How do you create a museum from an old building filled with cool stuff? You start by learning what objects you have and why this place mattered to the people who spent time there.
In the summer of 2017, I worked alongside a talented archivist, Samantha Gomez-Ferrer, to catalogue and accession the objects the Reher family left behind, and to dig deep into the community’s memories to learn how Reher’s Bakery was special.
As Samantha meticulously numbered artifacts and input descriptions into a database, I pored over the yellowed photographs and scraps of paper that form the bulk of our collection, trying to decipher names and phone numbers. Reher Center volunteers called on their social networks, and social media helped us reach out even further to hear the stories of people who remembered the bakery, its breads, and the family who ran it for eighty years.
A visit from the Reher family’s 92 year-old nephew, Buddy Cohen, was a highlight of the summer. Buddy and his wife Deena drove from Florida to Kingston to share their memories of spending summers at the bakery, dating back to the 1930s. Those memories are the basis for our interpretation of how the oven room functioned—and how little it changed–during the bakery’s 80 years.
The next fall, a grant from Humanities New York brought in several culinary experts to explain further how the historic oven room would have worked. Food historian Sarah Wassburg Johnson (who is also our colleague from down the street at the Hudson River Maritime Museum), culinary historian and museum food specialist Sarah Lohman, and Jewish food expert (and entrepreneur) Jeffrey Yoskowitz, and pizza and oven expert Scott Wiener developed a list of proposed props and programs to help us recreate the oven room. The genesis for our April 5th Rolling out the Rolls Brunch was this meeting of the minds, and Jeffrey will return to moderate our taste-test panel! BUY TICKETS HERE.
Former customers’ descriptions of Sunday mornings at the bakery in the mid-twentieth century stood out from among many remarkable stories. To share what I learned, I worked with the wonderful Mike Rice (who was himself a former Reher’s Bakery customer) to tell this story digitally.
By the end of 2017, Samantha and I had created projects to make our work available digitally. You can discover a portion of our collection at New York Heritage Digital Collections, and explore the stories that are shaping our Furnishings Project at Sundays at Reher’s Bakery website.