The Corning Museum of Glass is a museum in Corning, New York, dedicated to the art, history and science of glass. It was founded in 1951 by Corning Glass Works and currently has a collection of more than 50,000 glass objects, some over 3,500 years old.
|Location||Corning, New York|
Founded in 1951 by Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated) as a gift to the nation for the company's 100th anniversary, the Corning Museum of Glass is a not-for-profit museum dedicated to telling the story of a single material: glass. Thomas S. Buechner, who would later become director of the Brooklyn Museum, was the founding director of the glass museum, serving in the post from 1951 to 1960 and again from 1973 to 1980.
The original Museum and library were housed in a low, glass-walled building designed by Harrison & Abramovitz in 1951. By 1978, the Museum had outgrown its space. Gunnar Birkerts designed a new addition, creating a flowing series of galleries with the library at their core, linked to the old building via light-filled, windowed ramps. With memories of the 1972 hurricane still fresh (see Flood Damage), the new galleries were raised high above the flood line on concrete pillars. The new Museum opened to the public on May 28, 1980, exactly 29 years after its first opening.
By the early 1990s, the Corning Museum of Glass was once more overflowing its exhibition space, and increasing visitation put a strain on guest facilities. In 1996, the Museum embarked upon the first phase of a planned five-year, $65 million transformation. Under the directorship of David Whitehouse, the first element to be added was The Studio. This state-of-the-art teaching facility for glassblowing and coldworking opened for classes in 1996.
Architects Smith-Miller + Hawkinson designed an addition to the main Museum building, using glass wherever possible to convey the beauty and elegance of the art form in the building itself. The Museum's renovation was completed in 2001, and included a new visitors' center, Sculpture Gallery, (now the Contemporary Glass Gallery), Hot Glass Show demonstration stage and a hands-on Innovation Center with exhibitions designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates. A redesigned 18,000-square-foot (1,700 m2) GlassMarket, one of the largest Museum shops in the country, filled the entire first floor of the museum. The Rakow Library was relocated to new quarters across the Museum campus.
Over the past decade, the Museum's collection, programs, and global impact have grown significantly. At the beginning of 2012, the Museum announced a $64 million expansion project, designed by Thomas Phifer, to expand contemporary gallery and Hot Glass Show space. The Contemporary Art + Design Wing opened on March 20, 2015.
In June 1972, disaster struck as Hurricane Agnes emptied a week's worth of rain into the surrounding Chemung River Valley. On June 23, the Chemung River overflowed its banks and poured five feet four inches of floodwater into the Museum. When the waters receded, staff members found glass objects tumbled in their cases and crusted with mud, the library's books swollen with water. The case holding 600 rare books tipped over, and the books were covered by mud and shards of glass panes. Half of the entire Library collection was damaged in the flood. According to Martin and Edwards, 528 of the Museum's 13,000 objects had sustained damage (1977, 11) At the time, Buechner described the flood as "possibly the greatest single catastrophe borne by an American museum." Conservation was an immediate concern and staff moved quickly to freeze the flooded materials. Museum staff members, under the directorship of Robert H. Brill were faced with the tremendous task of restoration: every glass object had to be meticulously cleaned and restored, while the library's contents had to be cleaned and dried page by page, slide by slide, even before being assessed for rebinding, restoration, or replacement.
During the extensive recovery efforts, the Library occupied an abandoned Acme grocery store across the street from the Museum. Altogether, staff and volunteers dried, cleaned, and restored over 7,000 water-logged, frozen books over the next two years. The rare books were sent to Carolyn Horton, a leading restoration expert, who disassembled, washed, deacidified and rebound them. On August 1, 1972, the Museum reopened with restoration work still underway.
The Museum's Glass Collection showcases more than 35 centuries of glass artistry. The Museum's collection of contemporary artworks includes pieces by significant artists such as Klaus Moje, Karen LaMonte, Bruno Pedrosa, Dale Chihuly, Libenský / Brychtová, Ginny Ruffner and Josiah McElheny. The Glass Collection Galleries show the most comprehensive and celebrated glass collection in the world. The galleries explore Near Eastern, Asian, European, and American glass and glassmaking from antiquity through present day. They tell the story of glass creation, from a full-scale model of an Egyptian furnace, to the grand factories of Europe, to the small-scale furnaces that fueled the Studio Glass movement that began in America in 1962. The galleries contain objects representing every country and historical period in which glassmaking has been practiced. The galleries include: Glass in Nature, Origins of Glassmaking, Glass of the Romans, Glass in the Islamic World, Early Northern European Glass, The Rise of Venetian Glassmaking, Glass in 17th-19th Century Europe, 19th Century European Glass, Asian Glass, Glass in America, Corning: From Farm Town to “Crystal City,” Paperweights of the World and Modern Glass.
In addition to these galleries, there is the Jerome and Lucille Strauss Study Gallery, Frederick Carder Gallery, Ben W. Heineman Sr. Gallery of Contemporary Glass, and the Contemporary Glass Gallery. The Study Gallery is filled with a wide range of objects from all periods. The gallery is named after Museum benefactors Jerome and Lucille Strauss, who, by gift and bequest, provided the Museum with an unparalleled collection of 2,400 drinking glasses dating from ancient to modern times. The Frederick Carder Gallery features an extensive collection of glass designed by Frederick Carder (1863–1963), a gifted English designer who managed Steuben Glass Works from its founding in 1903 until 1932. During this time, the production of Steuben changed from various types of colored glass to colorless glass.
The Museum's Ben W. Heineman Sr. Gallery of Contemporary Glass focuses on vessels, objects, sculptures, and installations made by international artists from 1975 to 2010. The purpose of the gallery is to show the different ways in which glass is used in art, craft, and design. The gallery is named for the Ben W. Heineman Sr. family, who donated a major collection of contemporary glass to the Museum in 2005.
The Contemporary Glass Gallery, housed within the Contemporary Art + Design Wing, features more than 70 works from the Museum’s permanent collection, including recent acquisitions and large-scale works that have never before been on view. Works in this gallery were created in the past 25 years and are arranged thematically.
The Corning Museum of Glass offers exhibitions year-round. Past exhibitions have included: Medieval Glass for Popes, Princes and Peasants, East Meets West: Cross-Cultural Influences in Glassmaking in the 18th and 19th Centuries and Mirror to Discovery: The 200-Inch Disk and the Hale Reflecting Telescope at Palomar. Several special exhibitions are offered at the Museum and the Rakow Research Library each year, from shows focused on specific artists to major exhibitions on important topics in glass and glass history.
In the Glass Innovation Center, visitors can meet the inventors whose ideas changed the world. At the Innovation Center guests have the opportunity to dabble with glass chemistry, experience the power of optical fiber and see themselves in the strange reflection of a flight simulator mirror. The Innovation Center galleries currently on display include the Optics Gallery, Vessels Gallery and Windows Gallery. A 300-foot bridge connects three floating pavilions.
Inaugurated in 1986 by The Corning Museum of Glass, the Rakow Commission supports the development of new works of art in glass. This program, which provides $25,000 each year, is made possible through the generosity of the late Dr. and Mrs. Leonard S. Rakow, who were Museum Fellows, friends, and benefactors of the Museum. Each commissioned work is added to the Museum's collection and is displayed publicly for the first time during the annual Seminar.
Guests can watch live glassmaking, or learn to make glass at the Museum. The live glassmaking demonstrations are major visitor attractions. Demonstrations happen live in Corning every day, as well as on three Celebrity cruise ships.
The Museum offers several live glassmaking demonstrations that allow visitors to get a better understanding of both the art and science of glassmaking. The Hot Glass Show is a demonstration where one of the museum's glass blowers provides a live glass blowing demonstration, which is also narrated by another of the glass blowers. The Hot Glass Show is performed at the Museum, on the road, and at sea on three Celebrity Cruise ships.
At the Museum, the Hot Glass Show is offered all day, every day and is included in the cost of admission. At each demonstration, the glassmaker takes a glob of molten glass and shapes the globs into vases, bowls, or sculptures. Throughout the demonstration, a narrator describes the process, and cameras give viewers a close-up look into the furnaces where the glass is heated. The show gives viewers a look into an ancient Roman technique that is still used today for glass making. Each show lasts between 20–40 minutes. The museum takes the Hot Glass Show on the road, bringing the unique demonstration to the public, designers, and other museums. The Museum uses unique equipment in order to recreate the state-of-the-art studio environment. The Hot Glass Roadshow travels internationally.
GlassLab is the design program at the Corning Museum of Glass. GlassLab's focus on material and process aims to help designers and artists realize new forms, functions and meanings for glass. The program is by invitation only and provides designers with rare access to explore concepts in glass. GlassLab designers come from various disciplines, such as product, graphic, and fashion design. In public "design performances" or private workshops, designers and glassmakers collaborate, rapidly prototyping design concepts and using the immediacy of hot glass as a catalyst for innovation.
The Corning Museum of Glass actively researches, publishes, and provides lectures about a broad range of glass topics. The museum hosts The Rakow Research Library, which houses the world's most comprehensive collection of materials on the art and history of glass and glassmaking (and is open to the public).
The Rakow Research Library, founded as part of The Corning Museum of Glass in 1951, is a public institution that houses the world's most comprehensive collection of materials on the art and history of glass and glassmaking. The Library Collection ranges from medieval manuscripts to original works of art on paper to the latest information on techniques used by studio artists. More than 130 archives contain unique material from individual artists, galleries, companies, scholars, and organizations. The Library also presents exhibitions featuring rare items from its collection. In 1985, the Museum renamed its library the Leonard S. and Juliette K. Rakow Library in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Rakow, who gave generously to the library as well as bequeathing part of their glass collection to the Museum and endowing research grants and commissions. The collection does not circulate. However, the Library is a member of the Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC), an international bibliographic service, and microfiche copies of books on glass and photocopies of periodical articles can be borrowed through interlibrary loan.
Since 1960, the Scientific Research Department of The Corning Museum of Glass has pioneered the application of numerous scientific techniques to the examination of historical glass artifacts and to the study of the history of glassmaking. Some of this research has focused on the Museum's collections, but most of it has been conducted in collaboration with archaeologists and scientists from all over the world. The findings of this research have been shared in more than 190 publications on the archaeology, chemistry, and conservation of glass. Many of these publications are now out-of-print or originally appeared in sources that are no longer readily accessible.
The Museum's searchable database brings this scholarship to the attention of scholars and scientists who might not otherwise be aware of it. Approximately one-quarter of the content is accessible in full-text format. Publications not available in full-text may be accessed through the Museum's Rakow Research Library.
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