6: Video clip, “A Look Inside Lower East Side Tenement Museum,” 2013.
The Tenement Museum, a building with preserved apartments located on historic Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, was created to help visitors get a sense of what life was like in the tenements in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The museum was founded by Ruth J. Abram and Anita Jacobson in 1988, and it is a National Historic Landmark. The video clip presented here provides background and information about the museum, showcasing some of its installations. In the video, historian and educator Annie Polland says that the mission of the museum is “to engage people in the power of the past to make them think about the present,” something that Liana Finck’s graphic novel, with its mix of narratives from both the past and an imagined present, works to do as well.
Suggested Activity: Have students watch the video (focusing on 00:00-02:53) and take notes on what they see and what they hear. Ask them to think about what information they learn from watching the video, and how it might be different to actually visit the museum. What might they discover from entering into a home that has been preserved from the past? How might learning about the past through a visit to a museum like this be different from reading about it in a graphic novel? Have them also think about the people behind the scenes, including educators, curators, and tour guides, who are involved in presenting the museum exhibits. How does their involvement change or shape a visitor’s experience of the museum?
Students should then take out a piece of paper and think about a room in their own homes that has a lot of meaning for them. Give them time to sketch out an illustration of this room in as much detail as possible. Ask them to engage as many of their senses as they can (sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste, if relevant). You might have them write out a description of the place as well, or simply present their sketch to the class. What do we learn about the inhabitants of this room from this illustration? Are there remnants from the distant past integrated into the present-day setting? How does the illustration you created compare to the room in resource 3 from Liana Finck’s graphic novel?
Source: Tenement Museum, “A Look Inside Lower East Side Tenement Museum.” Posted June 6, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB7Kim2qYBE&_ga=2.25049528.309867814.1525982417-1955471365.1525982417