I recently spent the end of 2017 and the veeery beginning of 2018 in New York City with my husband and cousin. We managed to see A LOT and to eat a lot as well (so many bagels….). But my absolute favorite thing that we did was visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.
Now, I’d visited this museum before (in 2013/14, I think), but this time I booked a different tour for our visit. During my previous visit, I took the ‘Hard Times’ tour and during this visit, I took the ‘Irish Outsiders’ tour. The Tenement Museum isn’t like other museums in that it’s self-guided and made up of information panels and artifacts. Rather, each visit is comprised of a tour with a guide. The experience is centered on the building that the museum owns, 86 Orchard Street, a real tenement, and the stories of the families that inhabited the building during the 19th and early 20th century families.
Usually when I go to a museum that focuses on history I tend to spend my visit thinking of the stories of the individuals during that period in history – what were their day-to-day lives like? How did they feel about the events presented in the exhibit? What were their personalities like? Unfortunately I think a lot of these details have been lost in time.
Through research about individuals who inhabited the building and piecing together various cultures present in New York during the time period that respective tenants inhabited the building, the museum has been able to sculpt detailed stories about what life would have been like for the people who lived at 86 Orchard – the details of their lives that have faded into history. The museum guides provide a narrative through factual information, and the tenement building serves as the perfect historically accurate backdrop.
I absolutely adore this museum as I feel that it really captures the multi-ethnic story of New York – a beautiful facet of the city that is still felt today!