Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tenement Museum

Today we went on a fabulous homeschool group trip to the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. 97 Orchard Street is a tenement apartment building built in 1863 and was home to about 7000 families until 1935. These were immigrant families that had come to America through Ellis Island. They came from Russia, Poland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, etc. Our tour today was the 3-room apartment once lived in by the Confino family. An actress portraying Victoria Confino showed us around the apartment, told us all about how life was then, and answered our many questions. She was a Sephardic Jew from Turkey (then it was still the Ottoman Empire) and there were 10 people in her family all living in those 3 rooms. It was so fascinating to see the brilliant use of space and to hear how there was still so much joy even though it was harsh times. The rooms are kept just as they were almost 100 years ago - with many of the same pieces of furniture, cooking utensils, and wallpaper. It was like going back in time. The museum has other tours based on some of the other real families who lived in the building.

We learned how much of the food they ate was bought from the street pushcarts. The Kosher food was bought in the grocery stores. The girls in Victoria's family didn't go to school after 6th ot 7th grade and a husband was chosen for them around the age of 16. Fun was had at the dance halls where Victoria had recently learned the foxtrot and she even played us a record on her victrolla.

I had been meaning to get to the Tenement Museum for years. It was as great as I thought. I think the kids really had fun and I'm sure they learned a lot. W got a book today called "Peppe the Lamplighter" which is about an Italian family who lives in a tenement in Little Italy. It's for his book club next week. I'm so loving this topic because my grandmother was one of 13 kids living in Manhattan around the time of the Depression. Now I have to find out where and how they lived.


mom of 3 said...

so cool, I'd love to know more about your grandmother :)

Vanessa said...

I've always wanted to visit that museum! My daughter and I went to NYC a couple of months ago, and I meant to check it out then, but we just didn't have enough time.

Ariel said...

Check out the virtual Victoria Confino recently launched by the Tenement Museum!

From Ellis Island to Orchard Street with Victoria Confino is an online game that transports players back to 1916 to experience life as a new immigrant in New York City.

The game allows you to create an immigrant character and passport, sail across the Atlantic, go through inspection at Ellis Island, and finally to build a life as a new immigrant in New York City. Along the way, players can get insights and information from Victoria Confino, a girl who immigrated in 1913 and lives in a tenement on New York’s Lower East Side. From Ellis Island to Orchard Street includes period photos and primary source documents that illuminate the great wave of immigration to America. Created by Ariel Newland, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and William Martin.

I'm sure your kids will love it as it sounds like they really enjoyed the visit to the Tenement Museum. I would love to hear any feedback they have.



NYCitymomx3 said...

mom of 3: I hope my mom can answer my questions! How cool would that be?

Vanessa: I've lived in NYC 39 years and just got there, lol. How'd you like the city?

Ariel: Thanks! I actually did check that out yesterday. What a cool site that is. I'll make sure the kids check it out, too - and the ones for the other families look fun also.

Vanessa said...

Loved it! I had actually been there several times before (I lived right across the river in Midland Park, N.J., when I was in second grade, and my husband and I took a trip to NYC about 10 years ago), but it was my daughter's first time. As a native Californian, she was a bit horrified that she had to walk everywhere, LOL, but she really enjoyed it too. Her favorite thing was the arms and armor hall at the Met -- she takes fencing lessons, and she was thrilled to see all the antique equipment.

artstudiogirl said...

This is great to know! We will check it out the next time we are in NYC. (We live in VA and are homeschooling our 2 boys 10/03 and 9/05)