so many severed doll limbs
September 4, 2015 5:41 AM   Subscribe

Here's What We Found Inside The Tenement Museum Walls

The items—which have been removed throughout the years—are in their Collections Archive, which isn’t open for the public, and is kept at their 91 Orchard Street offices.
posted by poffin boffin (31 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
What did they do with the 1.5 billion other mummified rats they definitely found?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:53 AM on September 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


OH GOD NO!!! CREEPY DOLL FACES!
posted by leesh at 5:53 AM on September 4, 2015


Fantastic. The Tenement Museum is one of my favorite places.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:53 AM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's one of my favorite museums of all, and has been a powerful model for doing things differently and engaging important social topics.

What's interesting about this is noting that some of these things may have ended up in the wall because people were trying to hide them.

They have a great blog - I recommend following it if you like stuff like this. When they find new things they write great posts, and also feature other topics like culinary history and interesting primary documents.
posted by Miko at 5:55 AM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I totally expect an exact replica of this to start showing up on the top shelves the hipper bars around town in the near future. Full, of course.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:05 AM on September 4, 2015


Mrs. Mosley and I made that museum one of our first stops when we first visited NYC together years ago. Fascinating place.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:05 AM on September 4, 2015


I visited the Tenement Museum fairly recently and it was really neat! The tour guide did a great job of deftly engaging with some of the sociopolitical issues with a group that had very diverse political opinions.
posted by Wretch729 at 6:06 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I hope all the little kids growing up those abominable conditions grew up to live happy, rich, and fulfilling lives full of trees and sunshine.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:07 AM on September 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Irving Berlin, among many awesome people, grew up in an awful tenament.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:08 AM on September 4, 2015


All those toys make me think of all the little kids right now who, through no fault of their own, are part of the current European migrant crisis. Some of whom will never make it to adulthood. And it just kills me. Slate posted a photo and story about one of those little kids (a 3 year old boy named Aylan Kurdi) a few days ago, and I just can't shake the images, perhaps because I've got a 3 year old of my own. Life is so fucking cruel sometimes.

Sorry, off-topic, I just needed to vent.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:09 AM on September 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


I hope all the little kids growing up those abominable conditions grew up to live happy, rich, and fulfilling lives full of trees and sunshine.

one of those little kids was my great grandmother, although she lived a few blocks to the east on ridge street. idk how sunny and fulfilling her life was but one of the greatest joys of her last years was going for long drives with my grandparents when my granddad, her son in law, got his first brand new car, which I believe was some sort of packard.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:17 AM on September 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


all the little kids growing up those abominable conditions

And think for a second about how highly preferable these conditions were to those they left (which often remains true today).
posted by Miko at 6:20 AM on September 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I went to the TM about a year ago and definitely enjoyed it. However, the tour guide did seem to be weirdly pandering to conservative attitudes in an effort, presumably, to de-politicize the tour and not offend the Real Americans. I remember him saying things like "Well, nowadays people might have different attitudes towards immigration then they did back then...". Those were the disappointing sprinkles to the otherwise informative experience.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 6:41 AM on September 4, 2015


There was a post a while back about an interview with a slave plantation museum docent, and tl;dr I think conservative pandering is the lesser of two evils, the greater of which is allowing bigoted asshats to ruin the tour for everyone else with their loud stupid obnoxious views, which they need very little encouragement to share at great length.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:44 AM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I will definitely make that a stop on my next trip to NYC.

My family (oddly enough) never ventured through NY, despite being Jews immigrating from Europe. Mom's family came through Canada and while they were in Watertown, NY for about 3 months (in 1922), they were deported back to Canada. The next time they came to the U.S., they bolted directly for Los Angeles (in 1923). My father's family went directly to Chicago and stayed there until my grandmother married her stepbrother (my grandfather) in 1939 and got in their car and drove straight for L.A. For some reason, their parents (who were married to each other) weren't super happy with the marriage.
posted by Sophie1 at 6:48 AM on September 4, 2015


I think conservative pandering is the lesser of two evils, the greater of which is allowing bigoted asshats to ruin the tour for everyone else with their loud stupid obnoxious views

Pandering to bigots only leads them and others to believe that their views are within the realm of acceptability. Fuck that. I don't want to see 'pandering' in a plantation anymore than I want to see it in a Holocaust museum. Some things should just be condemned, full stop, forever.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:49 AM on September 4, 2015


i don't think i worded that right if you somehow think i would be in favour of not condemning bigotry? i meant that the shit the plantation lady dealt with made me understand why someone would say the things Noisy Pink Bubbles mentioned in their tour experience.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:59 AM on September 4, 2015


The ouija board is from the early 1920s, manufactured by the Ouija Novelty Company.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:01 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Neat finds.

"No, honey. The rat isn't mummified, he's just...sleeping. A lot. He's gotten a bit dehydrated because he's been sleeping so long. That's right. He's a very sleepy rat."

The Tenement Museum is definitely on our list next time we're in New York thanks to repeat mentions on Metafilter.

Lurking here is how I found out about 19 Princelet Street in London, which was another neat experience from an immigration/tenement history perspective.

It just so happened that 19 Princelet was open to visitors for a very brief period when we were in London in 2007.

The guy working the door seemed kind of amazed that we, visitors all the way from Canada, knew about the place.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:05 AM on September 4, 2015


I want to know how raspberries get mummified in NYC in the summer.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:12 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I went to the Tenement Museum on a school trip when I was in 8th grade, and it was bizarre. The docents seemed angry at us (I mean, I know 8th graders are a menace, but we hadn't actually done anything), and when we asked them questions based on the reading we had done prior to our visit they didn't know any answers (or pretended not to know). Our teachers and chaperones were baffled too, so this wasn't just an issue for the kids.

I am glad they are apparently better now! Back then, it was the worst part of my first visit to NYC. At the time, it was one of those "did that just happen?? WHY did that just happen?" experiences.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:18 AM on September 4, 2015


Wait, so that Ouija board was found inside a wall?

Let's play!
posted by Katemonkey at 7:24 AM on September 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


My mother was born in a tenement, Hester Street, NY, a long time ago--hey, I am 86--and it is great to visit that museum and area and to note how the region has evolved and now is home to many Asians. What once was a bustling Italian area is now greatly diminished. The Jews from thne Lower East Side moved out as life became better for them. But now, oddly, many are moving back to the gentrified and expensive area.

By contrast, in Boston, the Chinese area remains rather small but the Italian area (restaurants)i very active.

In Florida, there is an influx of Puerto Ricans, people leaving a money-poor territory, to settle not in Miami, an area "claimed" by Jews and Cubans, but in and around Orlando,where there has been for some time a Puerto Rican community.

America is an evolving essay on change and demographics.
posted by Postroad at 8:09 AM on September 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Those were the disappointing sprinkles to the otherwise informative experience.

That is really interesting because I know that the TM does a ton of dialogue training and is a member of the Sites of Conscience and takes their approach seriously (unlike a lot of plantation museums who would rather sweep it all under the rug). I think what is happening is that they have a recognition that a lot of people arrive at the museum with heroic and exceptionalistic stories about immigration in their own past, but many tend to be dismissive or bigoted about immigration today. I believe they're trying to create a platform that recognizes people may be walking in with that view, not shaming them for it or covering it up, but surfacing it and then trying to encourage group dialogue that might result in an a-ha moment of connecting past issues to present issues for those people whose minds could stand to be more informed. Now, whether your particular guide or your particular group was managing that opportunity well is one thing. But I know that this is their intent, that from a social-justice perspective, listening to and engaging with narrow opinions is an important part of broadening minds. If you say nothing about their views, they can never be examined.

There are also a lot of legitimate civic questions about immigration that don't come from bigotry. In all seriousness, can we have open borders? If not, how do we manage it, decide who comes and who doesn't? How long does it take an immigrant community to go from despised minority (like Italians and Poles once were) to accepted, proud Americans? On my LESTM tours, the closing conversation was about stuff like that. And yes, both times the others on the tour had more conservative views (not surprising since I am a public historian and have a lot of literacy on the topic so I have already had a number of myths dispelled ("They learned English! They immigrated legally!"), but they were encouraged to air them so we could talk about them. It's part of facilitating dialogue.
posted by Miko at 8:22 AM on September 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I always hide my mummified rat collection in the walls. That way, if someone finds them, I can just be like, "Oh, I guess they died there." Doesn't explain their little costumes, though.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:00 AM on September 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


Wait, so that Ouija board was found inside a wall?

My best school friend moved into a place with a really creepy basement full of little alcoves and rooms that had been bricked up, but the bricks had mostly fallen away. When we were helping him move in, we found a giant (like, double the regular size) crammed into the back of one of the partially-bricked-over alcoves. Creepy as fuck.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:12 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


For a lot of people in the not-too-distant past, Ouija boards had seriously bad connotations. Some of my friends got flak from old-school Catholic parents and grandparents for them growing up. So I can understand kids (probably) hiding them.
posted by Miko at 10:57 AM on September 4, 2015


My mother tells me that our great-grandmother lived in the very building there the museum is now. I wish I had any grandparents left so I could hear some stories of what that must have been like. But I guess I'll have to settle for going to the museum!
posted by Mooseli at 11:53 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having done some demolition, one of the commonest findings is thousands of double-edge razor blades that were shoved into the slot at the back of the medicine cabinet.
posted by JackFlash at 12:16 PM on September 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


I just moved into a place with a razor slot at the back of the cabinet. It's such a mid-20th-century idea for trash. "Here's a neat white built-in place to put your refuse! Now the problem is gone forever!"
posted by Countess Elena at 12:50 PM on September 5, 2015


When I took the Tenement Museum tour ca. 2003 one of the features was IIRC a tape of recollections (or possibly the docent read it aloud) of a former resident talking about living there as a child in the 1930s. It was so intimate to hear her describe her life as we stood in an apartment very like the one she knew - it may have been the actual apartment. The docents there were very specific about how daily life was lived, and the domestic hardships - and joys - particularly of the women and children who lived there. Twelve years later I still think of that tour. Mooseli, go if you can!
posted by goofyfoot at 9:05 PM on September 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


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