About this project

This digital publication, together with its in-gallery interactive components, accompanies the 2017 exhibition, New York Crystal Palace 1853, on view at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery from March 24, 2017, to July 30, 2017. New York Crystal Palace 1853 is part of an ongoing series of faculty-student collaborations of the Bard Graduate Center Focus Project. It was curated by the late David Jaffee, professor and head of New Media Research, with the collaboration of seminar participants, and was conceived to complement the 2014–15 Focus Project, Visualizing 19th-Century New York.

The New York Crystal Palace (formally known as the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations) opened in July 1853 on the site of what is now Bryant Park, facing Sixth Avenue between Fortieth and Forty-second Streets. Housed in an innovative castiron and glass structure, the Crystal Palace rates as one of the city’s first tourist attractions. It showcased an enormous range of consumer goods and technological marvels of the age.

This digital publication seeks to document and recreate the New York Crystal Palace and the experience of those who visited the 1853 exposition. It features objects that were displayed and available for purchase and contextualizes the fair through four components that comprise the digital publication. Professor Jaffee’s introduction provides the framework for nine full-length essays written by Bard Graduate Center students, addressing themes that range from display, consumerism, and refreshments to science and aesthetics. Two interactive components offer additional ways to engage with the fair: “A Visitor’s Companion,” based on contemporary illustrated newspapers, captures the excitement of the Crystal Palace by presenting the building’s history, the amusements that sprang up around it, as well as some of New York City’s other attractions; “A Stroll through the Crystal Palace” stitches together a wood-engraved panorama of the Crystal Palace interior published in Gleason’s Drawing-Room Companion in 1854. It provides a pathway to view objects, sculpture, and other displays. Three audio tours offer the “observations” of fictional and real characters, such as poet Walt Whitman, a frequent visitor to the fair.


The digital publication, New York Crystal Palace 1853, was designed by CHIPS, in collaboration with Jesse Merandy, director of the Digital Media Lab, Bard Graduate Center.

This project was developed by:
David Jaffee, professor and head of New Media Research, with Bard Graduate Center students Alexandra Beuscher, Clara Boesch, Ana Estrades, Margaret Frick, Roberta Gorin, Sheila Moloney, Elizabeth Muir, Rebecca Sadtler, and Lara Schilling. Additional student participants: Jessica Kitz, Caroline O’Connell, Garrett Swanson, and Andrew Taggart.

Audio tour talent:
Jimmie Briggs
Melissa Gerstein
Jesse Merandy
Alyssa Velazquez

Additional contributions by Bard Graduate Center staff:
Ivan Gaskell, Head of Focus Gallery Project
Marianne Lamonaca, Associate Gallery Director and Chief Curator
Ian Sullivan, Associate Gallery Director and Exhibition Designer
Caroline Hannah, Associate Curator and Project Coordinator
Kate DeWitt, Art Director, with Nicholas Law
Alexis Mucha, Manager of Rights and Reproductions
Elena Pinto Simon, Dean for Academic Administration and Student Affairs
Ana Estrades, Curatorial Assistant

Support for the New York Crystal Palace 1853 is generously provided by The Henry Luce Foundation and other donors.