Corning, New York, near the border with Pennsylvania, is just about half way across the state. It is almost equally reachable from Albany, Cleveland, Philadelphia and New York City. It is a day trip from Rochester, Syracuse or Ithaca.
It is a nice town. They’ve worked to make it attractive, and it has the usual assortment of shops and restaurants. But what makes it worth going out of your way is the world’s largest glass museum, the Corning Museum of Glass.
The original museum was opened in 1951 by the Corning Glass Works in celebration of its 100th anniversary. We remember visiting the old building, seeing an exhibit on the history of glass, and watching skilled craftsman engrave beautiful Steuben Ware crystal. The Corning Steuben factory was closed in 2011. Now, only limited quantities of a lead-free crystal are made under that name and sold at the museum.
The museum was greatly expanded in the 1990’s. There is still a section that takes you through thirty-five centuries of glass making. You can see some of the earliest glass made. You can see work by an ancient Roman glass blower.
But now there is also a large exhibit of contemporary glass. You also can see the industrial development of both glass making and glass uses. You can see live demonstrations of glass blowing, flame work, optical fibers and glass breaking. The latter explains how glass breaks, why your windshield doesn’t break like a window pane and how bullet-resistant glass is made.
Finally, if inclined, you can make your own glass souvenir. During our October visit, people were making small glass pumpkins.
Alie loves art glass. Her sister, Michele, loves small figures created by flame work. Both were in heaven.
And for me, it was a bit nostalgic. In the early 1950s when I was a small boy, a union in Corning gave my father a Steuben bowl as a thank you gift. He died a few years later, but Alie and I still own the bowl.
Click on photos to enlarge.