Five Fun Facts: Little Known Gems About the Museum!

With 70+ years of history and thousands of objects, The Corning Museum of Glass is a mosaic of interesting information, including things that our visitors might not notice. Here’s a quick round-up of just some of the things you may not have known about CMoG.

50.1.1 Amphoriskos (Cosmetic Bottle)

1. Most of the first pieces added to the Museum’s collection came from Steuben Glass

In addition to making their own beautiful lead crystal glass, the Steuben Glass company collected objects that spanned the 3,500-year history of glassmaking. The impressive collection then became part of the Museum’s collection. 50.1.1 is the first item accessioned to the Museum collection and it is a cosmetic bottle made between 1400 to 1300 BCE. And in case you were wondering ’50’ represents the year the object joined our collection (though we now use the four-digit number for the year i.e. 2022) The first ‘1’ represents that the piece belongs to our Ancient glass collection and the second ‘1’ means that the object was the first piece added to our collection in that year.

2. We’ve been host to several famous guests over the years!

My favorite is that John Cleese of Monty Python fame got to blow glass with our own local celebrity Bill Gudenrath! You can read more about Cleese’s trip in this blog post. Hilary Clinton also visited when she was a New York State Senator. Other famous visitors include American actresses Ginger Rogers and Carol Channing, former Vice President of the United States Nelson Rockefeller, Prime Minister Edward Heath of the United Kingdom, and the great American poet Robert Frost.

William Gudenrath assists John Cleese at the bench as they shape a glass flower.

3. The whistle heard on campus is a hold-over from Corning’s days as a factory town

On a clear day, the whistle can be heard over ten miles away from town and it rings out Mondays through Saturdays at 6:45, 7:45, and 8:00 in the morning, at noon, then again at 12:45, 1:00, and 5:00 in the afternoon. Originally located at Corning Incorporated’s A Building across the river, the whistle signaled to factory workers when to wake up, head to work, go to lunch, and when to go home for the day. As someone who lives in town, I love having a built-in reminder of when to start walking into work for the day.

An homage to Corning, NY, and its factory whistle. Words and music copyright 2018, Mary Lu and Willie Walker.

4. The Rakow Library has changed locations many times over the years

The Rakow Research Library in the 1950s.
The Museum’s Library in the 1950s.

For founder Arthur Houghton, the written word came first and the library was a crucial part of his vision to share glass with the world. The library was originally housed with our glass collection in the Museum’s first building, which is now the Heineman Gallery. The flood of 1972 wreaked havoc on both the glass and library collections (the water reached a height of 5’4” or 162.52 cm in the gallery!) and when the Birkert’s building (home of the 35 Centuries of Glass Galleries) was constructed, the entire collection was raised to the second floor and the library moved to the center of those galleries, in honor of Arthur Houghton’s love for the written word. In 2001, the Library moved to its current location on campus in a building designed by the architecture firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.


5. Since 2015, Guest Artists have signed a door in the Amphitheater Hot Shop

When the Contemporary Art + Design Galleries and the Amphitheater Hot Shop opened in 2015, Guest Artists began signing the access door for one of our furnaces. From legendary Muranese maestro Lino Tagliapietra to Blown Away season 2 runner-up Cat Burns to pioneering sculptural flameworker Salt, the door is a beautiful record of all those glassmakers who have made their mark, both literally and figuratively, on the Museum.


We could go on with little-known facts about the Museum forever! We hope knowing these little tidbits enhances your next visit to the Museum. Let us know in the comments how many of these facts you already knew and maybe share some of your own!

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