The Gugg, etc. What do real New Yorkers make of all that "cultural heritage"?! By Morganne Shelford

Frank Lloyd Wright LIFE photos from the 50s
List of NYC museums

How do New Yorkers “live” their cultural heritage? Well, there are those that take cultural heritage very seriously and others that just do not care that much about it… I’ll illustrate my idea with the Guggenheim Museum and the Statue of Liberty.

The Guggenheim Museum is famous for its collection of works by Picasso, Monet, Renoir, and the rest. Franck Lloyd Wright conceived it as a “temple of spirits”, and it has become a major cultural icon, even in popular culture (it was even used in MIB!). It is a favorite haunt for artists of course, but tourists flock there too. It’s interesting to note that 82% of the visitors are from the USA, including 20% from NYC itself. Is that a lot? Well, it’s 20%. Those people use that facility and appreciate its status as a major landmark. It’s probably the same 20% that signs petitions against the demolition of old tenements, or enjoy audio guide tours of Harlem, etc. i.e. basically your intellectual “elite” who enjoy the fact that they are aware of having an extraordinary cultural heritage!

The Statue of Liberty has long been the symbol of freedom, but it is also that of the city itself. Foreigners think of the statue first when NYC is mentioned. It's a popular icon too of course. A former New Yorker, a teacher now living in France, said in an interview that she thought most New Yorkers just did not look at the Statue of Liberty, and that they just lived their lives without being preoccupied by it or indeed any other of the other great buildings and places that make up this world city. Note that most New Yorkers can however quote the writing on the plinth: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, etc.”

Cultural heritage is important to New Yorkers simply because it is theirs, it is what they have built and achieved over the years. It is what they use and live in. They “love NY” because it is their home. The fact that they know it is the envy of the world makes them feel pride; but naturally they don’t need to go and visit the museums and monuments (how many have actually been in or near the Statue of Liberty?!) or even really think or talk about “cultural heritage”, to feel that pride. “Cultural heritage” is a topic of conversation and study, sometimes a good cause, for some, while for others it is, well, where they are and what they are on a daily basis; they do not “think” it, they simply “live” it!

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