Under the Soot: cleaning smoke damaged glass

We clean our share of dirty glass in the Conservation Lab at The Corning Museum of Glass, but occasionally we get some unusual requests. Recently, one of our colleagues brought us objects from his personal glass collection that withstood a house fire. Soot on glass artwork and food stains on bakeware may not be the most natural connection to make; however, our conservator instincts recognized that in both cases organic materials had been heated to high temperatures, so we started by revisiting an old blog about cleaning Pyrex.

The smoke-damaged objects before cleaning

To tackle this new problem, we wondered if we could use lower concentrations of sodium hydroxide if we soaked the objects for a short period. The surface of each object and the smoke deposits varied, so we needed to work flexibly– what worked for one object did not necessarily work for all. For example, we used a higher concentration of sodium hydroxide to loosen soot on some objects with sensitive surfaces so that we could soak for a shorter time and avoid vigorous brushing.

We worked object by object, gradually increasing soaking time and/or concentration of sodium hydroxide until we could remove the soot by swabbing or brushing gently. The general idea behind our process is: soak, test, assess, then adjust and repeat as necessary.

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New Exhibition Announcement: Special Exhibition on Glass in 18th-Century Britain Opening May 2020

The Museum’s spring exhibition, In Sparkling Company: Glass and Social Life in Britain During the 1700s, will open May 9, 2020. With exhibition design by Selldorf ArchitectsIn Sparkling Company will present the glittering costume and jewelry, elaborate tableware, polished mirrors, and dazzling lighting devices that delighted the British elite, and helped define social rituals and cultural values of the period. Through a lens of glass, this exhibition will show visitors what it meant to be ‘modern’ in the 1700s, and what it cost. 

Detail of a Mirror in wood frame, Probably England, London (glass), and Scotland (frame), carving attributed to William Mathie (fl. 1739–about 1761), based on designs by Thomas Chippendale (1718–1779), about 1760. H. 174 cm, W. 105.5 cm, D. 12.5 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass (2018.2.8).

The exhibition will also include a specially created virtual reality reconstruction of the remarkable and innovative spangled-glass drawing room completed in 1775 for Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1714-1786), and designed by Robert Adam (1728-1792), one of the leading architects and designers in Britain at the time. An original section of the room (which was dismantled in the 1870s), on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A Museum) in London, will be on view in North America for the first time as part of the exhibition. It will be accompanied by Adam’s original colored design drawings for the interior, on loan from the Sir John Soane’s Museum, London.

Robert Adam (1728–1792), design for the end wall of the drawing room at Northumberland House, 1770–1773. Pen, pencil, and colored washes, including pink, verdigris, and Indian yellow on laid paper. H. 51.6 cm, W. 102.1 cm. Sir John Soane’s Museum, London (SM Adam, volume 39/7). Photo Credit: © Sir John Soane’s Museum, London. Photography by Ardon Bar Hama. 
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Glass is back! New Glass: A Worldwide Survey in France

This post comes from Anna Millers, a curatorial intern at The Corning Museum of Glass in the fall of 2018. Anna worked with Susie Silbert, curator of modern and contemporary glass, and Colleen McFarland Rademaker, associate librarian, special collections, on the planning of this year’s two major exhibitions, New Glass Now and Now Glass Now / Context. Anna is now preparing for her curatorial competitive exam in France.


Paris. April 1st, 1982. A new era of French glass art was about to begin. And The Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts), on the north side of the river Seine, is where it all began.

Jack Lang, the French Minister of Culture, took confidentially to the floor of the Museum’s great nave to inaugurate the momentous new exhibition, New Glass. French contemporary glassmakers: art and industry.

The French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang (left), giving the opening speech on April 1st, 1982.
© Courtesy MAD Paris, France. With special acknowledgments to the Glass Department and the Photographic Service.

This show was the Parisian iteration of New Glass: A Worldwide Survey, which had left Corning, New York, and the United States to travel to the United Kingdom, France, and finally Japan. The original display devised by The Corning Museum of Glass in 1979 had only acquired two pieces of French glass, art works by Baccarat and Daum glassworks. However, once in France, the exhibition was further developed to include many of the forefathers of modern French glass, such as René Lalique, Emile Gallé, François Décorchemont, and Maurice Marinot – industrial glass manufacturers and contemporary glassmakers working in France.

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Reflections on Apollo

The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. This historic mission landed men on the Moon for the very first time and then safely returned them to Earth to tell the tale. To honor this milestone, The Corning Museum of Glass has developed an exhibit called Journey to the Moon: How Glass Got Us There which showcases the role of glass in the lunar landing. The exhibit displays samples of the same glass materials used in the space suits (to protect the astronauts) and spacecraft (to insulate the command module), as well as a glassy lunar meteorite. But there are many other stories we didn’t have space to tell! Here are some of those lesser-known stories.

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon during Apollo 11

Many of the systems onboard the Lunar Module relied on computers and high-tech equipment, so you might not realize how critical it was for the astronauts to perform their own calculations during the lunar landing. The Lunar Module used an instrument called an altimeter to measure the altitude above the Moon’s surface. Earth-based altimeters in airplanes do this by measuring the atmospheric pressure. However, the Moon has no atmosphere, so the Lunar Module’s altimeter worked with radar. The radar altimeter solved the problem of a lack of atmosphere on the Moon, but it was unreliable for altitudes above 30,000 feet. To know how far above the Moon they were, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had to determine their altitude themselves.

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New Exhibition Announcement: Special Exhibition on Glass in 18th-Century Britain Opening May 2020

The Museum’s spring exhibition, In Sparkling Company: Glass and Social Life in Britain During the 1700s, will open May 9, 2020. With exhibition design by Selldorf ArchitectsIn Sparkling Company will present the glittering costume and jewelry, elaborate tableware, polished mirrors, and dazzling lighting devices that delighted the British elite, and helped define social rituals and cultural values of the period. Through a lens of glass, this exhibition will show visitors what it meant to be ‘modern’ in the 1700s, and what it cost. 

Detail of a Mirror in wood frame, Probably England, London (glass), and Scotland (frame), carving attributed to William Mathie (fl. 1739–about 1761), based on designs by Thomas Chippendale (1718–1779), about 1760. H. 174 cm, W. 105.5 cm, D. 12.5 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass (2018.2.8).

The exhibition will also include a specially created virtual reality reconstruction of the remarkable and innovative spangled-glass drawing room completed in 1775 for Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1714-1786), and designed by Robert Adam (1728-1792), one of the leading architects and designers in Britain at the time. An original section of the room (which was dismantled in the 1870s), on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A Museum) in London, will be on view in North America for the first time as part of the exhibition. It will be accompanied by Adam’s original colored design drawings for the interior, on loan from the Sir John Soane’s Museum, London.

Robert Adam (1728–1792), design for the end wall of the drawing room at Northumberland House, 1770–1773. Pen, pencil, and colored washes, including pink, verdigris, and Indian yellow on laid paper. H. 51.6 cm, W. 102.1 cm. Sir John Soane’s Museum, London (SM Adam, volume 39/7). Photo Credit: © Sir John Soane’s Museum, London. Photography by Ardon Bar Hama. 
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The Corning Museum of Glass Partners on Glass Competition Show Blown Away 

The Corning Museum of Glass is thrilled to share news of an exciting collaboration on the forthcoming Netflix series, Blown Away, which will bring the art and beauty of glassblowing to television screens around the world. A visually compelling process often described as “mesmerizing” and “captivating,” glassblowing has never been the subject of any major TV programming—until now.  

The art glass competition show created by Marblemedia, an award-winning entertainment company based in Toronto, Canada, Blown Away features a group of 10 highly skilled glassmakers from North America creating beautiful works of art that are assessed by a panel of expert judges. One artist is eliminated each episode until a winner is announced in the tenth and final episode. A co-production with Blue Ant Media of Toronto, Blown Away will air on the Makeful channel in Canada before coming to the Netflix platform worldwide later this year.

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The Studio announces 2019 Residencies

Today, The Studio announced the 2019 Artists-in-Residence recipients: twelve artists from around the world who will each spend one month at The Studio, researching and experimenting with new techniques to further their work. Additionally, two artists and two scholars have been selected for the David Whitehouse Research Residency for Artists and the David Whitehouse Research Residency for Scholars, respectively. These recipients will spend up to three weeks in the Rakow Library, utilizing the vast holdings to inform their practice or area of research. Each resident will provide a public Lunchtime Lecture during their time at the Museum, describing their inspirations and work at The Studio and the Rakow Library.

2019 Artists-In-Residence at The Studio

Shinobu Kurosawa & Jim Butler
February 24-March 24; Public lecture on March 14

Shinobu Kurosawa, Happy Christmas.
Shinobu Kurosawa, Happy Christmas.

Translated literally, the Japanese word tonbodama means dragonfly ball. Since 2000, flameworker Shinobu Kurosawa has been making tonbodama beads that depict traditional Japanese landscape and nature scenes in glass.

In her March 2019 residency, Kurosawa will use The Studio’s resources to continue her research on tonbodama and expand her flameworking skills as she explores new possibilities in Japanese beadmaking.

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The Corning Museum of Glass Surveys Global Contemporary Glass in Special Exhibition Opening in May 2019

Today The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) announced that 100 artists—representing 32 nationalities and working in 25 countries—have been selected to exhibit in New Glass Now, a global survey of contemporary glass and the first exhibition of its kind organized by the Museum in 40 years. The show, which will be on view from May 12, 2019, through January 5, 2020, will include works ranging from large-scale installations and delicate miniatures to video and experiments in glass chemistry, all of which demonstrate the vitality and versatility of this dynamic material.

Problematica (Foam Rock), Sarah Briland

Sarah Briland
United States, b. 1980
Problematica (Foam Rock)
United States, Richmond, Virginia, 2016
Foam, Aqua Resin, glass microspheres, steel, concrete stand
With stand: 96.5 x 52 x 45.7 cm
Photo: Terry Brown

In spring 2018, CMoG welcomed submissions of new works, made between 2015 and 2018 in which glass plays a fundamental role, for consideration by a panel comprising Susie J. Silbert, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Glass at CMoG, and three guest curators, including: Aric Chen, curator-at-large, M+ museum, Hong Kong; Susanne Jøker Johnsen, artist and head of exhibitions at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation, Denmark; and American artist Beth Lipman. More than 1,400 artists, designers and architects working in 52 countries—from Argentina, Australia, Indonesia and Japan to the United States, United Kingdom, and beyond—submitted works, which draw upon flameworking, glassblowing, casting, neon, carving, and kilnworking techniques, among others. Read more →