Finger Lakes 2015: Corning Museum of Glass

Last week the wife and I went up to the Finger Lakes in New York to celebrate our one-year anniversary. We are coming up on two years now, which means another trip to the Finger Lakes. This one was more of a coincidence though, because we mostly went up there because Angela was interested in running the Wineglass Marathon, which she did. Congratulations, darling!

While she was out culminating months of hard training, I was sleeping. Then I woke up, ate a pop tart, and took a nap. Then I went to the Corning Museum of Glass.


Before I start: I don’t take many photographs, and the ones I do take are usually bad. This weekend was also about me learning about SnapChat, which apparently only sometimes saves pictures to my gallery when I tell it to. So unless you were one of the two people I am SnapChat friends with and happened to see my Story, you missed most of the good pictures. Sorry.

Oh, and I’m typing this while listening to the Pirates game on the radio. I’m reserving the right to leave my reactions to the game in the text here. OK, moving on.

The town of Corning grew up around the Chemung river after 1800, but it wasn’t until improvements to the Erie Canal were completed in 1833 that the city of Corning (which are two different places, mind you) began to come into its own.

1-0 after two batters are you fucking kidding me. That’s what happens when you just let them run on you like that, JPC (Jesus Penelope Christ).

The completion of a railroad line cemented Corning as a hub and allowed the city to grow quickly from 1850 on. Based on the little bit I have read about Corning so far, I feel comfortable saying that as steel is to Pittsburgh, glass is to Corning. Corning, like Pittsburgh (the Steel City), has a nickname earned due to the prominence of its industry: The Crystal City. Today, the city of Corning seems to revolve around the Corning Museum of Glass.


Keep in mind, I’m saying this as a person who drove through the city twice, bypassing the Gaffer district and specifically looking for the CMoG each time. Regardless, the CMoG is unique in that it not only has a world-class collection of items that are thousands of years old, but it also has items that are seconds old, because they do glass-making demonstrations on-site, none of which I have pictures of because SnapChat.

The CMoG has displays for glass at all other points in time, too. I was really interested in the early stuff, like the core formed bottles from Egypt and other early civilizations.


These were made by taking a rod of some kind and applying molten glass around it. Then, once the glass has cooled, the rod is removed and you have a vessel for perfume or other precious liquid. I also really liked these castings, too.



Early glass work seems to me to have emulated pottery. Really pretty pottery.



3-0 now, great. Nothing like hearing the hometown announcers talk about how great the other team’s pitcher is in the bottom of the third. Time for some vodka.

What really brought glass into its own as a unique material was the discovery that it could be blown by inflating it through a long tube. I don’t have any pictures of early blown glass so here is a big crazy boat instead.


And now I’m actually, literally hearing Clint Hurdle warn me against substance abuse. So great, you cause me to drink, then you personally make me feel guilty about it.

Other highlights from the historical section of the museum included some awesome dioramas. This one showed an early way of making glass windows. Today, glass is floated in big continuous sheets. Back then, it was shaped into a big cylinder …


… and then that cylinder was split down one side and laid flat. Here’s a model of a facility that would do that:


Glare FTW.

4-0. They’re never going to get Dexter Fowler out, ever. JPC.

Here’s a better shot of a different model:


The big round brick thing to the right is a giant furnace. There are 16 access holes into that furnace, and a 3-man crew could work out of each access point. The rectilinear structure to the right of the picture is a fan house, which supplied cold air to those crews. Best part about this photo is that someone used to have a job title of Mold Boy.

Not pictured: a neat model that showed the process of glass cutting. Basically, theres a big spindle that runs a bunch of pulleys that turn cutting wheels. Trust me, it was super cool.

I liked this display, which showed some bottles like the kind I used to find in the woods behind my grandma’s house.


At this point I was already kind of over seeing old glass, and then I came across this display for Paperweights of the World and decided to move on.


lol announcers saying Arietta is getting help from the umpires. Grow up, as if the umpires are also crushing balls into the river. vodka vodka vodka

So, it turns out that I have no interior shots of the new addition to the CMoG that just opened in early 2015, other than this one of some crows picking at the carcass of a red chandelier:


The new addition (seen at the right of the top picture on this post) houses a few contemporary art galleries that had a lot of my favorite pieces in it. You can see some shots on the architect’s website (Thomas Phifer and Partners).  There are some places where the light will shine down directly on the art, but other than that the space is really nice. The curved walls make the act of discovering new exhibits a lot of fun, I did a few laps of the addition and still felt like I was uncovering new things. Curved walls are hard for wall-hung pieces, but they work really well to set off the sculptural pieces on display here. I will say that the space works best on the inside (where the curved walls are), away from the exterior walls (which are straight and at right angles). There are some displays along that straight perimeter, but they seem out of place compared to the art in the interior galleries. Not sure if that’s an architecture thing or a curator thing.

The CMoG also has a collection of modern pieces in an older gallery. I don’t mind going on record saying that I liked the modern and contemporary stuff the best.



Final verdict is that you should plan a long weekend to the Finger Lakes and include the Corning Museum of Glass in your plans. Come early and try and catch a few of the hot glass demonstrations, it’s amazing what they do in 20 minutes or so.

I visited another museum, a more off-the-radar museum, when I was in the Corning area, but I’ll write that up in another post. Right now the Pirates just cleared the benches. Real classy. I thought the Cubs were supposed to be the immature team that don’t know how to act. I’m going to go drink until I think the Pirates won.


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