The Lower East Side Tenement MuseumIn 1988, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum opened in a tiny storefront at 97 Orchard Street. This dilapidated tenement, a most unlikely setting for a "historic house" museum, became the anchor of the Tenement Museum's ground breaking efforts to preserve and interpret the history of the immigrant experience on the Lower East Side.
Several years later, the Tenement Museum has grown dramatically, setting precedent on a variety of fronts.
It is the first museum in the United States to preserve a tenement and have it designated a National Historic Site.
It is singular in its commitment to interpret a shared history that has long been ignored--that of urban, immigrant and working class people.
It is unique in its frank depiction of the home and community life of urban immigrants, and it is the first American museum to present the real-life stories of a female-headed household and a family on home relief.
It placed a social mission at its core, which shapes all of its educational and interpretive initiatives: "to promote tolerance and historical perspective through the presentation and interpretation of the variety of immigrant experiences on Manhattan's Lower East Side, a gateway to America."
Today, the Tenement Museum occupies three locations on the Lower East Side, has grown from a part-time staff of two to a full-time staff of ten and sustains an operating budget of about one million dollars with support primarily from the private sector. The museum produces a wide variety of educational and interpretive programs, including exhibitions, slide and video presentations, dramas,and tenement tours (which will serve an estimated 35,000 visitors, including 10,000 children, this year).
The mission of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, however, is not just to preserve and record an historical period, but to foster tolerance for diversity through an understanding of our shared heritage. In his review for the American Association of Museums, a senior official at the Smithsonian captured its importance. "The Tenement Museum represents an extraordinary achievement. It has the potential to be not just another new museum but to be a part of a watershed moment in the history of museums. In pursuing its vision, the Tenement Museum is going to find itself right in the middle of some of the controversial issues of American culture. This is a great place to be."
For more information about the Museum contact:
66 Allen Street
New York, NY