May’s Visitor of the Month
May 29, 2014

Our visitors are what make the Tenement Museum the thriving and growing place that it is today. Since we appreciate our visitors very much, every month, we’ll give a shout out to a special visitor (or visitors) to the Tenement Museum! It’s our Visitor of the Month. If you’d like to be one of our Visitors of the Month, just ask your friendly Tenement Museum Staff Member!

Meet Erica Simmons, May’s Visitor of the Month!

Erica is a historian who lives in Toronto. She studies the history of urban childhood and is currently working on the history of urban playgrounds. Along with the Tenement Museum, she is visiting Seward Park, Tompkins Square Park, and Hamilton Fish Park, all of which are among the first purpose-built municipal playgrounds.

Children play in a Lower East Side playground, 1910's. Image courtesy the New York Public Library.

She started studying urban playgrounds while learning about an American women’s organization that did social welfare work in pre-Mandate, turn-of-the-century Palestine. It was a visiting nurses’ settlement based on the work of Lillian Wald (whose work we profiled on our blog late last year) here on the Lower East Side. They offered medical care to Jewish women in Palestine, as the Christian hospitals and doctors required conversion to Christianity before they would see a patient. They also built NYC-style playgrounds and pasteurized milk.

Boys being boys in a New York City playground, 1901. Image courtesy the New York Public Library.

This is only her second visit to the Museum in twenty years – she participated in the Meet Victoria program on her first visit. Even though she has only been the Museum once before, Erica told us, “I send everyone I know here,” because of the Museum’s commitment to telling the social history of urban immigrant life.

A playground on East Broadway in the Lower East Side, 1910's. Image courtesy the New York Public Library.

Today she took the Irish Outsiders building tour and was fascinated by the privies and the state of ruin of the building and what our Museum Founders saw when they first set foot in 97 Orchard Street in 1988.

Layers of history: the wallpaper samples in one of the Museum's 'ruin' apartments.

Check out Erica’s fascinating blog, Inventing the Playground.

Thanks to Erica and all of our visitors for their continued support!

– Posted by Colin Kennedy