Women’s Voices, a multimedia digital installation of nine oversized touchscreens, reveals the hidden connections among exceptional and unknown women who left their mark on New York and the nation. Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society/Corrado Serra.
The United States has a handful of institutions dedicated to women’s art and specific great women. But the Center for Women’s History at the New-York Historical Society (NYHS), which opened April 29, is something else: an institution dedicated fully and specifically to telling the forgotten stories of women’s history.
Part of the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture on the museum’s fourth floor, formerly an open storage facility for 40,000 objects from the museum’s collection, the newly christened institution focuses on a variety of material. Prominent among its displays is an impressive array of colorful leaded glass lamps by Tiffany Studios—and if the connection between Tiffany lamps and women’s history isn’t clear, that just shows the important work that the Center is doing in reclaiming overlooked voices.
The display continues the theme of one of the NYHS’s most popular shows of recent years, “A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls,” an endeavor that became the driving force behind the new center. Before that 2007 exhibition, “people believed that the lamps that came out of the studio were designed by Louis C. Tiffany himself,” assistant curator Rebecca Klassen told artnet News.
The show’s groundbreaking research proved that the women employed by Tiffany Studios weren’t just producing the studio’s luxury lamps. Clara Driscoll and her team actually designed some of the brand’s most iconic designs, including the famed Wisteria Table Lamp.
“It was the advent of domestic electrification, so these were really luxury objects,” said Klassen, pointing out that each lamp is a unique object, due to the endless variety of glass produced in the Tiffany Studios. “Tiffany was really a devotee of color… it’s a really painterly sensibility.”
Beyond the gorgeous finished products, the exhibition reveals the steps of production, with sheets of uncut Tiffany glass and the metal patterns used to cut each little shape to fit the design. There’s even the chance to try your hand at selecting the colors for a Dragonfly shade, at an interactive display outfitted with LED lights with colors you control.