Rakow Library Exhibition: The Flood of ’72: Community, Collections, and Conservation

It’s hard to believe that forty years has passed since the devastating flood of 1972. An exhibition at The Rakow Research Library recounts the aftermath of the flood in Corning, with particular focus on the strength and determination of the residents, leaders in the community and at The Corning Museum of Glass, and volunteers who worked tirelessly to rebuild the city and the Museum.

Aerial view of The Corning Museum of Glass surrounded by flood waters Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass, photo by Jerry Wright

Aerial view of The Corning Museum of Glass surrounded by flood waters Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass, photo by Jerry Wright

The disaster, which few could have predicted, struck on June 23, 1972. Water, up to 20 feet deep, rushed through the town, leaving it isolated and without utilities (some utilities would take weeks to restore). Over one-third of residents became homeless and, even more tragically, 18 people died. Members of the community, however, were resolute in their determination to rebuild and quickly organized themselves for the work that lay ahead.

Flood-damaged exterior of Corning Glass Center Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass, photographer unknown

Flood-damaged exterior of Corning Glass Center Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass, photographer unknown

Flood-damaged Islamic glass in gallery case (59.1.489 on left) Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass, photographer unknown

Flood-damaged Islamic glass in gallery case (59.1.489 on left) Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass, photographer unknown

Debris piled outside Museum Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass, photographer unknown

Debris piled outside Museum Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass, photographer unknown

Strength and determination were widespread. At The Corning Museum of Glass, staff and volunteers worked together to uphold the mandate given by the President of the Board of Trustees, Thomas S. Buechner, that the Museum was to reopen in six weeks. On August 1, staff opened the doors once again, welcoming in about 3,000 visitors. Director Robert H. Brill stated in the 1972 Annual Report that “our goal was to overcome defeatism before it ever had a chance to set in, and to provide encouragement for the stricken people of the community.”

Roadside sign informing tourists of reopening date Courtesy of Corning Incorporated, Archives

Roadside sign informing tourists of reopening date Courtesy of Corning Incorporated, Archives

The Flood of ’72: Community, Collections, and Conservation features photographs, video interviews, documents, objects, and other selected historical materials from the collections of The Rakow Research Library and The Corning Museum of Glass. Together, they tell the story of the flood, the community and Museum’s determination in its aftermath, and the improvement of conservation techniques and disaster preparedness at the Museum. The exhibition is open now through January 3, 2014.

The Rakow Research Library is open from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday – Friday
Telephone: 607.438.5300 | Email (general inquiries): rakow@cmog.org

2 comments
Patrick
Patrick 5pts

Disaster recovery is a very interesting topic. I would enjoy learning more about the '72 recovery, lessons learned and steps for the future. Living in San Francisco, I'm not able to visit the museum as often as I'd like. Any suggestions to web sites or other museums who have shared stories after similar experiences?

Tracy Savard
Tracy Savard 5pts

Hi Patrick! Thanks for reading this blog entry. I have some sites I think you may find helpful and will email you the links. Thanks for leaving a comment!