Never-Before-Seen Photos Shown as NYSCI Celebrates Its History

By Katie Honan on May 2, 2014 8:52am 

 Installation of "Rendezvous in Space," 1964.
Installation of "Rendezvous in Space," 1964.
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NYSCI

CORONA — Never-before-seen photos of some of the most beloved exhibits at the borough's science museum are the highlight of an online campaign to preserve its place in history.

Employees at the New York Hall of Science, or NYSCI, started going through drawers and files last fall to find old photos ahead of the 50th anniversary of the World's Fair, where the museum debuted in September 1964.

What they found, according to Dan Wempa, director of external affairs for the museum, was a mix of clippings and rarely seen photos that are now being published on their blog.

"We've always sort of known that there was an archive in the building but it was never really fully mined to see exactly what was in there," he said.

"We started opening up drawers and pulling stuff out to see what was in there."

Wempa said some of the most interesting photos were of the installation of the Rendezvous in Space exhibit in the Great Hall — which was still being constructed.

He hadn't seen the photos anywhere else, and thinks they may have only been used internally.

The archives also includes photos of the iconic Space Park during construction and clips from science magazines that marveled at the ambitious museum — which faced an uncertain future throughout its history.

The museum closed three times between 1969 and 1981, staying shuttered for as long as three years in the early 1980s, Wempa said.

When it reopened in 1984 the new era of the museum began, Wempa said, with the addition of a new director who had previous experience at a science museum in Paris.

During the 1980s and early 1990s the museum blossomed, and added many exhibits and features many New York City kids can remember.

The museum hopes to eventually record oral histories of employees who worked at the museum and also encourage local residents to send along any photos or memories they have of the space.

The archival push has been "sort of magical," Wempa said, and he hopes to add more from those who've enjoyed the space throughout its history.

 Installation of "Rendezvous in Space," 1964.
Installation of "Rendezvous in Space," 1964.
View Full Caption
NYSCI

"It's been a great detective adventure to put it all together," he said.

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