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June 29, 2013

The art of glass

Corning Museum of Glass showcases history, uses

Any day where you get to play with hot glass is a good day.

Don’t worry — I had an experienced spotter who did all of the dangerous and challenging parts. Even with outside aid, there are few activities as exciting as pulling on molten glass like it was so much taffy. 

The Corning Museum of Glass is so much more than a place to look at previously made glass objects, although you can wander through 35 centuries worth of glass craft in about three hours. This museum, however, is simply a static place where history is in glass (no pun intended) cases.

CMOG was founded in 1951 and was a gift from Corning Glass Works intended to show what glass can do. The short answer is that it can do more than you’d ever imagined.

Every year, 400,000 visitors learn that glass goes in our ovens, allows our communications, and yes, decorates our desks. Without glass, we’d never have been able to see things that were both very large and far away as well as very small and very close. Glass can be strong enough to stop a bullet or be as delicate to shatter like an eggshell. 

One of the highlights in the more traditional gallery space are the glass plants, invertebrate sea creatures, and prosthetic eyes from the Blaschka collection. During the mid-to-late 1800s, the Blashka brothers, who lived in what was then called Bohemia, made finely detailed glass models of specimens plucked from the natural world. While the living materials would quickly fade, the models were both highly accurate and easily studied. It’s hard to not stand in front of the case for hours and stare at the results.

There are live shows, too. No, not the theme park sort of live show, where costumed characters sing and dance. These shows are live demonstrations. You can learn about optical fibers and flameworked glass, which is frequently found in beads or figurines. The centerpiece is the hot glass show.

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