Monday, 14 December 2015

The library-museum connection: Bringing local students through our doors

The Corning Museum Of Glass is a special place where librarians, curators, artists, and educators all work together to share the history and craft of glass making. Rebecca Hopman’s series on her work at the CMOG’s Rakow Research Library is an excellent template for creating and sustaining the library-as-incubator. Enjoy! ~Erinn

The library-museum connection: Bringing local students through our doors

by Rebecca Hopman

Each year, we welcome thousands of students to The Corning Museum of Glass. Out of all the classes that visit, I probably enjoy our local third graders the best. Every fall, several hundred third graders from the Corning-Painted Post school district come to the Museum as part of their curriculum. They explore the glass galleries, the Studio, and the Rakow Research Library, and connect what they learn in each area to their knowledge of local glass history and the science of glassmaking.


Reference librarian Gail Bardhan shows students some of the things they can find in our library.

As they bound up the glass stairs of the Rakow Library, the third graders are already excited to be here. We welcome them and ask, “What can you find in a library?” “Books!” is invariably the first answer (and sometimes the second, third, and fourth answer too). We talk about how our library differs from their school and public libraries, and what sorts of things they can find in our stacks. They get a chance to see a few of our rare books, design drawings, and archival materials, in addition to books, DVDs, and magazines. Because they are learning about local glass giant Frederick Carder in school, we bring out a number of his design drawings, sketchbooks, and photographs of him and his family. We talk about his life and how he became an artist (at which point I often find that the students know more about Carder than I do!). The students pick out the flora and fauna motifs that appear in so much of Carder’s work, and we discuss his design process and how the resulting glass was made by gaffers (or glassmakers).


Students explore the Frederick Carder Gallery.

When our time is up, the students move on to the Frederick Carder Gallery. The gallery is filled with glass designed by Carder throughout his career – from his early work at the English firm of Stevens & Williams to objects made at Steuben and later pieces he created during his retirement. The students look for the flora and fauna motifs they saw in the Library, and learn more about the art and science that went into making the often-brilliantly colored glass on display.


Gaffers talk to students about the science behind glassmaking.

The students find out just what goes into making a piece of glass at their next stop in the Studio. Before their trip, each student created a design drawing of something they would like made into glass. The gaffers pick one design per group and talk with the students about measurements, temperature, and the different tools they will use to make that piece of glass. The group also discusses the relationship between a designer (like Frederick Carder or the students) and a gaffer, and the gaffers consult with the chosen designer to make sure they get their piece of glass just right.

Throughout their visit, these students make connections between their conversations in the Rakow Library, the Frederick Carder Gallery, the Studio, and what they’ve learned at school. They leave with a greater understanding of the art and science behind glassmaking and often a newfound appreciation for Frederick Carder and his artistic talent. We’re left wishing there were more classes to meet!


profilepic_hopmanRebecca Hopman is the Outreach Librarian at The Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass. She has worked in a number of libraries and archives since 2005 and received her MLS from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2012. When she’s not at the library, you might find her embroidering, writing snail mail, or cheering on the Chicago Cubs. Follow her on

from Library as Incubator Project

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