Corning Museum of Glass

It didn’t feel like the place I went to at least a half dozen times growing up.

CorningGlassTowerJuly 11, 2016, Corning, New York

When I was a child growing up in Binghamton, NY, our family would travel approximately every other year about 75 miles on Route 17 to the Corning Museum of Glass, founded in 1951. I remember that it was really cool to see these guys – don’t remember any women – work behind these “windowed wall behind which guests could watch glassworking in the Steuben factory.” Even though we were protected, we could still feel, and see, the heat.

The place my family visited wasn’t anything like this. It looked more a museum, rather than a working factory, with a demonstration of glassmaking – that was done by a couple of young women -that could be done on a cruise ship, which in fact, IS a service that the folks at the museum can do.

We saw what makes glass breakable or shatter-resistant, and viewed some lovely pieces on display. The Daughter made a nightlight, designed like a cat, delivered to our house before we made it back home. It was a fun and educational experience. But it didn’t feel like the place I went to at least a half dozen times growing up.

It wasn’t. “In June of 1972, disaster struck as tropical storm Agnes emptied a week’s worth of rain into the surrounding Chemung River Valley. The river overflowed its banks and poured five feet 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. At the time, Buechner described the flood as ‘possibly the greatest single catastrophe borne by an American museum.'” The updated facility has a line on the glass near the entrance of the flood line, about five feet from the ground.

I remember that flood. When I got out of the hospital after a car accident, my father drove me past the Union-Endicott football field. Even from the highway, one could see how much water was covering the surface.

If you go to the Corning Museum of Glass, you can park in the visitors’ center, then walk, or take the short shuttle ride to the museum. The next stop is the Rockwell Museum, which does not appear to have anything to do with Norman. It’s a small museum of American art. The current displays included Celebrating 100 Years of the National Park Service. The permanent exhibit features a history of guns.

My appreciation of this place was enhanced by the swarm of incoming freshmen, plus their student escorts in a bonding experience.

Stop #4 on the shuttle is in charming Corning, where we got hot dogs. Then back to the visitors center.

And both places were free! Well, not exactly gratis, but because we are Supporters of the Albany Institute of History & Art, we also get an annual membership to the North American Reciprocal Museum Program, which gives us “free admission and other benefits at more than 500 museums throughout the United States and Canada.”

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

7 thoughts on “Corning Museum of Glass”

  1. Would you believe that in 35 years of living in New York, with the first 18 of those lived in the Southern Tier with not infrequent trips to and through the Corning area, I have never once been to the Glass Museum??? Weird!!!

  2. I’ve also heard that a lot of those “watch it being made” factory tours have ended for various reasons:

    1. Concern over the safety of the visitors because it’s possible someone could get hurt or CLAIM they got hurt.
    2. Concern over safety of the product. I know of one food factory that highly modified how it does its tours out of concern that someone might try to contaminate the product (people are AWFUL, and this is why we can’t have nice things)
    3. Concerns about industrial espionage. This seems to be a thing; on shows like How It’s Made or Unwrapped they regularly say they’re not going to show certain steps because they are “proprietary”

    That makes me sad because I always enjoyed, as a kid, seeing stuff made. A couple years ago I made a trip to a chocolate factory in the area here that claimed to offer a tour – it was more like standing behind a big window that looked out onto the factory floor. Maybe some days they had someone there to explain what was going on, but it was kind of anticlimactic.

  3. I found your blog via Byzantium’s Shores. It’s really cool you grew up in Binghamton, my mom grew up in Endwell. We’ve been to the Corning shop multiple times on our trips to New York.

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