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The Corning Museum of Glass is one of the World's greatest collections of contemporary art and design in glass

One of the first stops on our road trip to the North Eastern States of the USA was the Finger Lakes region of New York State. The area got its name from the group of eleven long, narrow, roughly north-south lakes that are found in the area. The Finger Lakes are known for producing excellent wine, particularly for world-renowned Rieslings.

There are some interesting towns and cities in the area. We decided to spend a day exploring the small city of Corning, population 12,000, famous for its glass manufacture. Hence its nickname ‘America’s Crystal City. The city is home to the Corning Museum of Glass, the world’s largest museum of glass art and artefacts.

Corning’s Gaffer District—named after a gaffer or master glassblower—is home to over 100 boutique shops, art galleries, studios, as well as craft beverage producers, restaurants serving fabulous food, and two world-class museums. One of these museums is the Rockwell Museum.

The Centerway Clock Tower

It had been raining solidly for nearly 24 hours but luckily as we arrived in Corning the weather started to improve rapidly so, we decided to spend some time exploring the quaint shops around Corning’s Gaffer District. It reminded me a bit of where we live in Bend, Oregon.

The Gaffer District in Corning, New York
The tree-lined streets of Corning's Gaffer District
Every town in New York has an Irish pub
Just love a nice clock

The Corning Museum of Glass

In 1851, Amory Houghton, Sr. founded what would become Corning Glass in Cambridge, MA as Bay State Glass Company. By 1864, he had sold his interest in the company and purchased the idle Brooklyn Flint Glass Company in Brooklyn, NY. A few years later, in 1868, labour problems forced Houghton to relocate to Corning, NY where the company set up shop as Corning Flint Glass Company. By 1870, the company was renamed Corning Glass Works of Corning, New York.

Since that time the company has gone from strength to strength and has an impressive track record in innovation.

1880s: Production of the first light bulbs for Thomas Edison.
1900s: Creation of weather-proof glass railroad lanterns, which would soon become the basis for clear “Pyrex.”
1930s: Fabrication of telescope mirrors for California Institute of Technology.
1940s: Manufacture of durable dinnerware for the U.S. military, which would soon evolve into opal “Pyrex.”
1960s: Creation of safer automobile windshields which fracture into small granules if broken.
1970s: Development of fibre optics used in networking and telecommunications.

Conceived as an educational institution and founded in 1951 by Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated), the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) has never been a showcase for the company or its products but rather exists as a non-profit institution that preserves and expands the world’s understanding of glass. Today it is the world’s largest space dedicated to the display of contemporary art and design in glass.

CMOG is located really close to the centre of Corning and it is only a few minutes walk from the downtown area.

Entrance to the Corning Museum of Glass

CONTEMPORARY GLASS GALLERIES

These galleries feature more than 70 works from the Museum’s permanent collection thematically curated into galleries that refer to nature, the body, and history and material, as well as international design from the past 25 years.

These galleries were probably our favourite in the whole museum. They were light, airy and filled with some incredible glass art installations. The stark white walls of these galleries really made the glass artwork pop.

Some of the pieces in these galleries are large and the creative use of glass as an art medium was incredible. 

The contemporary glass art galleries
"Carroña (Carrion)," by Javier Pérez
“Endeavor,” Lino Tagliapietra, 2004


HOT GLASS DEMOS

As well as being able to see the finished glass art you can also go and see it being made at one of the live glass blowing demonstrations that run throughout the day at CMOG. 

Hot Glass - live glass blowing demonstrations

INNOVATIONS GALLERIES

In the heart of the museum, there is a 300-foot bridge that connects 3 galleries that focus on innovation in glass, the themes being optics, vessels and windows.

The Innovations Galleries at the Corning Museum of Glass

HEINEMAN GALLERY OF CONTEMPORARY GLASS

This gallery is home to a collection of glass art, including vessels, objects and sculptures from the World’s greatest artists in the glass medium covering a period of 25-years. The works here range from large sculptures to the minutest and delicate objects. 

35 CENTURIES OF GLASS

The 35 Centuries of Glass Galleries show the most comprehensive and celebrated glass collection in the world. The galleries explore Near Eastern, Asian, European, and American glass and glassmaking from antiquity through the present day. Included in these galleries is a display of Tiffany glass – which is stunning.

35 Centuries of Glass galleries
19th Century European glass
Tiffany Glass display

MAKE YOUR OWN GLASS

If you fancy trying your hand at making glass then your can signup for a session of glass making, from glass blowing to fusing to sandblasting. No previous experience is required. Spaces go quickly so I suggest booking ahead online. 

A glass blowing experience costs $33 and lasts 15-minutes. Adding glass fusing and sandblasting brings the total experience time to 40-minutes and costs an additional $23 and $24 respectively.

CAFE & SHOP

No credible museum does not have a cafe and shop, and in this respect, CMOG does not let you down.

The cafe serves coffee, pastries and select breakfast options from 9 am. Lunch is available at 11 am.

The tables are all spread out, and they’re marked with a coloured sign. If the sign is green, you’re good to go. When you finish eating, turn the sign over so the red side is facing up. That means the table needs to be cleaned, and all you have to do is leave your stuff there for someone to come clean up after you. 

The museum shop is huge, it is about 18000 square feet, and as you might expect it is dedicated to glass. The shop features eight individual boutiques–each with its own personality and selection of products in addition to serving as the primary retail outlet for Steuben Glass. There is a wide range of things you can purchase from very fancy and expensive to more affordable things such as cookware, Christmas ornaments, paperweights and other knick nacks.

In summary …

  • If you are in Corning to visit the Museum of Glass then take the time to visit the Rockwell Museum … we were totally impressed
  • If you have the time and money think about signing up for a Making Your Own Glass experience. Be sure to book ahead.
  • Plan to be at the museum for about 3-hours.
  • Corning is a great little town and would be a good place to base yourself for a visit to the Finger Lakes

Planning your visit to the Corning Museum of Glass

Address:1 Museum Way, Corning, NY 14830
Website:https://home.cmog.org/
Telephone:T: (607) 937-5371
Hours:

Museum Hours:
9 am – 5 pm, daily, through Memorial Day

Admission Fees

Adults $20, College students, age 62+, AAA, and military $17; Aged 17 & under – Free

You can get combo tickets with the Rockwell Museum that will save you money if you plan to visit both

Free Parking is located directly behind the Museum.

You can also visit us via a free shuttle bus, which provides service between The Corning Museum of Glass, The Rockwell Museum and Market Street.

Best time to visit Finger Lakes

The best time to visit the Finger Lakes region is from May to September, when there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the area’s outdoor pursuits. Expect higher accommodation rates in the peak months of June to August and longer lines at attractions and wineries.

Other places to visit near Corning

1. ROCKWELL MUSEUM – CORNING

The core of this interesting and diverse collection was gifted by Bob and Hertha Rockwell, local business owners who amassed an incredible collection of American art and artefacts. 

The Rockwells had keen eyes for art and exquisite taste.  They owned a department store in the area and used their store as a venue to display their remarkable collection of American art and artefacts, Carder Steuben glass, classic firearms, and antique toys.

Their collection quickly outgrew their department store.  In 1974, the Rockwells and a group of executives from Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated) began working together to turn the collection into a museum for the benefit of the Corning, NY community. The Rockwells would donate their collection, and the company and the community would support the museum moving forward.

2. WATKINS GLEN STATE PARK

Known for its natural beauty, the Watkins Glen State Park features a series of waterfalls and gorges that are sure to amaze anyone. An almost two-mile hike will take you past 19 waterfalls and up over 800 stone steps.

There are a number of small trails leading off of the Gorge Trail, giving way to a number of other outdoor activities close by the main trail. There are tent and trailer campsites, swimming pools, picnic facilities as well as guided tours of the local topography.

Leashed dogs are allowed on the outer rim trails but not on the Gorge Trail.

The entrance to the park is right on Main Street in Watkins Glen. You are never far from the conveniences of a town while being able to get away to the wonders that are the gorges and waterfalls of Watkins Glen State Park.

3. TAUGHANNOCK FALLS STATE PARK

Pronounced Tuh-GA-nick. The falls’ name is believed to have derived from the Algonquian Taconic (“in the trees”) or Taghkanic (after a Lenape chieftain killed in battle nearby). Taughannock Falls carves a 400ft deep gorge through layers of sandstone, shale and limestone that were once the bed of an ancient sea. With a 215 foot plunge, this waterfall stands three stories taller than Niagara Falls.

Where to stay near Corning

1. THE BLACK SHEEP INN AND SPA

Located just outside Hammondsport and within walking distance of Keuka Lake, the Black Sheep Inn & Spa is a truly singular escape. The historic, octagonal-shaped structure is done in an Italian stucco style and offers five uniquely appointed guest rooms, along with plenty of cushy perks, including locally sourced farm-to-table breakfasts, special packages for beer and wine lovers, and an on-site spa offering Swedish, deep-tissue, and hot-stone massages. For the artistically inclined, innkeepers (& Brits) Debbie Meritsky and Marc Rotman create art with creatively repurposed materials at the property’s F.L.A.V.O.R Studio & Gallery.
 
Vegan breakfasts are available. Yea!

2. TAYLOR FARM BED & BREAKFAST

Wildlife lovers will adore the bucolic Taylor Farm B & B, located just west of Keuka Lake. Book a room in the homey bed & breakfast or rent the Carriage House featuring two sleeping lofts and master bedroom spread over 1,200 feet (including a massive balcony). The 315-acre farm also features scenic walking trails, providing guests with the opportunity to encounter area white-tailed deer, beavers, and pileated woodpeckers.

3. GAFFER INN

Lodging at the Gaffer Inn (formerly named The Inn at the Gaffer Grille), opened in 2010, offers charming, boutique accommodations featuring the city’s history of glass creation and design. The Inn is located on historical Market Street in downtown Corning, New York. Corning’s Gaffer District is a unique area with many shops, the widely known Corning Museum of Glass and The Rockwell Museum, along with many other activities. Located above Burgers and Beer of Corning, you are only a few steps away from a relaxing meal or social gathering.

The Inn rooms include many features and amenities to maximize relaxation and comfort during your stay. In each room you will find new wall to wall carpet throughout, pillow-top mattress, plush leather couch in front of a fireplace, desk, smart TV’s, wet bar and small dining area.

 

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