The South Street Seaport Museum announces a panel discussion that will explore the unique challenges in public engagement faced by cultural institutions that are also historic sites.This panel discussion is presented as part of Archtober 2018 at the Seaport Museum. The event will be held on Thursday, October 11, 6:30pm in the Seaport Museum’s Melville Gallery at 213 Water Street, New York, NY 10038. Doors open at 6:15 PM. Tickets are $25 for adults; $10 for members of the Seaport Museum, Tenement Museum, and Museum of Eldridge Street (contact your member institution for discount details).
How do you interact with the public and let them explore your site, while simultaneously dealing with the responsibility of historic preservation? Join the South Street Seaport Museum’s Director of Collections, Martina Caruso; the Tenement Museum’s Collections Manager, Danielle Swanson and Director of Curatorial Affairs, David Favaloro; Cathedral of Saint John the Divine’s Director of Production, Jonathan Secor; Museum of Eldridge Street’s Director of Public Engagement, Chelsea Dowell; and Columbia University’s Adjunct Associate Professor in Historic Preservation, Mary Jablonski, in a fascinating discussion from various perspectives of how to balance between the needs of public engagement and preserving a site for future generations.
The speakers will discuss how making historic sites appealing to visitors is a major concern of preservationists and collections management specialists. Many historic house museums and other historic sites have a difficult time attracting visitors, although a few, such as the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, are at capacity. Those with large numbers of visitors tend to offer a feel of the ghosts of inhabitants past. Eyes take in worn-looking walls with peeling wallpaper, flaking paint, and old cracked plaster that provides a window into past lives lived. How to preserve these fragile artifacts in a manner that will continue to speak to the visitor is a challenge, and a great opportunity for learning and engagement.
David Favaloro and Danielle Swanson will discuss the ways in which growing visitor attendance at the Tenement Museum poses the largest threat to the historic fabric at the Museum’s tenement building, 97 Orchard Street, built in 1863. They will focus on steps the Museum has taken to keep certain spaces in a state of “ruin” while allowing visitors access to the building in order to understand what life was like for America’s immigrants, migrants, and refugees past and present.
Chelsea Dowell will discuss Museum at Eldridge Street’s unique challenges in visitor experience and how Green-Wood Historic Fund, where she worked previously, connected a cemetery with 560,000 burials to relevant and exciting contemporary topics.
Jonathan Secor will contribute to the discussion from the perspective of events production, and will talk about current activities at the Cathedral of St. John The Divine, from marketplace to spiritual setting.
Martina Caruso and Mary Jablonski will present recent preservation activities in the South Street Seaport Museum’s Schermerhorn Row building, which included a 3 month-long workshop with graduate students from Columbia University’s Master in Historic Preservation program. The students’ report and presentation to Museum staff, Board of Trustees, and interns and volunteers sparked a renewed Museum-wide sense of awareness of collections care culture and commitment to the site, informing current and future activities in the buildings.
About the speakers (in alphabetical order):
Martina Caruso is Director of Collections at the South Street Seaport Museum. She is responsible for all aspects of acquiring, documenting, preserving, providing access to, and protecting the Seaport Museum collections – 27,000 artifacts and 55,000 archival materials dedicated to the telling the history of New York as a port city. She also oversees all operations related to registration, curatorial research and exhibitions, archives, and rights and reproductions. She holds a Master in Art History from University of Bologna, and an Post-graduate Certificate in Art Collections Management and Display from New York University.
Chelsea Dowell is a historic preservationist who is dedicated to raising the public profiles of historic sites. Since getting a Master’s degree at Pratt Institute, her work at Green-Wood Historic Fund and Museum at Eldridge Street has focused on leveraging public programs and engagement to reposition historic sites as essential pieces of modern cultural life in New York City.
David Favaloro is Director of Curatorial Affairs and Hebrew Technical Institute Research Fellow at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. He is responsible for interpreting the history of the tenements at 97 and 103 Orchard Street, with an emphasis on research and exhibit development. He also oversees the museum’s preservation, conservation, and collections management programs. He holds a Master of Arts in American History and an Advanced Certificate in Public History from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Mary Jablonski is an Architectural Conservator and President of the firm of Jablonski Building Conservation, Inc. Her work varies from conservation of architectural elements and sculpture to field surveys, conditions assessments, field testing, laboratory analysis and forensic research. This work has included a significant number of masonry and concrete buildings. Mary has a Master’s of Science Columbia University Historic Preservation Program with an emphasis in Architectural Conservation, and is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University in the Historic Preservation Program where she teaches architectural finishes. She is also a Fellow of AIC.
Jonathan Secor, has worked in and around the arts for over three decades as a facilitator for creative artists and ideas. Prior to joining the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, he was producing partner for Urban Bush Women. Prior to that, Jonathan was Director of the MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center and Artistic Director for the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center overseeing the re-opening of this historic theater. From its opening until 2005, Jonathan served as the Director of Performing Arts at MASS MoCA. Jonathan’s NYC-based production company, Secor Productions, produces concerts, dance, theater, site-specific performances, industrials, events and happenings. Jonathan has taught courses in arts management at the Yale School of Drama, SUNY Purchase, and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
Danielle Swanson is the Collections Manager at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum where she oversees the care of over 12,000 collections objects and photographs, as well as assists with the preservation of the Museum’s historic tenement building, 97 Orchard Street. Her various responsibilities include accessioning new acquisitions, implementing IPM procedures, monthly conservation monitoring of the historic buildings, and overseeing researchers at the Museum’s institutional archives. Danielle holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History and Art Conservation from the University of Delaware, and a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies, concentrating in Collections Management, from The George Washington University.
Archtober is New York City’s Architecture and Design Month, the eighth annual month-long festival of architecture activities, programs and exhibitions taking place during the month of October.
ABOUT SOUTH STREET SEAPORT MUSEUM
The South Street Seaport Museum, located in the heart of the historic seaport district in New York City, preserves and interprets the history of New York as a great port city. Founded in 1967, and designated by Congress as America’s National Maritime Museum, the Museum houses an extensive collection of works of art and artifacts, a maritime reference library, exhibition galleries and education spaces, working nineteenth century print shops, and an active fleet of historic vessels that all work to tell the story of “Where New York Begins.”
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