With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

A Museum Devoted to Survivors Now Faces its Own Fight to Live


The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered cultural institutions all over the world, withering their staffs and canceling long-planned initiatives.

But the prospects are particularly dire for small institutions like the Tenement Museum, whose very survival is suddenly uncertain. They do not have large endowments or deep-pocketed donors, and have long depended on admission fees to keep the lights on.

“This crisis is hitting cultural organizations harder than any in recent memory,” said Eli Dvorkin, the editorial and policy director of the Center for an Urban Future, a public policy think tank, which this month published the report “Art in the Time of Coronavirus: NYC’s Small Arts Organizations Fighting for Survival.”

“Without more support for rent, payroll, utilities, insurance and other costs,” Mr. Dvorkin added, “it’s likely that many will be unable to reopen even once the worst is over.”

The report cited the Tenement Museum as among the hardest hit. Experts said its loss would be significant because, while many museums chronicle the history of the rich — their mansions, art collections and aesthetic tastes — few depict the history of the poor, and the cultural life of everyday Americans.

“The Tenement Museum has so magnificently reconstructed that,” said Tyler Anbinder, a history professor at George Washington University who specializes in immigration, “right down to the soap boxes and the scouring pads that immigrants used. If an institution like that were to go under, it would be a real tragedy.”

Other museums around the country are losing at least $33 million a day because of coronavirus closures, according to the American Alliance of Museums.


Read entire article at The New York Times