Why I Love the Tenement MuseumOne of my all-time favorite museums is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City. If any of your ancestors spent some time in a tenement in a major American city, you can step into their shoes by taking a tour -- and it's pretty darn authentic. They've recreated actual residents' apartments, and if you go in summer (as I did), you'll likely find yourself soaked to the skin (no A/C for this place!). They did, however, draw the line at sanitation (a compromise much appreciated by many 21st century wimps, I'm sure). I like this place so much that one of my grants was designated for a field trip for a 4th grade class from Spanish Harlem.
But if you're not near New York -- or not tempted by the prospect of a sweat-drenched tour -- the good news is that you can visit virtually! If you go here, you can click on the hand that indicates "enter here" and/or listen to the audio tour (just look for the little headsets right under the photo of the tenement). You can also select one of the families across the top of the page to learn more about their story.
And BTW, I couldn't help but notice that they're in the process of re-creating another family's apartment -- the Moore family from Ireland. For those of you who have been following the Annie Moore contest, that's just a coincidence and has nothing to do with her family.
It also turns out that there's a freshly released book available, Biography of a Tenement House in New York City:
But one of the coolest features of this site has to be the folk songs toy. It lets you create your own city tune by mixing the sounds of a seafood salesman, a street busker, kids playing, a train and other noises you would typically hear in NYC. Don't ask me why, but I love playing with this, and I suspect you might, too.