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What Happens When A Small-Town Family Visits The "World's Largest"... Whatever!

World’s Largest Collection of Glass, Corning, NY

Corning Museum of GlassThis is purely coincidental, but look how nice! Another glass-themed post!

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

On our way up to Rochester for our weather-weary trip to see the Lilac Festival last month, we stopped in the adorable town of Corning, home to the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG), and the world’s largest collection of glass.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

This pick was all mine…made with little consideration for the kids!  I’ve wanted to go there since first learning about it at a travel show over 10 years ago.

Luckily, it was still a surprisingly kid-friendly choice. First and foremost, admission is free for all kids under 19!  The gallery pieces were behind glass, and many of the exhibits, particularly in the Innovations center, were hands-on. The only exception was the gift shop. There were some very exposed tables of beautiful and breakable vases, so we clutched The Girl’s hand and began our rhythmic chant, “Don’t touch anythiiiiiing…don’t touch anythiiiiiiing….”

Okay, what was so cool about it?

When you go, you should first check the show schedule on your map. There are live, narrated glassblowing demonstrations at the hot glass show all day, as well as flameworking, glassbreaking and optical fiber demonstrations. The popular hot glass show is offered most frequently. We missed the glassbreaking show, but the fiber optic show intrigued The Boy, who has an interest in science. Not so much The Girl. Luckily, the theater was in the middle of the Glass Innovation Center, so Matt was able to take her around to some exhibits while we watched.


"I can see my house from here!"

The Innovation Center was our favorite section of the museum, and the most hands-on. The science and technology exhibits are located in three “floating” pavilions connected by a 300-ft bridge. The kids looked at their reflections in a flight simulator mirror, then looked at a view of downtown Corning through a periscope reaching up through the ceiling. They both tried their hand at bending glass, peered through magnifying glasses, and steered clear of the glass floor which gave a view of two stories below.

Magnifying glass

"Does this glass make my nose look big?"

Make a point to participate in a “Make your own Glass” workshop (for an additional fee). Both kids and I got a chance to work with glass, and this was by far the highlight of our visit. Kids as young as four can make a small fused glass project, like a sun catcher or nightlight, by assembling colorful glass scraps in patterns.

The Boy got to blow a glass sculpture which was turned by an experienced glassworker. He also picked the colors for his creation. These glass specks were melted into the molten glass, and turned to become bright swirls.

I decided to make a flower, not realizing how involved the experience would be. I was outfitted from head to toe in protective heat-resistant gear, from goggles to foot coverings (I had sandals on). While the glassworker does get the glass out of the furnace and brings it over, I was turning it and pulling at it with the tweezer-like tool to make the petals.

The glass comes out of the 2100-degree furnace glowing red, and the consistency of honey, so you have to keep rolling so it doesn’t droop. It becomes clear as it cools, but loses its malleability quickly, so you have to work fast.

I pinched and pulled at half-inch intervals around the mouth of the flower, which was then re-heated. The next step was to pull harder and extend it to make the stem. It was thrilling to see the final shape, even though the pink and lime colors I had chosen didn’t show true until it cooled.

Regardless of the project you choose, the pieces are fired and cooled overnight, so you either have to return to pick them up, or pay to have them shipped home.

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