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See a glass bottle found in a 2,000-year-old Roman tomb. Make your own glass beads. Watch a glassblower create a vase from a molten blob of glass.

Glassblowing demonstration
Glassblowing demonstration
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Where can you have all these experiences? Corning Museum of Glass, in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, is the place to learn about the fascinating past, present and future of glass.

The largest glass museum in the world, Corning Museum of Glass is home to 3,500 years of glass art and functional glass objects. It also features demonstrations of glass making, a glass gift shop, the Rakow Research Library and a glassmaking school, The Studio.

Driving directions

Corning is only a three-hour drive from the Niagara border, making it an ideal destination for a weekend trip. Follow I-90 then I-390 to I-86. Take exit 46 to Corning NY.

Corning Museum of Glass has free parking. You can ride free shuttle buses from the glass museum Visitor Center to the Rockwell Museum of Western Art and the Historic Gaffer District in Corning.

Try to arrive when the museum opens at 9 am, to beat the crowds that increase in size as the day progresses. Admission is free for kids and teens, ages 19 and under.

You can take self-guided tours or rent hand-held audio guides for adults or families. Plan to spend at least four hours here, with time for lunch in the GlassMarket Café.

© Barb & Ron Kroll
Antique glass
Antique glass
© Barb & Ron Kroll

Glass collection

With more than 45,000 glass items in its collections, the Corning Museum of Glass encompasses 35 centuries of man's experience with glass — from tools and weapons chipped from volcanic obsidian by prehistoric man to lavish glass sculptures by contemporary artists.

Most Corning glass museum galleries are arranged by geographic area, such as Roman glassblowing, Islamic glass staining and medieval and Renaissance European glass. The Late European Glass Gallery, for example, contains items made from English lead glass and Bohemian chalk glass.

The Asian Glass Gallery features ceremonial Chinese glass and Indonesian beaded glass containers. Early cut glass items are in the American Glass Gallery. Crystal City Gallery displays cut glass objects. Other highlights are the largest collection of glass paperweights in the world and the glass furniture, glass lights, stained glass and decorative glass in the Modern Glass Gallery.

Other galleries focus on glass vessels, sculptures etc. from the Studio Glass movement, contemporary glass art and glass made by Frederick Carder, who was the manager of Steuben Glass Works, from 1903 to 1932.

Antique glassware

The Origins of Glassmaking Gallery illustrates several glass making techniques. An outstanding example is the tiny glass head of Amenhotep II, who ruled Egypt nearly 75 years before Tutankhamun. It's the earliest piece of identifiable glass sculpture known.

Visitors learn what glass looked like when the Vikings discovered Greenland and when St. Patrick arrived in Ireland. Glass antiques include a glass amulet for enhancing fertility and a delicate glass blue bird designed to hold perfumed oil. The beak snaps off so the oil can be poured out.

Glass collectibles

Glass display cases house fascinating objects. A Geiger counter ticks away at pieces of radioactive glass, colored brilliant yellow-green with uranium. Early American whiskey bottles bear images of political figures, as attempts to increase patriotism. Miniature glass toys fit into a doll house.

Early glass dishes
Early glass dishes
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Glass paperweights enclose salamanders, also made from glass. Medicine bottles, on display, once contained health potions (made from alcohol) for use during Prohibition. You'll also see one of the original Mason jars, designed by John Mason, for preserving food.

Drinking vessels, cosmetic containers, whale oil lamps, medieval stained glass windows, dragon-stemmed Venetian goblets, crystal chandeliers and glass cut to resemble precious stones are all silent witnesses to times gone by.

Window glass

Corning Museum of Glass hosts exhibitions on historical and artistic glass, as well as glass artists and techniques. The Innovation Center hosts daily glass demonstrations. You'll learn how glass shatters, how glass bends light, how to make glass fiber and use it for fiber optics, and how to use flameworking to make sculptures from glass rods.

The Center focuses on optics, vessels and windows. In interactive exhibits, you can bend a flexible sheet of glass, peer through a submarine periscope, stand on a glass floor and admire your reflection in the mirror of a flight simulator. You'll learn about glass that's lighter than cork and almost as heavy as iron, fragile as an eggshell and strong as steel, soft as cotton and hard as precious stones.

Glass carving
Glass carving
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Blown glass

The Hot Glass Show demonstrates the glassmaking process, from removing lava-like blobs of molten glass from a furnace heated to 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit, to blowing and shaping them into bowls and other vessels.

For a fee, you can make glass Christmas decorations, glass flowers and blown glass sculptures. You can also fuse glass sheets into a picture frame, create glass beads by flameworking with glass rods or decorate a glass dish to create frosted designs with sandblasting.

Corning Museum of Glass conducts one-week summer courses, as well as year-round classes at The Studio. Here you can learn glassblowing, glass carving, engraving and other techniques from expert glassmakers.

Glass gifts

The GlassMarket sells a mindboggling selection of glass gifts and souvenirs in all price ranges. You can buy glass jewelry, art, vases, dinnerware, goblets, Christmas ornaments and sunglasses, as well as books, DVDs and videos about glass collecting, glassmaking and glass history.

GlassFest, an annual festival held on the May Memorial Day weekend, features artist demonstrations and special tours.

Museum expansion

The $64 million expansion of The Corning Museum of Glass opened in 2014. The new North Wing tripled the size of the Contemporary Glass Gallery and allowed the museum to display items from its collections that lack of space prevented them from exhibiting.

The Hot Glass Show is located in a 500-seat auditorium. This show is so popular that mobile versions of the glass-making demonstrations take place in national and international museums and exhibitions, as well as on three Celebrity cruise ships (Soltice, Equinox and Eclipse).


Corning Museum of Glass: www.cmog.org

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