The SoHo Memory Project Portable Historical Society can navigate the bustling urban environment of today’s SoHo while showing a glimpse of its past. Using unconventional media such as Viewmaster viewers and a smell station, it chronicles the evolution of SoHo from farmland to high-end retail hub, charting its cycles of development and thus placing current day SoHo in the context of New York City’s history.
Working in partnership with The Uni Project (www.theuniproject.org), a nonprofit dedicated to creating pop-up learning experiences across the city, this exhibition will be just the first step in finding a permanent home for The SoHo Memory Project.
The SoHo Memory Project is an exhibition, archive, and blog preserving and sharing the history of SoHo as a New York City neighborhood. Its focus is on SoHo as a community, a neighborhood comprised of a wide variety of people, families, businesses, community groups, and, only incidentally, all manner of creative activity.
This exhibition is designed to be accessible to all audiences by including objects, ephemera, photographs, sound, and video, as well as unconventional media, including 3-D printed miniatures, comic books, LP record jackets, family photo albums, a smelling station, and even Viewmaster viewers.
When and where?
Exhibition locations and times will be announced by The SoHo Memory Project and the host sites via various media, and visitors will also happen upon it by chance. The immediacy of the exhibition will allow for a visceral experience that will ideally linger with viewers as they go on with their excursions through SoHo and inform the way they interact with the neighborhood.
At the forefront of a new wave in exhibition design, the cart for this roving exhibition will be adapted from designs for portable reading rooms created for the Uni Project by Höweler + Yoon Architecture, built by Bill Bancroft Furniture , and operated by the Uni Project across New York City today. Lightweight and versatile, and able to go indoors as well as outdoors, the cart can show up in galleries, showrooms, and other publicly accessible spaces where people already gather in the neighborhood.
Although there are archives throughout the world that collect the personal papers of significant artists and individuals who were SoHo pioneers, SoHo itself has no historical society dedicated to preserving its history as a neighborhood, nor is there any library or museum that tells its story. Knowing the story of our neighborhood and its significance in the larger history of New York City will enrich the experiences of SoHo residents and visitors alike and will influence how they interact with the people, streets, and idea of SoHo.
Mobile Exhibition Outline
In the decades between 1960-1980, SoHo evolved from a manufacturing district to a vibrant artists community whose mythical image looms large in the public imagination.
Innovations in the way people would LIVE, WORK, PLAY, and EAT in SoHo during this period had lasting influences on the social and cultural landscape of New York City.
The cast iron buildings of SoHo were built to house factories, not people. Artists sacrificed the basic comforts of a “home” in order to live and work in these vast, commercially-zoned spaces
The adaptive reuse of buildings and loft living, so common in New York City today, originated here.
Many residents of SoHo from as early as the 1950’s were artists who lived and worked in a single space.
The notion of melding one’s personal and professional life into a single continuum, unusual at the time, is now a mainstream lifestyle choice.
SoHo children were born into the harsh environment of loft living. They did not choose it, they did not know anything else. Good or bad, it was a singular upbringing.
Children made toys from items discarded by local factories. Cardboard tubes, buttons, and fabric scraps fueled a generation of creative imaginations.
Although food was at times scarce, the SoHo community celebrated the act of eating as an art form as well as a daily necessity.
FOOD, one of SoHo’s first restaurants, and Dean & Deluca, one of its first grocery stores, introduced New York City to new modes of eating and helped New Yorkers change the way they thought about food.