CSI (Conservation Special Investigation): Blaschka

Like forensic investigators, conservators collect, examine, and document evidence to help solve mysteries. This is the story of one such investigation.

A group of Blaschka models in storage, some no longer
attached to their original support cards.

The Backstory

The incredibly life-like and detailed invertebrate models made by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka in the mid to late 19th century were used as teaching tools in universities all over the world. Many of the models were neatly glued or wired to paperboard cards, which provided a safe way to handle the fragile models but also contained their identifying information including the name of the species and the Blaschkas’ catalog number.  

When Cornell University’s collection of Blaschka models came into the care of The Corning Museum of Glass in 1963, the models were in various stages of disrepair and many were already detached, and sometimes separated, from their original cards. While this was likely not a problem for the biology students who originally used them (and knew what species they represented), some of the models entered the Museum with the wrong cards or completely unidentified.

Correctly identifying what these models are and, where possible, reuniting them with their original paperboard cards is part of a multiyear project to clean, re-house, and re-organize the Blaschka holdings at the Museum (which include over 350 models and hundreds of loose and broken glass bits).

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Goats, Glass, and the Upstate Connection: Corning Museum of Glass partners with Beekman 1802

Ready for the season, Beekman 1802 in Sharon
Spring, NY. Photo courtesy of Beekman 1802.

Have you ever visited Sharon Springs, NY? Or, do you like to shop on QVC from the comfort of your own home? Have you ever tried goat milk soap? Or have you been obsessing over everything Schitt’s Creek-related like just about everyone else these days?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then there is a good chance that you’ve already discovered Beekman 1802, a small mercantile with a larger-than-life story. Founded in 2008 by New Yorkers Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge, winners of the 21st season of The Amazing Race on CBS, along with a friendly herd of baby goats, Beekman 1802 is the realization of a dream to escape the city and enjoy the beauty and peace that only country living can bring. And where better to do that, than in tiny Sharon Springs, 50 miles west of Albany in upstate New York?

12 years later and Beekman 1802 has become a thriving beacon for homegrown quality, unique artisanal products, and a good-sized dollop of kindness. Not to mention the goat milk soap that has put the Beekman name back on the map. And you’ll find plenty of other products for sale too, like delicious gourmet foods, sumptuous bath and body items, and things for the home, including, most noticeably, handmade glassware.

So, when the team at Beekman 1802 reached out to The Corning Museum of Glass earlier this year to collaborate, we thought it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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Women in Glasshouses: Communism in a Juice Glass – the designs of Freda Diamond

Freda Diamond, “Designer for
Everybody.” Life Magazine, April 5, 1954.

In the decades after the second world war, millions of Americans unknowingly allowed a communist into their homes in the shape of innocent housewares. How? Through the designs of Freda Diamond (American, 1905-1998), industrial designer and tastemaker with almost unmatched influence in the post-war American home. Diamond’s greatest success was her work with Libbey Glass, designing almost 80 glassware patterns between 1946 and her retirement in 1988. Despite her influential and prolific career, only in the past twenty years has her legacy in the history of design begun to be cemented. But one question that has yet to be asked is whether Diamond’s political and social beliefs influenced her body of work.

Diamond was born in New York City in 1905 to Russian Jewish immigrants. After her father departed when she was only three-years-old, Diamond was raised solely by her mother Ida, a costume designer and anarchist. Ida soon began a relationship with Moe Goldman, brother of prominent anarchist political activist and thinker Emma Goldman. Moe became a surrogate father to Diamond, and Emma a lifelong friend. Diamond studied decorative design at the Women’s Art School at Cooper Union and soon after worked for the high-end interior design firm William Baumgarten & Co. Designing for New York’s ultra-elite proved unfulfilling, so Diamond worked at the mid-market department store Stern Brothers for six years before starting her own design consulting business in 1930.

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Piecing Together a Hot Shop: One Glassmaker’s Adventure into Building a Hot Shop out of Legos

Glassblower Chris Rochelle in action.

When the Museum temporarily closed due to COVID-19 earlier this year, our glassmakers found themselves suddenly without access to the material they spent nearly every day shaping into beautiful objects. More than three months out of a hot shop meant they had to find new outlets for their creativity, and Museum glassmaker Chris Rochelle did just that.

“Glassmaking is therapeutic to me,” said Chris. “It’s active, it’s engaging, and it keeps my attention and focus. Not having that was tough. I missed the studio so much that I got busy making my own glass shop for a fun project during quarantine.” 

Having spent more than 20 years in various hot shops—with 10 of those years at the Museum—Chris knows hot shops like the back of his hand. He could envision every piece of equipment, every tool, and all the materials that come together to enable the magic that occurs when a maker meets molten glass. Of course, creating a functional hot shop at home would be out of the question for most glassmakers for a variety of reasons. But that didn’t stop Chris from getting creative with his nephews’ Lego sets. 

“I’ve always loved Legos but haven’t built anything with them since I was a kid,” said Chris.

Chris’s Lego furnace complete with a color rack (left) and pipe warmer (right).
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Rob Cassetti, the creative way

2020 has been a monumental year. There have certainly been times of difficulty, but also moments of innovation and progress. And for some, that change has been positive, a steppingstone to new roads and new adventures. This is certainly true for Rob Cassetti, who announces his retirement from The Corning Museum of Glass after more than 20 years of service.

A career of creative excellence is something we can all strive to achieve. For Rob, that endeavor has been essential; it’s a deeply rooted way of thinking, a calling, and a joy for him to practice. It’s the only way his brain works. Rob’s professional life has been one steeped in creative people, energy, places, and experiences, and for many of these moments, he has been the instigator, the spark that brought it all together.

Read more →

Meet Penguin Pierre: From the Shelf to the Spotlight

Meet Pierre!

He sat casually in the corner of an office workspace, just waiting for his unlikely rise to fame. Born of sand and fire during artist Catherine Labonté’s live stream demo, this goofy-looking character could make you smile just by looking at him. And really, what more could he have hoped to accomplish than spreading simple happiness to an office filled with museum marketing employees? Then COVID-19 hit, and those employees packed up their desks and left to work from home for the foreseeable future, leaving Penguin Pierre in solitude—with no more faces to light up.

Then, when Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium shared videos of a penguin called Wellington waddling around their empty spaces; inspiration struck! Only, Pierre couldn’t waddle around the Museum… he’s made of glass. Except, could he?!

Penguin Pierre has the whole Museum to himself.
Read more →

Going His Own Way: Victor Nemard, a memorial

The Corning Museum of Glass has lost one of its warmest, kindest smiles. It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of our own Victor Alexander Nemard, who died suddenly on March 17, 2020. He was 61.

Victor joined the Museum in 1996 and began his career as a buyer for the Museum Shops, which was known as the Glass Market at the time, before taking the reins as Senior Manager, a post he held for more than 20 years.

In that time, Victor oversaw two major renovations. The first was an expansive redesign of the retail space during the Museum’s 2001 renovation, which created one of the largest museum gift shops in the United States with eight boutiques devoted to various glass shopping experiences. The second came in 2015-2016 with the redesign and renaming of The Shops in conjunction with the opening of the new Contemporary Art + Design Galleries, creating the world-class retail experience we know and love today.

Walking through The Shops, Victor’s presence was felt in every small detail. From the seasonal bouquets and decorations to the visionary strategy that makes The Shops unique. And if you were lucky, you might have found Victor slowly walking the aisles, his hands clasped behind his back, carefully looking at the displays, the positioning of a piece of glass and the way the light fell on it, or the way a glass-beaded scarf was draped across a hanger. He was a quiet, ever-smiling presence and if you found him ruminating in this way, he was always one to stop, to talk, and ask you how you were.

Read more →

CMoG Keeps You Busy: Things You Can Do at Home

Are you at home and in need of new sources of inspiration? Have you already exhausted your to-do list of house projects, cleaned the kitchen multiple times, finished several books, and asked everyone you know what’s good on Netflix? Well, don’t worry, The Corning Museum of Glass has some fresh ideas for you and the whole family.

We’ve searched our blog archive for a selection of unique things you can do from the comfort of your own home while still practicing social distancing, so let’s see what’s on the agenda for today.

 

Perhaps it’s time you dusted off all the old Pyrex you have stored away in various cupboards and hidden in the attic and gave everything a thorough clean.

Read this blog about how to correctly clean your Pyrex collection and restore everything to its former glory. Maybe you’ll want to start baking afterward!

 
Read more →

Rob Cassetti, the creative way

2020 has been a monumental year. There have certainly been times of difficulty, but also moments of innovation and progress. And for some, that change has been positive, a steppingstone to new roads and new adventures. This is certainly true for Rob Cassetti, who announces his retirement from The Corning Museum of Glass after more than 20 years of service.

A career of creative excellence is something we can all strive to achieve. For Rob, that endeavor has been essential; it’s a deeply rooted way of thinking, a calling, and a joy for him to practice. It’s the only way his brain works. Rob’s professional life has been one steeped in creative people, energy, places, and experiences, and for many of these moments, he has been the instigator, the spark that brought it all together.

Read more →

Meet Penguin Pierre: From the Shelf to the Spotlight

Meet Pierre!

He sat casually in the corner of an office workspace, just waiting for his unlikely rise to fame. Born of sand and fire during artist Catherine Labonté’s live stream demo, this goofy-looking character could make you smile just by looking at him. And really, what more could he have hoped to accomplish than spreading simple happiness to an office filled with museum marketing employees? Then COVID-19 hit, and those employees packed up their desks and left to work from home for the foreseeable future, leaving Penguin Pierre in solitude—with no more faces to light up.

Then, when Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium shared videos of a penguin called Wellington waddling around their empty spaces; inspiration struck! Only, Pierre couldn’t waddle around the Museum… he’s made of glass. Except, could he?!

Penguin Pierre has the whole Museum to himself.
Read more →

Going His Own Way: Victor Nemard, a memorial

The Corning Museum of Glass has lost one of its warmest, kindest smiles. It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of our own Victor Alexander Nemard, who died suddenly on March 17, 2020. He was 61.

Victor joined the Museum in 1996 and began his career as a buyer for the Museum Shops, which was known as the Glass Market at the time, before taking the reins as Senior Manager, a post he held for more than 20 years.

In that time, Victor oversaw two major renovations. The first was an expansive redesign of the retail space during the Museum’s 2001 renovation, which created one of the largest museum gift shops in the United States with eight boutiques devoted to various glass shopping experiences. The second came in 2015-2016 with the redesign and renaming of The Shops in conjunction with the opening of the new Contemporary Art + Design Galleries, creating the world-class retail experience we know and love today.

Walking through The Shops, Victor’s presence was felt in every small detail. From the seasonal bouquets and decorations to the visionary strategy that makes The Shops unique. And if you were lucky, you might have found Victor slowly walking the aisles, his hands clasped behind his back, carefully looking at the displays, the positioning of a piece of glass and the way the light fell on it, or the way a glass-beaded scarf was draped across a hanger. He was a quiet, ever-smiling presence and if you found him ruminating in this way, he was always one to stop, to talk, and ask you how you were.

Read more →

CMoG Keeps You Busy: Things You Can Do at Home

Are you at home and in need of new sources of inspiration? Have you already exhausted your to-do list of house projects, cleaned the kitchen multiple times, finished several books, and asked everyone you know what’s good on Netflix? Well, don’t worry, The Corning Museum of Glass has some fresh ideas for you and the whole family.

We’ve searched our blog archive for a selection of unique things you can do from the comfort of your own home while still practicing social distancing, so let’s see what’s on the agenda for today.

 

Perhaps it’s time you dusted off all the old Pyrex you have stored away in various cupboards and hidden in the attic and gave everything a thorough clean.

Read this blog about how to correctly clean your Pyrex collection and restore everything to its former glory. Maybe you’ll want to start baking afterward!

 
Read more →