This is a new regular feature on our blog to introduce our readers and visitors to some of the Tenement Museum staff and trustees working behind the scenes.
Who better to launch this series than the Museum’s President? Here are five questions with Morris Vogel.
1. What brought you to the Tenement Museum?
I worked with Museum founder Ruth Abram before she discovered 97 Orchard Street, and was impressed by her hopes for the Museum from its earliest days. Lots of historians were talking in the 1970s and 1980s about telling the stories of ordinary people and everyday life; Ruth found a way to do it outside of an academic setting where it might have an audience. She reached out to me in 2004, inviting me here to discuss the Museum’s evolution. So I was pleased when I got a call from a search firm looking for someone to succeed her as the Museum’s President.
2. What is your personal connection to immigration?
I was born in Kazakhstan and immigrated to the United States as a child. My family lived in the middle of an immigrant farming community in rural eastern Connecticut. Oscar Handlin’s Boston’s Immigrants, which I read as an undergraduate, really impressed me, so much so that I titled my dissertation “Boston’s Hospitals” in homage.
3. What’s your favorite shop or restaurant on the Lower East Side?
Russ and Daughters, and Niki Russ is my favorite shopkeeper!
4. What makes someone a New Yorker?
Sharing in the dreams that define the city. The novelist Wallace Stegner wrote of “the geography of hope” in distilling the character of the American West; I’m comfortable appropriating that phrase for the communities that generations of newcomers created in following their dreams to this city.
5. Of all the families whose stories we tell here, which family would you most want to spend a day with and why?
Max Marcus, from the Shop Life tour. He was a dreamer—and an entrepreneur.
—Posted by Emily Mitzner