In the fall of 2010, Museum Studies and Public History MA students worked collaboratively with the Grey Art Gallery to curate an exhibition commemorating the Centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out in the Asch Building which is now known as the Brown Building, part of New York University’s Silver Center complex. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was located on the 8th floor, and the fire prevented access to the stairway, though some got through. Others climbed out the windows; many leapt to their deaths. In all, 147 young women garment workers perished, mostly daughters of the Jewish families from the nearby Lower East Side, but many also were from Italian families. APH and Museum Studies students worked collaboratively with two instructors: Dr. Marci Reaven, an urban historian and Director of City Lore/Place Matters; and Dr. Lucy Oakley, Head of Education and Programs at the Grey Art Gallery. Students conducted research on the exhibition, worked with exhibition planners and designers in order to curate and create the show, and had the opportunity to participate in the actual installation. Students researched the event, focusing especially on the ways in which the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire has been remembered, commemorated and, in some cases, forgotten over time. They worked in archives and museums in New York City to select artworks and other materials for the show. They wrote the exhibition and publicity texts and were active in co-curating the exhibition. Students immersed themselves in the theoretical literature involving memorialization, commemoration, and visual culture. The exhibition was on view from January 11 through March 26 and from April 12 through July 9, 2011, and was accompanied by numerous public programs throughout the university and beyond. Museum Studies students also assisted in the construction of a permanent memorial in the Brown Building, on the former shirt of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
To read about student experiences in this class and exhibition, please visit a blogpost created by Alana Rosen: http://tenement-museum.blogspot.com/2011/03/artmemoryplace-commemorating-triangle.html. To read about other NYU projects commemorating the Centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, please follow this link to the Campus History section of the NYU Alumni Magazine: http://www.nyu.edu/alumni.magazine/issue15/15_square_Triangle.html.