. To share openly with the community and enhance the daily life of the passersby. And the inevitable reliance on patrons to pay rent.

Sculptor Josef Kratina in his studio at 81 Prospect Place, Brooklyn
Sculptor Josef Kratina in his studio at 81 Prospect Place, Brooklyn

About 100 years after my family came to Brooklyn, the City Reliquary opened up the storefront museum – a small museum the likes of which New York had never seen. A museum with a mission as much about contributing to the community of today as it is about displaying gimcracks and tchotchkes of the New York City we all treasure and love. Not only is the City Reliquary where I learned about the history of seltzer, Little Egypt and just how many layers of paint a subway station could have… it is where I met Charlene Mitchell, the first African-American woman to run for the President of the United States, where I created the only known display of rocks and minerals from the World Trade Center and 2nd Ave Subway excavations and, most importantly, the City Reliquary is where I discovered how deeply a group of like-minded folks can positively impact a community.

The City Reliquary's Geology of New York exhibit (samples courtesy Nik Sokol).

The City Reliquary’s Geology of New York exhibit (samples courtesy Nik Sokol).

Please join me and my family in helping to preserve the cultural landscape of New York City by becoming a sustaining member of the City Reliquary Museum and Civic Organization. For just $10 a month…a few cups of coffee, you can help maintain a true gem of New York. And if you ever want to talk about the geology of New York, meet me at the Reliquary!

Nik Sokol

Resident Geologist Emeritus, The City Reliquary

Now, by popular demand, new sustaining members can choose to make contributions above to $10 per month level. Existing members can also increase their monthly contribution. In honor of Nik Sokol’s long standing support of the City Reliquary, we are introducing new tiered levels of membership:

$10/mo. Manhattan Schist
$20/mo. Staten Island Serpentinite
$30/mo. Ravenswood Granodiorite
$50/mo. Rosendale Dolomite


Oct. 6: A Message from Eliana Ritts, CR Board Member & Curator

My name is Eliana, and as a Reliquary Board Member I’m following on to the messages here to share my own experiences with the museum and ask for your support.

I made my way to the Reliquary shortly after moving to NYC in 2013 and started by volunteering at the front desk. I still remember the feeling of turning on the lights at the beginning of each shift and watching the dense treasure trove of objects suddenly illuminate around me. I loved knowing that my time in the Storefront would always hold something unexpected, from the colorful troll dolls of the latest Community Collection to a conversation about mudlarking with a visitor from London.

As I spent more time with the Reliquary I gradually got involved in object research and exhibit curation. This work let me dive into the stories behind our artifacts, like the NYC schist cores, barbershop photographs, and Petrella’s Point. There’s the SJD subway token – one of my favorite objects, created in 1986 when the Assistant Controller of the MTA thought it would be cool to sneak his initials into the token design. And then there’s the Empire Rollerdrome roller skate that sparked our exhibit about the origins of roller disco. As I co-curated this exhibit, I learned about the city’s histories and had the honor of collaborating with incredibly talented members of the NYC roller skating community today.

This to me is the heart of the Reliquary, the way its objects link New York’s layered histories with present communities, opening up the city in new ways and asking us to consider our place within it. With the Reliquary I feel like I’m simultaneously diving deep into the past and expanding outwards in the present. I’ve traveled to different places around New York, from my first roller rink to the remarkable Treasures in the Trash collection. I’ve tried new things, like Manhattan Special espresso soda (verdict: you should try it once, but once is probably enough). And I’ve met incredible people, most recently the wonderful artists Jason Eisner and Liz Beeby, who have generously donated artworks that are available in our Museum Relief Fund

You only have to visit the Storefront once to know what I mean when I say the City Reliquary a special place. We each have our own connection to its story, and whatever yours is, I ask you to consider becoming a sustaining member – for just $10 a month –  and help us save our physical space. By becoming a member you also support the work the Reliquary does, allowing us to continue sharing New York stories and connections through exhibits, special events, and annual programming like Collectors’ Night and Panorama Challenge.
 

If we can reach 300 sustaining members by November 22, we will be able to preserve the museum and reopen to the public. Until then, on October weekends we’re offering private visits to members, as a way to minimize health risks while you explore the collections at your own pace. Become a Member today and you can reserve an appointment. And if we are able to fully reopen, we look forward to welcoming you through our doors for many years to come.

Thank you, so much, for your support.

Best,

Eliana Ritts

Sept. 29 Sustainability Drive Update From Jacob Ford

It has been one week since we launched our Sustainability Drive to help us reopen the City Reliquary Museum to the public, and avoid closing our doors permanently in November. So far, we have raised $820, of which $480 are sustaining monthly contributions from new members. It’s a strong and very hopeful start! Thank you, so much, to all who have already joined.

But we’ll need precisely 252 more sustaining members by November 22 in order to keep the Storefront. If we make it there, we can pay our rent and keep the City Reliquary as we know it.

My name is Jacob, and I discovered the Reliquary through my involvement with other small museums in NYC. When I would docent at various tiny interesting spaces and cozily cramped galleries, visitors kept bringing up the City Reliquary and asking if I’d been there. I hadn’t, but I biked over and immediately fell in love. I became a member in 2017, and by 2019 wound up on the board.

In a strange, beautiful way we’ve become exactly what we aim to preserve: a physical place full of reliable magic, matter-of-fact quirk, and serious strangeness. A microscopic institution, large enough to do powerful things but small enough to keep the personality of the people who make it all happen. It’s very a New York phenomenon, I think: a place of absolute wonder, presented with a straight face. It’d be a shame to lose this unsung landmark.

Several of our fellow New York City museums and galleries are beginning to re-open, and we deeply want to join them. But before we can even begin to lay out a reopening plan, we must prove our financial sustainability.

We are proud to say our labor is provided entirely by caring volunteers, and our collections are all loaned, gifted or found. This loyalty and dedication has allowed us to reduce our expenses to a bare minimum. We’ve been able to survive these past few months only through the success of our recent fundraiser and many generous one-time gifts, but without the dependable sources of revenue that we once relied on, we are struggling to hold onto our tiny hand-painted Williamsburg storefront of a home.

Our rent is below-market but not free, and it comes every month. Rent is by far our largest and virtually our only expense. Unfortunately, it’s making the question of reopening our galleries into one of reopening at all.

We’ve been near this point before, and each time generous friends and family and strangers have come forth to keep the Reliquary going. Now, though, we’re hoping to escape that pattern by boldly re-launching the Reliquary Membership program. We’re asking you, our friends and supporters, to directly help us keep the Reliquary alive. 

We’re keeping membership simple.

One tier: $10/month

One goal: 300 members

One deadline: November 22

Becoming a member makes you an official card-carrying Reliquarian: someone who keeps a museum alive. A benefactor in the utmost sense. I’d inscribe your name on a plaque if they weren’t so expensive, but instead we’ll celebrate over beers and vinyl records as soon as it feels comfortable to do so.

Until then, we’re exclusively allowing members to visit on October weekends, as you are the ones who will make it possible to one day reopen to the wider public. Become a member today and you can book your private viewing appointment, on the house, as soon this Saturday.

And of course, if and when we do fully reopen, you’ll receive free admission for you and your household, as long as your membership is active, as often as you care to visit. After all, you will have made it possible.

cityreliquary.org/join

No matter what’s next,

Jacob Ford

Designer About Town

Board Member, 

The City Reliquary Museum & Civic Organization

Become a Sustaining Member of the City Reliquary – Deadline Nov. 22!

Dear Friends & Neighbors,

We have sobering news and a plea for help: after fourteen years on Metropolitan Avenue, the City Reliquary storefront museum is in danger of closing. Numerous factors have brought us to this point, not least of all the economic impact of the COVID pandemic, and the changing cultural and economic tenor of the city. We are dependent on admissions and public events for revenue, and, after 6 months of closure, this model is no longer sustainable.

In order to reopen our storefront to the public, we will need to transition to a new, sustainable funding model based on monthly membership donations. Our minimum threshold to stay open is just $3,000 of sustainable funding per month. If we can meet this modest monthly goal by 11/22/20, we will be able to secure the storefront and reopen our doors to the public – with utmost care for public health and safety. If we are unable to raise these funds, the doors to the storefront museum will remain closed and this chapter of City Reliquary history will come to an end.

As we face these difficult decisions, we are also exploring alternative ways forward. We are building partnerships with NYU’s Special Collections Library and Columbia University’s Center for Archeology and the Museum Anthropology Graduate Program to ensure that our community and collection will continue to have a life. If we have to close our doors, we will turn to these partnerships to continue the Reliquary mission. However, neither institution can offer space for collections display or management, so we would be forced to put our beloved artifacts in storage, where they would be inaccessible to the public.

With these different paths in mind, we ask for your support in this critical moment. We are continuously working to shine a light on the underappreciated areas of our city’s history through our exhibitions, programs, and special events so that we can help young people and others to be informed, civically engaged citizens. We can only be successful in our mission with your help. 

With the support of generous benefactors and the success of our Museum Relief Fund, we are able to cover overhead costs on the storefront through November. To remain open beyond November 30, we must raise $3,000 of sustainable monthly funding by 11/22/20. We are profoundly grateful for the support you have shown us, and ask if you would consider making a recurrent monthly donation to help us meet this goal.  

You can find more information about our monthly membership program, along with newly added benefits, on our new sustainable membership site at this link. We are also pleased to announce that in October we will open the Williamsburg storefront to members only, with new health precautions in place, and we invite you to visit us if you are able to do so safely.

We remain a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, therefore all donations are 100% tax-deductible. Your sustainable support is crucial for the survival of the Reliquary.

We are still reachable through our social media accounts and at info@cityreliquary.org. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you might have.

We hope that you and your loved ones are well, and we send our deepest thanks for your support. 

Always civic,

Dave Herman

Founder, The City Reliquary

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.

Stereopanorama Returns to the City Reliquary on January 16!

Thursday, January 16 at 7:00 pm at the City Reliquary Museum

$15 General Admission$10 Museum Members (Join Today!)

Come and experience a retro-tech time-travel experience unlike any other! (Perhaps you read about it in the New York Times?) Immerse yourself in the 1950s through incredible Midcentury 3-D photographs — taken mostly by amateurs with the Stereo Realist Camera system. Emmy-winning writer and comedian Eric Drysdale has been collecting the amazing images produced by this largely-forgotten technology for 25 years and will share them with you in your own (for the night) high-quality restored vintage stereo viewer. New York City will be highlighted, but all of America is the star. Don’t miss this intimate yet spectacular trip to the past!

There are only 12 tickets available for this evening, so we highly recommend purchasing in advance to guarantee your seat (and stereo-viewer)!

Famous Cats of Brooklyn! A Talk With Author Peggy Gavan on December 5

Thursday, December 5 at 7 pm – Admission by Donation

RSVP on Facebook

As we know, the internet loves a good cat story. 19th century readers were no different in their appreciation for exceptional felines – stories of stray cats with unusual adopted homes and singular talents captivated the public and were widely featured in the news.

Author and animal blogger Peggy Gavan has researched notable cats and their human companions and gathered the most fascinating tales in her recently released book The Cat Men of Gotham: Tales of Feline Friendships in Old New York. On Thursday, December 5 at 7 pm, she’ll share select stories of famous cats of old Brooklyn (with photos, of course!) at the City Reliquary! These stories will take us through the streets of Brooklyn from the Navy Yard to a Bushwick firehouse, and illuminate life in a bygone era as well as celebrating fascinating men and their captivating cats.

Peggy’s book will be available for purchase and signing – perhaps a holiday gift for the city history buff or cat fancier in your life?

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.

Cinema City Continues with Bad New York Geography on November 16!

Saturday, November 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the City Reliquary

$20 General Admission$15 for City Reliquary Members (Join Today!)

The City Reliquary’s Fall event series, Cinema City, continues on Saturday, November 16! Presented by Screen Slate contributor and NYC trivia expert (part of the reigning Panorama Challenge championship team!) Cosmo Bjorkenheim, each Cinema City program will explore New York City’s many and varied depictions in film through clips and discussion. From early Edison experiments to recent blockbusters, studio standards to cult favorites, you’ll see New York in a whole new light!

Our third Cinema City program examines cinematic errors in NYC’s geography. Nothing gets New Yorkers’ goats quite like filmmakers (especially non-New Yorker filmmakers) disrespecting the physical reality of our beloved city, like placing the Guggenheim around the corner from Penn Station or putting waiters in Katz’s Deli. Movies with egregious errors (ahem, Ghostbusters II) have the power to infuriate us proportional to the power of accurate NYC geography (as in the original Ghostbusters) to delight us. Prepare to boo the worst of the worst with us on Saturday, November 16 at 6:30 pm!

Once again, your $20 ticket includes unique program-themed snacks from Forest Dinners’ Lucia Jazayeri and Anna Gelb and a beer from Brooklyn Brewery! Lucia is the Creative Director for Clover Food Lab. Anna is the Director of Events for Outstanding in the Field.