When I first visited Reher’s Bakery in Fall 2016, faded old newspapers hung tattered from a rack in the window; a variety of oil cans, paper bags, and disintegrating rubber boots dotted the shelves; and a soiled once-red shag carpet made the air so dusty that it was difficult to breathe.
And yet…I immediately saw the potential of this space to become a site for accessible, immersive experiences like the ones I’d helped to create at the Tenement Museum in New York City, where I worked from 2008-2013.
The group of intrepid volunteers who founded the Reher Center, led by Geoff Miller, were committed to preserving the space as it had looked when they inherited it from Hymie Reher in 2004. But to me, the success of this project lay in what museum professionals call interpretation. The puzzler was: “How do we transform a site full of cool old stuff into a site-specific museum that will help today’s visitors make their own meanings?” I shared my initial ideas at a public lecture organized by Humanities New York in November, 2017.
On June 7th, 2020, we will officially launch Reher Center Historic Bakery Tours for public and K-12 audiences in a site-specific, immersive, space. Trained educators will lead visitors on a tour of the Retail Shop ca 1959 to experience Sunday mornings mid-century, when Kingstonians from the German, Irish, Italian, and Polish communities converged at Reher’s Bakery to pick up rolls for breakfast on their way home from church. In the Oven Room, you will see the historic 1916 oven and 1947 dough mixer, and learn how Frank Reher and his six children each played a role in running this business and supporting the family.
But we can only do this with your help.
Over the next four weeks, as we raise funds to complete this project, I will share with you some of the steps we’ve taken over the past three years. You will meet the wide network of experts and community members who are helping to design an experience that will engage all of our visitors’ senses and to re-establish Reher’s Bakery as a crossroads of community.