The Corning Museum of Glass may be closed temporarily to guests and staff alike while the COVID-19 pandemic affects our community, but that doesn’t mean the work stops. Our staff and their families have been hard at work in many wonderful ways to ensure that they are doing everything they can to protect our institution, our collections, our communities, and ourselves while maintaining our position as a world leader on glass.
Here are just a few of the things that we’ve been up to.
1. When the Museum temporarily closed to the public on Monday, March 16, 2020, and asked its staff to work from home, an assessment was made of ways that we could continue to operate and send aid to the local community. Our Operations team searched the campus and located 2,000 masks, 1,000 gloves, and some safety glasses, that could all be donated.
“Our Pandemic Plan called for a stockpile of PPE to protect staff,” said Bill Gilbert, Sr Manager of Environment, Health and Safety. “Since our staff is now working at home, Karol Wight (President and Executive Director) asked if we could support our local healthcare providers with this surplus of equipment.”
Along with these physical items, the Museum has also been able to provide advice and guidance to other local institutions on pandemic preparedness.
2. Taking PPE donations a step further, one staff member asked about using his personal 3D printer to make face shields. This request turned into a coordinated effort by a small group of Museum employees, Corning Incorporated staff, and the Chemung County Library District to utilize both personal equipment and equipment from our Studio to 3D print vital PPE such as headbands, chin guards, and ear savers.
“In March, I began seeing efforts put forth from various maker groups to fill the needs of the medical community,” said Ryan Langille, Lead Web/Interactive Developer at the Museum. “I looked over at my idle 3D printers and laser cutter and decided to put them to use.”
In the weeks that followed, the volunteers worked together to streamline the process, finding efficiencies in design and production that allowed them to print more parts in less time. At the end of April, with more than 2,000 face shields assembled, the team began successfully, and safely, delivering to Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, Guthrie Corning Hospital, and other local first responders. With production continuing, Ryan anticipates more deliveries being made in the future.
3. Many of our staff members have started sewing masks to donate to colleagues and our communities, but one particular effort stands out: that of Angelea Collins, daughter of our graphics design project manager, Anne Collins. What began as a small project with only one borrowed sewing machine has now grown into a fully-fledged business called “Making Masks, Supporting Heroes.” Now using three sewing machines and a website to keep track of supply and demand, Angelea and family are progressing full steam ahead.
“There has been an overwhelming response of donations and support throughout the community,” Anne says. “It truly has been an amazing experience to see how the community has united in a time of need.”
One of the local newspapers wrote a story about Angelea’s efforts.
4. Meanwhile, the Museum’s Education Department saw another need. Educational activities for children are now in high demand, but parents may not have high-speed or reliable internet access—or in some cases, any internet access at all—so the Education team started brainstorming about what to do with unused materials intended for our Spring Break “bubble” activities that were canceled. They worked to source any other necessary materials, then assembled hands-on activity packs containing bubble stuff, tempera paint, cups, paper straws, watercolor paper, and an instruction sheet.
“Since parents value education as well as fun, we used this opportunity to relate blowing soap bubbles to blowing glass bubbles and explore the science behind bubbles of all kinds,” said Kris Wetterlund, Director of Education and Interpretation.
The finished activity packs were then dropped off with local Food Bank representatives at Corning-Painted Post High School and were distributed as families came to pick up meals. Additional packets will be dropped off at the Neighborhood Transformation Center and the Economic Opportunity Program of Elmira.
The instruction sheet and a related video will be added to our website for people who have supplies at home and want to take part in the fun.
5. The Museum’s Marketing and Digital teams have been working diligently to ensure our online offerings are fresh and exciting, keeping people across the world engaged with the Museum’s collections, programs, and staff.
Our popular YouTube channel has many hundreds of hours of glassmaking content, but a reimagination of ways to engage with that content led us to launch the “‘Watch with the Artist” series: a re-airing of a previously live-streamed demonstration, only this time, the artist watches with you and chats about the work they made. Tune in on our YouTube channel Wednesdays at 1 p.m. and ask questions of the artists who will reveal what they were thinking in the moment.
A new blog series, “Virtual Journeys into our Collection” features a variety of staff from across the institution introducing some of their favorite artworks and the reasons why they continue to be inspired by glass every day. During this moment when we can’t physically be in the Museum galleries, these virtual tours allow us to explore through the eyes of staff members who bring different perspectives to our collections.
And of course, there is our social media star Pierre, the beloved glass penguin created by glass artist Catherine Labonté. Inspired by the penguins at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, who were shown waddling around freely after the aquarium temporarily closed its doors to guests, Pierre began his own exploration of our galleries and spaces. Pierre’s exploits were immediately popular—from sitting on a bed of ice (glass cullet) in the hot shop to donning safety glasses and checking out the Conservation Lab—and we’ve continued to share his adventures with social media updates every other day.
These five efforts are just some of the ways that The Corning Museum of Glass is playing its part to let the community know we’re here for them, even when we can’t physically welcome them inside.