Looking Back on 2014
December 30, 2014

You would think time might pass more slowly here at the Tenement Museum, where the year is often 1863, 1916 or  1935. However, keeping an eye on the past can make us aware of just how quickly the twenty-first century is flying by. Here is a look at what happened in 2014.

A Tenement Museum in 2046

We know what a Tenement Museum looks like in 2014. Our Museum is a standing Tenement building, restored to demonstrate how immigrants lived within its walls from 1863 till 1935 when the building was condemned. This year Annie Polland, Senior Vice President of Education and Programs, wrote a thought-provoking piece for the Huffington Post about what a Tenement Museum might look like in 2046. Put another way, Annie asked important questions about immigrant housing in our present the we ask questions about immigrant housing in the past. Leonard Lopate invited Annie to speak with him about her questions and concerns. Listen in to their conversation on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Obama, Immigrant Families and The Tenement Museum

Here at the Tenement Museum we know immigration is not news.  Every year since our piece of the continent became a nation, immigrants have traveled to the United States to begin a new life. However, new developments, global and local, change the immigrant experience in every day American life. Earlier this year we were proud to welcome Nisha Agarwal, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Commissioner of Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Agarwal spoke about immigration in New York today and what measures her office will be taking to address future immigration with a little of the past in mind.

Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner for the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs

In November, President Barack Obama made news by changing national policies toward immigrants, specifically immigrant families. Extending amnesty to millions, President Obama passed an executive order to protect most parents of U.S. citizens from deportation. In a further landmark order, Obama extended some benefits to immigrants who have been living in the United States for at least 10 years.

Paul Krugman, The New York Times Editorialist, and Nobel Prize winning economist, reacted to the President’s reforms by citing the Tenement Museum as his favorite museum and as an example of our country’s long relationship with immigrants can be. If you missed it the first time around, you can read the editorial online.

Krugman wrote that he gets especially emotional when touring the Baldizzi apartment, because it is so similar to one where his parents grew up, and because of the intense gratitude the Baldizzi’s have for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms which made all the difference in assisting the Baldizzi’s through the Great Depression.

Krugman wasn’t the only important visitor to the Baldizzi apartment this year…

The Tenement Museum Welcomes Back a Resident

Rita Ascione with her daughter and grandaughter visiting the Tenement Museum which was once her home.

Rita Ascione is one of the last living former-residents of our tenement on 97 Orchard Street. She lived in the Tenement with her family in the early 1930s as one of the last resident before the building was condemned. She visited this fall at the age of 88. The New York Times joined us in welcoming her home. Rita’s began her lifelong friendship with Josie Baldizzi when she lived above the Baldizzi family at 97 Orchard Street.

Read about her homecoming and watch the incredible video of her visit.

We Really Caught Up On Our Reading!

Among other wonderful guests we welcomed Gary Shteyngart and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as well as Sam Roberts who gave us New York History in a New York minute with his book, A History of New York in 101 Objects. You can watch these and other fascinating Tenement Talks on our Ustream page.

…Helped Others get on a New Learning Track

Our Shared Journeys Program. Photo courtesy of Richard Drew for the Associated Press

We are proud to share the stories of our residents with all our visitors but there are some visitors who have an even deeper connection to our immigrants than others. One of our programs, Shared Journeys reaches specifically speakers of English as a second language,  who are recent immigrants to the United States, just as our original tenants were.

Learn all about it.

…We Let Some Visitors Break the Rules

Our hallway as captured by Tod Seelie, photographer for Gothamist, during Snapshot.

In December we welcomed visitors who were all carrying the same piece of contraband – a camera!

Photography is usually forbidden in the museum because of its deleterious effects the museum experience but on December 5th we opened our doors to shutterbugs of all description. The results were beautiful!  You can track some of the photos on social media through #tenementsnaps

Our visitors were joined by professional Gothamist photographer Tod Seelie. Don’t miss his dynamic images.

Adults Just Wanna Have Fun!

In 2014 we also opened our Tenement Inspector program to adults.

For a few hours, visitors took on the role of New York municipal inspectors, hired to investigate tenements for reforms which were introduced in the Tenement Reform Act of 1901. How did the landlords of 97 Orchard Street fare? New Yorker reporter Sarah Larson  on was on the scene.

What a year!

Thought the tenement has been standing since 1863 the Museum has only been in operation since 1988. We are so grateful to everyone who helped make 2014 another wonderful year for the Tenement Museum. Thanks to our visitors, guests and of course our staff.

Feel like you missed something? Join our enewsletter list to stay informed  of all the excitement we have planned for 2015.

Happy New Year from the Tenement Museum