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.”