Museum Under Water

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Museum Under Water


Glass Collection Galleries
June 2, 2002 to September 2, 2002

On June 23, 2002, the 30th anniversary of the Hurricane Agnes flood, The Corning Museum of Glass installed a small exhibition recalling that event.

The city of Corning and surrounding areas were flooded to a depth of 20 feet in some places. At the Museum, the water level was 5 feet, 4 inches above the main floor. More than half of the 13,000 objects then in the glass collection were submerged. Considerably more than half of the books in the library were underwater, as well as most of the thousands of photographs, slides, and negatives.

The exhibition showed some of the miraculous survivors of this catastrophe. They include a lampworked fox-hunting scene composed of many small figures in a wood and glass frame. It was broken and covered with mildew when it was found. Another survivor is a candelabrum that was once part of a pair on display in the English Gallery. The case containing these objects floated 60 feet before it came to rest upside down. Both candelabra were broken, but the remaining pieces were sufficient to construct one complete example. A Roman jug that was broken into 124 fragments was meticulously restored.

From the library’s collection of rare books, one dramatic survivor is a copy of Christopher Merrett’s The Art of Glass that was once owned by King Charles II of England. Printed in 1662, it is the first book on glassmaking published in English. This volume was presented to the king by Merrett, and it was in the royal library binding when it was acquired. The book was restored and rebound, but the original binding was also saved.

The exhibition remained on display until September 2, 2002.

An English Candelabrum

Candelabra (before the flood), about 1785. England or Ireland. Blown with flat cutting and metal mounts. H: 90.5 cm, W: 41 cm. Collection of The Corning Museum of Glass (50.2.23).
Candelabra after the flood

A Roman Ewer

Ewer, Roman Empire, late first–early second century A.D. Collection of The Corning Museum of Glass (65.1.23)This ewer, which had already been broken and repaired, was in a special exhibition case that was not bolted to the floor. The water caused the case to overturn, breaking the ewer into more than 120 pieces. Its restoration took several weeks of painstaking work.