For over half a century the town of Corning has been home to one of western New York’s most engaging, dazzling museums: the Corning Museum of Glass. An institution “dedicated to telling the story of one material: glass,” the museum offers visitors the widest possible range of opportunities to learn about, work with, and experience glass. In addition to classic museum galleries displaying the world’s finest collection of decorative and art glass items spanning over 3,500 years of innovation and inspiration, the Corning Museum of Glass also offers workshops, live demonstrations, research opportunities, and more.
Founded in 1851, the Corning Glass Works (now known as Corning, Inc.) moved to their permanent home in western New York 17 years later and has established themselves over time as one of America’s foremost innovators. Creating brands such as CorningWare and Pyrex, they became a household name for their kitchenware, while simultaneously developing specialty and industrial glasses that have applications all over the globe. On their 100th anniversary, Corning opened the Museum of Glass as an educational facility to honor their legacy and introduce patrons to the world of glass. Since then, the museum has grown into perhaps the largest single-material focused space in the world, with a collection of almost 50,000 unique glass objects representing centuries of style, technology, and development.
In addition to the galleries, the Museum is host to the Rakow Research Library, the foremost research library concerning glass, as well as the source of the Rakow Grant for Glass Research which funds new developments in material science and the Rakow Commission, an annual $25,000 dollar grant that supports the development of new works of art in glass. Glass blowing studios for education and demonstration, and an innovation center that focus on the chemistry, material science, and optical applications of glass round out the facilities’ current offerings, and a visit to Corning can easily consume a whole day.
The facility itself is a testament to glass as a building material, demonstrating in its design and construction myriad architectural applications of the material. This March, that display will be enlarged by the completion of the museum’s new North Wing, a 100,000 square foot addition designed by Thomas Phifer. Built of massive minimalist white glass panels, this breathtaking new space will contain 26,000 square feet of contemporary glass art galleries and one of the largest spaces for glassmaking demonstration in the world. It will feature 360 degree seating around the demonstration area. The all-glass design of the building incorporates innovative light-filtering techniques, which allow skylights to provide natural light to the entire gallery, fundamentally changing the way the collection within will be viewed by visitors.
“Each of the buildings answer the need for more space that specifically addresses exhibiting glass art and making glass,” said Karol Wight, the museum’s executive director. “It’s a glassmaker’s heaven.” Says Eric Meek, a glass blower and manager of the museum’s hot glass programs.
Opening in March of 2015, the new North Wing will link three generations of Glass-inspired architectural visions and cement the Corning Museum of Glass’s place as one of New York State’s must-visit museums.