This November, the Museum of the City of New York will open the exhibit New York at Its Core, using its entire first floor to tells the history of New York from Dutch to today. The Museum will release a series of teasers in anticipation, which has already included an updated short video Timescapes that melds old and new over 400 years of history. The first trailer video was just released at last week’s Uptown Bounce event at the museum. The video showcases an historic item, an apple peeler, to tell the story of the third portion of the exhibit from 1898 to 1912.
Sarah Henry, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Museum of the City of New York says, “The signature immigrant neighborhood is the Lower East Side. If we want to understand how the city has changed, understanding those new arrivals is the key to that.” Mark Russ Federman, a “third generation Russ” of Russ & Daughters describes the scene on Orchard Street in this era, full of pushcarts. “It was a matter of survival,” he says. Other family members speak to the tenement housing, covered so extensively in MCNY’s exhibit, “Jacob Riis: Revealing New York’s Other Half,” in 2015.
Russ & Daughters began as a herring pushcart, “a cheap source of protein for poor immigrants,” says Federman. By 1914, founder Joel Russ opened up an appetizer store on the Lower East Side.
An original Russ apple peeler will be on display in the New York at Its Core exhibition. Looking somewhat like a sewing machine, it’s a precursor to some devices we have seem still being used in some French households in Paris. It was used predominantly to peel Granny Smith apples used in the chopped herring salad, an item still available at Russ & Daughters today. It was a classic melding of old and new traditions, “Taking basic immigrant food taste but you’re adapting it to what you have available.”
The connections here, between the Big Apple, the “Core” in New York At Its Core, and a physical apple is so apropos, it’s almost uncanny. Sarah Henry of MCNY says its a “poetic encapsulation of the story of New York City.” The video also shares a few other historic objects that will be in the exhibit. See more of the video above.
Next, discover Timescapes, a video that melds old and new over 400 years of history and check out 10 highlights of the previous MCNY exhibit Jacob Riis: Revealing New York’s Other Half.