A New Exhibit Explores The Modern History of Apartment Living

published Oct 14, 2017
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Since its opening in the 1980s, The Tenement Museum has provided a wealth of information on the origins of urban apartment living. The incredibly preserved building on 97 Orchard Street features multiple well-researched tours that cover different immigrant families who occupied the tenements in the past, offering you a glimpse into working class urban life up until the 1930s (Full disclosure: the Tenement Museum is my favorite place on all of planet earth. All of it). Next month they’ll open up a new extension of the museum at 103 Orchard Street that focuses on families settling in the neighborhood after World War II, to the current day.

According to the Museum’s website, the building at 103 Orchard has a long and storied history, “Over its 127 years as a residence, 103 Orchard Street housed more than 10,000 people. The new exhibit will tell three families’ stories.” They take a look at the lives of a Jewish family who lived in the building in the 1950s, a Puerto Rican family in the 1960s and a Chinese family in the 1970s.

Bigger than the units at 97 Orchard, this 800-square-foot apartment combines the stories of the families in one space; a bedroom as it would have been in the ’50s, the living room and kitchen from the ’60s and another bedroom from the ’70s. There’s also a room set up to look like a garment factory, a workplace shared by members of the families studied and an industry that is inextricably linked to the neighborhood.

As part of their movement to cover stories of modern immigration and how our cultures and origins are often reflected in the objects we have in our homes, they’ve started an online project where users can submit items that tell the story of their own or their families immigration and migration to the United States.

The exhibit at 103 Orchard Street opens on November 1, but a virtual exhibit is available now. If you’re in the New York area and interested in going, email me and I’ll probably go with you.