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Special Exhibition at The Corning Museum of Glass Featuring Objects from the Permanent Collection will Explore the Ways Glass Connects People Around the World and Across Time

Press Center

March 14, 2022
Past | Present: Expanding the Stories of Glass opens May 2022 

On May 15, 2022, The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) will present, Past | Present: Expanding the Stories of Glass. The special exhibition will present selections from the Museum’s renowned permanent collection, and explore the richly nuanced stories and themes they convey. Spanning four thousand years, the selections represent glass from across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Their display and interpretation will connect the past to the present, providing ways to consider human experiences then and now.   

“We are grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for their role in making this exhibition possible, as part of their support for planning the reinstallation of our permanent collection galleries,” said Carole Ann Fabian, Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs at The Corning Museum of Glass.  

“This exhibition will help us prototype new interpretive approaches that reflect a wider, globally broadened lens and that use story-telling and community collaborations as a method of work,” she continued. “The exhibition will reveal themes and stories about people across time and place, providing connections to the past, and meaning in the present.” 

The exhibition will feature object vignettes with rich stories presented in ways that encourage visitors to share their own perspectives. At once a gallery and interactive space, the voices and views of guests will ultimately complete the exhibition experience. Highlights include:  

  • Large-scale glass cremation urns, found in Germany in the 1860s, in what was a Roman-period burial site. The containers once held cremated remains and were found with a number of other objects, including two large stone coffins, as well as metal vessels and ceramic pitchers. These objects entered CMoG’s collection together to maintain their archaeological relationship, but the non-glass objects have never been fully studied or publicly displayed. For this exhibition, the objects will be reunited in the gallery space. Visitors will be able to explore burial practices and the ways in which the dead are commemorated.  
  • A set of mid-20th century Yorùbá beaded coronets, which are among the very few beaded African objects in the Museum’s collection.  These objects are modern takes on a Yorùbá tradition of beaded crowns that stretches back more than a thousand years and continues to the present day. Worn by the ọba, or divine king, in non-ritual contexts, crowns like these signify power, respect, and ultimately, the accountability of the ọba to his or her people in all of their diversities. Demonstrating the vitality of these traditions today, these objects will be accompanied by contemporary images of Yorùbá ọbas in full regalia, wearing similarly styled crowns and coronets. 
  • “Takami tokeiten" Kanban, a traditional Japanese shop sign advertising an eyeglass, watch, and clock store in Osaka. The mid-19th century Kanban includes an enlarged depiction of tengu-megane spectacles, complete with actual glass lenses. The exhibition’s display will reveal that eyeglasses in 19th-century Japan were used as a minor vision-enhancing tool for reading, but often as an accessory to signal intellect. Viewers will be invited to consider the role of eyeglasses in society today and the ways our experiences may be similar to those who choose to wear tengu-megane

“A major component of the 2022 exhibition will be an investigation of how the Museum can broaden the voices and narrative threads represented within our galleries,” added Alexandra Ruggiero, who is the coordinating curator of the exhibition. “Labels that accompany objects in museum galleries are generally written by museum curators and educators—and often present just one of an almost infinite number of stories and meanings. In the 2022 special exhibition, objects—either alone or as a group—and their interpretation will share stories and provide an entry point for further dialogue. Our goal is to discover and expand meaning and inspiration, not just identify and describe the objects on display.”  

The exhibition is organized and co-curated by Carole Ann Fabian, Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs; Katherine Larson, Curator of Ancient Glass; Alexandra Ruggiero, Curator of Modern Glass; and Susie Silbert, Curator of Postwar and Contemporary Glass. It is designed by Annabelle Selldorf and Sara Lopergolo. 


Image Captions from Top to Bottom

Artifacts from Roman-period burial site, 100-300 CE. Found in Flamersheim, Germany. Blown glass; copper alloy; earthenware; stone. Largest H. 28.5 cm; D: 28.7 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York (66.1.241-245, 66.7.1 a-e, 66.7.2-5, 66.7.7). 

L: Beaded Coronet (oríkògbófo), 1960 - 1970. Yorùbá. Nigeria. Glass beads, cloth, thread. H. 15.2 cm, D. 18.8 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York (96.3.7). R: Beaded Coronet (oríkògbófo), about 1953. Yorùbá. Nigeria. Glass beads, cloth, thread. H. 19 cm, W. 22.1 cm, D. 21.6 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York (96.3.8). 

Double-sided Kanban (shop signboard) for Takami tokei ten (an eyeglass and watch shop), about 1861​. Japan​. Wood; metal; glass lenses; gold and red lacquer; paint​. H. 158 cm; W. 30.6 cm; D. 2.5 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York​ (2021.6.3).  

Eye beads, ranging in date from 1400 BCE –200 BCE. China, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Mediterranean. Hot-worked glass. Largest Diam. 3.4 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York (64.1.13, 51.6.552, 68.6.3, 74.1.4, 54.1.143-2, 54.1.143-3, 51.6.572, 54.1.141-6, 54.1.140-4, 54.1.144). 

Folding spectacles with case, probably 1800–1899. China. Glass lenses; probably horn or tortoiseshell frames; metal; thread; wood; shagreen and textile case. Expanded: H. 6.6 cm; W. 11.7 cm; D. 2.5 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York​ (2011.3.117, gift of Frides Lameris VOF).  

I SPY, about 1956. Sari Dienes. United States. Broken, cut, and mirrored glass; wood frame. H: 30.5 cm; W: 34.2 cm; D: 7.2 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York (93.4.88).
Vase, designed about 1914; manufactured about 1914-1920​. K. & K. Fachschule für Glasindustrie Haida; Karl Meltzer & Co.​ Bohemia. Nový Bor (Haida); Bohemia, Skalice u České Lípy (Langenau). Mold-blown, cased, cut, and polished glass. H. 26.1 cm, D. 9.3 cm.​ The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York (2017.3.55, gift of Roberta B. Elliott​). 


About The Corning Museum of Glass

The Corning Museum of Glass is the foremost authority on the art, history, science, and design of glass. It is home to the world’s most important collection of glass, including the finest examples of glassmaking spanning 3,500 years. Live glassblowing demonstrations (offered at the Museum and on the road), bring the material to life. Daily Make Your Own Glass experiences at the Museum enable visitors to create work in a state-of-the-art glassmaking studio. The campus in Corning includes a year-round glassmaking school—The Studio—and the Rakow Research Library, with the world’s preeminent collection of materials on the art and history of glass. Located in the heart of the Finger Lakes Wine Country of New York State, the Museum is open daily, year-round. Children and teens, 17 and under, receive free admission.