About the Exhibition

There are more than 8 million ordinary objects in this city that carry within them a sense of its inimitable expression. They express its thundering diversity or a thorough particularity; they connect us to other places, past and present, or moor us to the here and now; they enliven or aggravate daily life; they epitomize the city at large or hold true to one of its neighborhoods. They may be small, handheld, and mobile or large, unwieldy, and stationary. Well-designed or just well used, they live and survive, carried by the city’s inhabitants from place to place, from generation to generation, creating a ripple of small meanings.

This spring, we invited our colleagues, all faculty at The New School and inhabitants of New York—designers, artists, anthropologists, sociologists, historians, writers, musicians—to select an object through which they would narrate a biography of this place. The sixty-two objects in the gallery—variously historical, cultural, technological, organic, novel, typical, skilled, shoddy, mundane, luxurious, exclusive, popular, sensual and even immaterial— bring to life a city that is lovingly held, idiosyncratically experienced, and fundamentally shared.

In assembling these objects, the exhibition instantiates Parsons’ new undergraduate curriculum; specifically one of its core courses, Objects as History: From Prehistory to Industrialization, which uses objects found in New York City collections to introduce students to world history as expressions and embodiments of particular places and times. Acknowledging its antecedents in the justifiably famous British Museum exhibition and radio program, A History of the World in 100 Objects, this exhibition tells stories, situating objects as narratives of our present.

— Margot Bouman and Radhika Subramaniam, Curators

Exhibition Design: Manuel Miranda Practice