In May 2018, The Corning Museum of Glass launched a statewide tour to commemorate the 150th anniversary of glassmaking moving to Corning from Brooklyn.
In 1868, Brooklyn Flint Glass Company loaded its equipment onto canal boats bound for Corning, N.Y., thus setting in motion 150 years of glassmaking innovation in Corning that has shaped the modern world. GlassBarge retraced and expanded upon the 1868 journey by traveling from Brooklyn to Buffalo before making its way home to the Finger Lakes, offering free glassmaking demonstrations to the public along the way. The tour also coincided with the Erie Canal Bicentennial (2017-2025)—for which GlassBarge was a 2018 signature event—as well as the centennial of the New York State Barge Canal.
About the tour:
- 30-foot x 80-foot canal barge
- 29 waterfront stops
- 123 days
- 16 glassmakers
- 705 miles traveled by water
- 3,000 pounds of glass used in demonstrations
- 10 glass ribbon cuttings
- 488 shows
- 50,821 attendees
Accompanying GlassBarge on the journey was the Lois McClure, a replica of an 1862 canal barge, and the C.L. Churchill, a 1964 tugboat, both part of the collection of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. GlassBarge was moved along the waterways by a tug boat from the South Street Seaport Museum. Both partner museums shared their knowledge about the Erie Canal, tugboats, canal boats, and the working life on New York’s waterways.
This monumental project took a village. From the Hot Glass Demo and marketing teams that traveled with the barge serving as ambassadors, to behind-the-scenes accounting, reporting, and logistics efforts—virtually every Museum department played some part in the successful four-month tour. GlassBarge also saw unprecedented media coverage from local news stations, National Public Radio (NPR), and even The New York Times. Cultural partners provided maritime expertise and helped engage audiences, while state funding sources and port sponsors defrayed project costs and made the journey possible.
Beyond the demonstrations:
- 20,000 miles driven by Corning Museum of Glass employees
- 15 morning shows (TV and radio) on GlassBarge
- 425 news stories about GlassBarge
- 525,053 people engaged about GlassBarge through Facebook alone
- The new Instagram channel solely for GlassBarge grew from zero to 1,138 followers between May and September
- PastPort, an interactive web app created specifically for GlassBarge, saw 4,970 visitors
- The unique hashtag “#glassbarge” was used a total of 667 times on Instagram
Back at the Museum, GlassBarge visitors were able to delve deeper into the rich history of glassmaking in Corning. Each attendee left GlassBarge with a boarding pass that could be redeemed at the Museum for $5 off regular admission. Good until December 31, 2018, each boarding pass is valid for two discounted adult admission tickets. So far, 647 of these tickets have been used for admission of 1,247 guests.
GlassBarge was made possible through the generous support of sponsors from 111 organizations. Major grants were provided by I LOVE NEW YORK, Empire State Development’s Division of Tourism; the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA); and the New York State Canal Corporation through Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative.