South Street Seaport Museum presents Walking a Tightrope
The South Street Seaport Museum announces a panel discussion that will explore the unique challenges in public engagement faced by cultural institutions that are also historic sites.This panel discussion is presented as part of Archtober 2018 at the Seaport Museum. The event will be held on Thursday, October 11, 6:30pm in the Seaport Museum’s Melville Gallery at 213 Water Street, New York, NY 10038. Doors open at 6:15 PM. Tickets are $25 for adults; $10 for members of the Seaport Museum, Tenement Museum, and Museum of Eldridge Street (contact your member institution for discount details).
How do you interact with the public and let them explore your site, while simultaneously dealing with the responsibility of historic preservation? Join the South Street Seaport Museum’s Director of Collections, Martina Caruso; the Tenement Museum’s Collections Manager, Danielle Swanson and Director of Curatorial Affairs, David Favaloro; Cathedral of Saint John the Divine’s Director of Production, Jonathan Secor; Museum of Eldridge Street’s Director of Public Engagement, Chelsea Dowell; and Columbia University’s Adjunct Associate Professor in Historic Preservation, Mary Jablonski, in a fascinating discussion from various perspectives of how to balance between the needs of public engagement and preserving a site for future generations.
The speakers will discuss how making historic sites appealing to visitors is a major concern of preservationists and collections management specialists. Many historic house museums and other historic sites have a difficult time attracting visitors, although a few, such as the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, are at capacity. Those with large numbers of visitors tend to offer a feel of the ghosts of inhabitants past. Eyes take in worn-looking walls with peeling wallpaper, flaking paint, and old cracked plaster that provides a window into past lives lived. How to preserve these fragile artifacts in a manner that will continue to speak to the visitor is a challenge, and a great opportunity for learning and engagement.
David Favaloro and Danielle Swanson will discuss the ways in which growing visitor attendance at the Tenement Museum poses the largest threat to the historic fabric at the Museum’s tenement building, 97 Orchard Street, built in 1863. They will focus on steps the Museum has taken to keep certain spaces in a state of “ruin” while allowing visitors access to the building in order to understand what life was like for America’s immigrants, migrants, and refugees past and present.
Chelsea Dowell will discuss Museum at Eldridge Street’s unique challenges in visitor experience and how Green-Wood Historic Fund, where she worked previously, connected a cemetery with 560,000 burials to relevant and exciting contemporary topics.
Jonathan Secor will contribute to the discussion from the perspective of events production, and will talk about current activities at the Cathedral of St. John The Divine, from marketplace to spiritual setting.