“It was a boyhood disease,” Dwight Lanmon said of his early love of glass. “I was haunting antiques shops by the time I was in high school.” You might then say it was destiny that brought Dwight and his wife Lorri to Corning, where Dwight spent 19 years working at The Corning Museum of Glass, culminating in his time as director from 1981 to 1992.
Although Dwight’s career started in an entirely different field—he first worked as a research engineer in the aerospace industry in Southern California—he was always drawn to glass. Dwight began to form a collection. He recalls buying his first piece of Carder-Steuben glass: a gold Aurene-lined calcite compote. He later added Tiffany glass and the occasional piece of Carnival glass.
In Los Angeles, he began to focus on 18th-century English drinking glasses. To feed his interest in antiques, he took night classes at the University of California at Los Angeles where he met a Curator of Decorative Arts at the Los Angeles County Museum who would later become his mentor. Gradually, he realized that he could find far greater satisfaction working as a museum curator than in his aerospace work.
In 1966, Dwight entered the Winterthur Program, a two-year master’s program for scholars interested in American arts and culture, jointly sponsored by the Winterthur Museum and nearby University of Delaware. The next year, his future wife entered the program on sabbatical leave from teaching history of decorative arts and architecture at Cornell University. They married in 1970 and moved to Corning in 1973.
Dwight became involved with The Corning Museum of Glass during his first year at Winterthur, attending the 1966 Seminar on Glass, and giving his first lecture in 1970. During the 1972 flood in the Corning valley, Dwight was working as a curator at the Winterthur Museum and was given two weeks off to help the team at Corning reopen the Museum. Bob Brill, then director of the Museum, invited Dwight to join the staff as chief curator and curator of European glass in 1973. Lorri continued teaching the history of architecture at Cornell, Ithaca College, and Elmira College.
“My primary focus was working toward a new Museum, which opened in 1981,” he said, describing the Gunnar Birkerts addition that now houses the 35 Centuries of Glass Galleries. During his tenure, Dwight curated exhibitions like The Great Paperweight Show (1978), and acquired many significant objects for the collection. Notable were the Roman cage cup, the Corning Ewer, and the Russian glass table.
Dwight returned to Winterthur Museum as the director in 1992 where he remained until retiring in 1999. Dwight and Lorri now live in Phoenix, Arizona. Together, their contributions have resulted in the acquisition of more than 74 objects for the Museum’s permanent collection.
“Glass has been at the center of my life for so long,” Dwight said. “It is satisfying to have been associated with the greatest museum and library of that material.”