New-York Historical Society To Transform Its Fourth Floor With Reinvisioned Collection Highlights Display And Unprecedented New Women’s History Center

Renowned Collection of Tiffany Lamps to be Displayed in a Dazzling Glass Gallery Center for the Study of Women’s History is First of Its Kind for a U.S. Museum Permanent Collection Displays to Reimagine Historical Artifacts in Bold New Ways

The New-York Historical Society today shared plans for the transformation of the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture on the fourth floor of its home on Central Park West, which will be redesigned to feature highlights from its outstanding collection as never before, as well as a groundbreaking new center for scholarship focused on women’s history. The centerpiece of the re-imagined fourth floor will be New-York Historical’s preeminent collection of Tiffany lamps, displayed in a sparkling glass gallery designed by architect Eva Jiřičná. The new Center for the Study of Women’s History will be a permanent space devoted to women’s history exhibitions and scholarship—the first of its kind in a U.S. museum. A re-imagined display of the permanent collection will increase public access and engagement with New-York Historical’s holdings and bring new artifacts to light. Renovation of the fourth floor has begun and the space is scheduled to open to the public in early 2017.

The new fourth floor was inspired in part by New-York Historical’s discovery of the secret history of Clara Driscoll and the ‘Tiffany Girls,’ who designed and created many iconic Tiffany lampshades, and whose overlooked contributions offer a window into the history of American women, labor and a changing New York in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, stories that New-York Historical is uniquely capable of sharing with the world and that will come together in this exciting new space,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society.

The renovated, refurbished, and re-imagined fourth floor will be a transformative next chapter in the extraordinary and ever-expanding story of the New-York Historical Society, New York’s first museum,” said Pam B. Schafler, Chairman of the Board of the New-York Historical Society.

Tiffany Gallery
The Tiffany Gallery will be a sparkling glass showcase for the Museum’s renowned collection of lamps by Tiffany Studios, which is among the world’s best in range and quality. Designed by architect Eva Jiřičná in her first major New York project, the 3,000-square-foot, two-story space will feature a dramatic glass staircase. One hundred Tiffany lamps will be on display in the darkened gallery, dramatically lit to allow visitors to experience the glowing lamps as they were intended.

Curated by Margaret K. Hofer, Vice President and Museum Director of the New-York Historical Society, highlights on view will include a Wisteria lamp (ca. 1901), made with nearly 2,000 pieces of glass to portray the cascading blooms; a Magnolia shade (ca. 1910–13), with “drapery” glass that was folded while still molten to capture the fleshy texture of the blossoms; a Cobweb shade on a Narcissus mosaic base (ca. 1902), designed during a period of transition from fuel to electricity and depicting spider webs among the branches of an apple blossom tree; and a Dragonfly shade (ca. 1900–06), one of Tiffany Studios’ most popular designs, featuring dragonflies with brass filigree wings and gleaming glass, jewel eyes.

Special attention will be given to the recently discovered role of Clara Driscoll and her Women’s Glasscutting Department, the actual designers and creators of many popular Tiffany shades, including the Wisteria and Dragonfly. Honoring Driscoll and her team of “Tiffany Girls,” who remained hidden in Louis Tiffany’s shadow until the discovery of Driscoll’s correspondence in 2005, the exhibition will provide a powerful connection to the Center for the Study of Women’s History, also on the fourth floor. The installation will also explore the history of Tiffany Studios, their marketing of luxury goods, the various styles of lighting produced by the firm, and the significant impact of the advent of electricity on the lives of Americans at the turn of the century.

The mezzanine level of the Tiffany Gallery will delve deeper into the making of Tiffany lampshades, from preliminary sketches and design cartoons, to the selection and cutting of glass. The “Design-a-Lamp” interactive will allow visitors to select glass for a Dragonfly shade and see the immediate results on a three-dimensional illuminated model. Visitors will also learn about trademark details that distinguish original Tiffany creations from contemporary Tiffany-style lamps.

Center for the Study of Women’s History
The Center for the Study of Women’s History will be the first of its kind in a U.S. museum to focus on women’s history on a permanent basis, presenting special exhibitions, public and scholarly programs, and an immersive multimedia film. Organized and curated by Valerie Paley, Vice President and Chief Historian of the New-York Historical Society, the Center will feature two to three exhibitions annually in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, alternating between historical and art-focused installations. Planned exhibitions include an inaugural show on 18th century American women’s role in helping to create the first modern democracy, and an exhibition that focuses on women and the 19th century Progressive movement. A digital interactive wall, Women’s Voices, will explore and contemplate women’s words and actions, and invite visitors to participate in the dialogue by sharing their own stories. Continue reading