Bella Epstein Seligsohn can still smell the fish boiling. Alison Wong remembers playing in the air shaft with her siblings. José Velez was the superintendent, and to this day curses the roof for always leaking.
They were residents of the tenement at 103 Orchard Street, and their memories inform an exhibition set to open next summer in their old apartment building at the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Their families all came to New York in the decades after World War II, an often overlooked period of United States immigration and migration. The Wongs were the last to leave when the museum moved them out just two years ago — meaning the history here is very much still alive.
This is the most modern period the museum has covered, said Annie Polland, the museum’s senior vice president for programs and education. “People think of the Lower East Side in 1900 and they think about it today with bars and art galleries,” she said. “We’re showing these decades that no one’s talked about and yet were so important for so many people.”
How the museum’s educators will structure the three parts of the exhibition, which will take up one floor, is very much a work in progress. The museum recently posted a multimedia project on its website as a preview to the exhibition.
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Read more from the project’s website.