The New-York Historical Society will be transformed this holiday season with a vibrant and sweeping display of spectacular antique toy trains, toys and scenic elements. On view now through February 22, 2015 (Presidents’ Day), Holiday Express: Trains and Toys from the Jerni Collection is a dynamic exhibition that appeals to all ages, showcasing the beauty and allure of toys from a bygone era. The Holiday Express exhibition is sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Stated Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society: “This collection will provide a wonderful new way for young visitors to understand how railroads supplanted canals as the favored mode of transport; how dozens of lines competed to funnel the raw produce of the American heartland to New York’s factories, shipyards, and piers; how the United States rail system experienced phenomenal growth not only upon the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, but also with the development of elevated railways in American cities; why, in 1865, New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley famously took up the longstanding appeal for the poor and unemployed of New York City to ‘go west and grow up with the country.’”
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research, presenting history and art exhibitions, and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical is the oldest museum in New York City and has a mission to explore the richly layered political, cultural and social history of New York City and State and the nation, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.
A highlight of New-York Historical Society’s holdings, the Jerni Collection was assembled over fifty years by U.S. collectors Jerry and Nina Greene and is considered one of the world’s leading collections of antique trains and toys. It includes unique, hand-crafted and hand-painted pieces dating from approximately 1850 to 1940, featuring prime examples by the leading manufacturers that set the standard for the Golden Age of European toys, including the German firms of Märklin, Bing, Ernst Plank and Carette, as well as the American firm Lionel.
Holiday Express unfolds over a broad swath of New-York Historical’s first floor and the DiMenna Children’s History Museum on the lower level, featuring more than 300 pieces from the museum’s Jerni Collection that transform the space into a magical wonderland. Holiday Express displays designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, Batwin + Robin Productions and Big Show Construction Management, Inc. feature theatrical lighting, an ambient audio “soundscape” and other effects to engage visitors in an immersive experience. Antique trains move along more than 400 linear feet of railroad tracks that twist and turn overhead, winding throughout the first floor.
The exhibition begins at New-York Historical’s West 77th Street entrance, where movement and sound from four large-scale multimedia screens will make it seem as though trains are roaring through the rotunda. This space also features a circular display case with the Boucher “Blue Comet,” a rare toy train from the 1920s-30s that mimics the real Blue Comet, which ran from the New York metropolitan area to Atlantic City during the Great Depression. Other highlights in this case are a one-of-a-kind Märklin Post Office (1895), a large Doll & Co. Ferris wheel (1904), a Gebrüder Bing carousel (1880-1890), and aircraft flying overhead.
A 360-degree mountainous landscape on view in the Judith and Howard Berkowitz Sculpture Court features artifacts grouped into ten scenes, including a tunnel, train station arrival structure, fairground, harbor with a lighthouse, and an airplane fly-by.
An expansive display in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History features a variety of trains, stations and other buildings, aircraft, and ships and boats of all shapes and sizes, including the largest example of Gebrüder Bing’s Leviathan toy ocean liner (1920). The display in the Leah and Michael Weisberg Monumental Treasures Wall Case is highlighted by a subtle palette of lighting effects to evoke a time-lapse transformation from dawn to dusk.
Several illuminated cases in New-York Historical’s hallways feature thematic displays from the collection. A dramatically lit display along the Central Park West corridor showcases large-scale American pieces, including moving trains within an abstract landscape, as well as interactive elements like a crawl-through space and a pop-up semi-sphere, so kids can get an up-close view of the display.
The exhibition was curated by Mike Thornton, Assistant Curator for Material Culture at the New-York Historical Society. Consultants on Holiday Express: Trains and Toys from the Jerni Collection include:
• Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership (LHSA+DP), an integrated architecture and exhibit design firm located in New York City responsible for the overall Concept and Design for Holiday Express; LHSA+DP is the designer of the New-York Historical Society’s highly popular, DiMenna Children’s History Museum.
• Batwin + Robin, renowned “media storytellers” with over twenty years of experience in the theater, museums and other venues, were the media producers for the exhibition.
• Big Show Construction Management, Inc., a company that bridges the entertainment and construction industries, provided the comprehensive project management services.