Undiscarded: Stories of New York, Episode 1 (Lightbulb)

I discovered the City Reliquary Museum through my friend Harley Spiller, a City Reliquary board member infamously known as Inspector Collector. I was fascinated by the Reliquary’s quirky take on history and ll the New York-centric ephemera in its collection. But it wasn’t until I did a story on the Reliquary’s post-pandemic burlesque shows with the Last Chance Dancers, for Act Two New York, that I truly fell in love with the museum and the folks behind it.  When David Hoffman suggested CitizenRacecar collaborate with the museum for a history podcast, I was thrilled to be part of it. We teamed up with City Reliquary board member Jacob Ford, and delved into the museum’s vast and peculiar collection to create Undiscarded: Stories of New York, a podcast that captures the spirit of the museum and the unique stories behind its seemingly ordinary artifacts.

Our first season is full of quintessential New York artifacts, forgotten histories, and a diverse array of fascinating guests. It made perfect sense to begin the series with an object from one of New York’s most iconic landmarks, the Statue of Liberty. The museum is renowned for its extensive collection of Lady Liberty statues and related memorabilia.

Wall of postcards featuring the Statue of Liberty at the City Reliquary
Close-up of 5 statues in the vitrine of hundreds of Statues of Liberty figurines in the City Reliquary
Closeup of more Statue of Liberty figurines from the Reliquary collection. Some are metal, others plastic. Some green, some white, some metallic.

As discussed in Episode 1, the crown jewel is a burned-out bulb gifted by Charlie DeLeo, a war veteran, long-time New York City Parks employee, and the Statue’s “Keeper of the Flame.” Now retired and celebrating his 75th birthday this weekend, I hope he listens to our podcast. Below are photos of Charlie in action and the bulb he gave the Museum. Don’t forget to check out the additional resources below for links to Charlie’s books and more articles!

A man in a hard hat smiles, holding a crooked broom
Credit: Statue of Liberty National Monument (National Park Service)
A young man blinks during a photo standing on the rim around the torch of the Statue of Liberty
Credit: Statue of Liberty National Monument (National Park Service)
Man in hard hat stand in doorframe in front of an empty room with a single chair
Photo by Bill McKay
Man in hard hat points in a dusty room
Photo by Bill Mckay
Man in hard hat with hands on hips
Photo by Bill McKay
Man in hard hat next to large chain links the size of himself on the Statue of Liberty
Photo from Statue of Liberty Monument

Dave Herman, the founder of the Reliquary, was the ideal person to discuss the story behind this object and the museum’s origins. Although conducting an in-person interview after many Zoom meetings felt intimidating, it went smoothly despite my occasional stumble over the word PLEXIGLAS (try saying it quickly three times folks!). I’m always amazed by the wealth of knowledge history enthusiasts possess. Jacob set up our “studio” near the main Statue of Liberty display case, which created a dramatic, old-timey radio show atmosphere—a fitting setting for the first episode of the Reliquary podcast.

We can’t wait to hear what you think of the show. Please tune in, and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and spread the word. We have so many more stories to tell.

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