Reflections on the Tenement Museum

After a near 48-hour sleepless stretch in the architecture studios, my visit to the tenement museum was especially convincing. The descriptions the actress playing Victoria Confino gave of how we would have felt after the voyage across the Atlantic all sounded pretty accurate: a little sick, unsteady, and “falling over of sleep.” My headache was a convincing reason for me to stay quiet while we were in the Confino’s apartment, which I imagine could have been an accurate reaction for a child brought to a strange land and then immediately brought to a stranger’s house to be “introduced” to America.

When I was told we would be visiting the tenement museum, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I certainly didn’t expect it to be as exhausting as it was. After sitting through a slow introduction to the Lower East Side in the early 1900s, we were crowded into a small apartment to talk to an actress playing the part of Victoria Confino. Her presentation seemed very childish in delivery, which I attributed to the fact that she was playing a young teen, but further research into the matter showed that the tour that we were given was the museum’s program aimed at families with young children, especially those between the ages of five and eight years old. The tenement museum was appealing because of the way it was maintained – it was cold and cramped, just as it would have been a century ago, and many of the artifacts within it, such as the coal stove and other household objects, were a fascinating source of information. However, I felt that I would have been more engaged if the tour had been slightly more age appropriate.

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