Director’s Foreword

Susan Weber

This digital publication and the exhibition it complements stand as twin memorials to Professor David Jaffee, the outstanding researcher, author, and teacher who conceived the project, saw it through to its late stages, but tragically did not live to see its final realization. His colleagues have striven to complete both the digital publication and the exhibition as they believe Professor Jaffee would have wished.

Soon after the close of his Focus Project exhibition, Visualizing 19th-Century New York, early in 2015, Professor Jaffee became the first faculty member who had undertaken such a project to propose a sequel. Given the great success of Professor Jaffee’s first foray into exhibiting, the Focus Project team eagerly embraced his idea of exploring the 1853 New York Crystal Palace as a successor to his first undertaking. While Visualizing 19th-Century New York examined the commercial spine of the city at midcentury, Broadway, and its immediate surroundings, New York Crystal Palace 1853 focuses on the moment when New York entered the arena of international commercial competition with its claim of being a city on a par with those of Europe in terms of the production and consumption of innovative goods of all kinds.

Professor Jaffee was not only a leading historian of the material culture of nineteenth-century America but a peerless innovator in the use of digital media. As head of New Media Research at Bard Graduate Center, Professor Jaffee exploited digital technology to add the present publication to the earlier digital publication as its complement. He collaborated with the new director of the Digital Media Lab, Jesse Merandy, to develop a fitting vehicle for his ideas in digital form. Once again, he worked assiduously with his students to identify a set of issues raised by the 1853 New York Crystal Palace and to conceive suitable ways of exploring them in both a physical exhibition and a virtual publication. New York Crystal Palace 1853 developed out of a yearlong Focus Project graduate seminar sequence over two semesters in fall, 2015 and spring, 2016. The students in the two seminars researched and wrote the exhibition’s label copy and essays for the digital publication, while Professor Jaffee composed the introductory texts. The student authors—some of whom have since graduated—are Alexandra Beuscher, Clara Boesch, Ana Estrades, Margaret Frick, Roberta Gorin, Sheila Moloney, Elizabeth Muir, Rebecca Sadtler, and Lara Schilling. Other students who contributed are Caroline O’Connell, Garrett Swanson, Andrew Taggart, and Jessica Kitz.

All Focus Projects depend on material things. As well as drawing on the holdings of the Bard Graduate Center Library, this exhibition and website could not have been realized without the generous loan of actual objects and permission to reproduce them in this digital publication. I wish to acknowledge our debt to the following individuals and institutions, including David Jaffee himself.

American Numismatic Society
Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University
Harry L. Berzack
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Corning Museum of Glass
George Eastman Museum
David Jaffee
Long Island Museum of American Art, History & Carriages
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museum of the City of New York
Museum of Modern Art
New-York Historical Society
New York Public Library
Elizabeth Plassmann-Bassett
Diana and J. Garrison Stradling
Edmund Witkowski

The Focus Project, a collaboration between the gallery and the Degree Program and Research Institute of the BGC, depends for its sustenance on the dean of Bard Graduate Center, Peter Miller. Other senior staff and faculty complement his efforts: Elena Pinto Simon, dean of Academic Administration and Student Affairs; Nina Stritzler-Levine, director of the gallery and executive editor of BGC Gallery Publications; and Ivan Gaskell, professor and head of the Focus Project, who guided the undertaking.

Staff members of the Degree Program and Research Institute and the Focus Gallery collaborated to realize Professor Jaffee’s concept: Kate Dewitt, art director; Nicholas Law, junior designer; Eric Edler, gallery registrar; Ana Estrades, curatorial assistant; Caroline Hannah, associate curator and Focus Project coordinator; Marianne Lamonaca, associate gallery director and chief curator; Jesse Merandy, director of the Digital Media Lab; Alexis Mucha, coordinator of catalogue photography; Ian Sullivan, exhibition designer. CHIPS, led by Dan Shields and Adam Squires, developed the digital publication and its interactive components in the gallery. Carolyn Brown, copyeditor, contributed greatly to the production of this publication. I extend my thanks to them all, as well as to all other members of the faculty and staff of Bard Graduate Center whose care has made New York Crystal Palace 1853 possible as a fitting tribute to our late colleague, Professor David Jaffee.

Susan Weber
Director and Founder
Iris Horowitz Professor in the History of the Decorative Arts
Bard Graduate Center