The Changing Face of Aging Across America

By Arlene Shaner, Acting Curator and Reference Librarian for Historical Collections

A photography exhibit by NYAM Fellow Jeffrey M. Levine, M.D., is on display through September 21, 2012 at the National Arts Club (15 Gramercy Park South). The exhibit, The Changing Face of Aging Across America, is the first stop in a year-long tour of these images, which will be shown in six teaching hospitals around the country.

3 women carrying a banner saying "Granny Peace Brigade"

Granny Peace Brigade in Times Square. Photo: Jeffrey M. Levine, M.D.

Dr. Levine is a gerontologist and wound care specialist with a longstanding interest in photography. He has studied at the Art Students League, the International Center for Photography and the School of Visual Arts. For the past two decades he has been documenting the experience of aging in America through photographs that celebrate the activities and communities of aging individuals, but also remind us of the many challenges faced by this population, our largest growing demographic.

Group of runners running in the Over 70 Race

Runners in the Over 70 Race on Fifth Avenue. Photo: Jeffrey M. Levine, M.D.

An earlier exhibit of Dr. Levine’s photographs, Aging Through a Physician’s Lens, was displayed in the Presidents Gallery at NYAM in 2009.

On Teeth, Tools, and Boxes

By Anne Hillam, Conservator

Following a recent upgrade of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the special collections storage facilities at NYAM, the Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory received a group of artifacts associated with George Washington for stabilization:  (1) a plaster-cast facsimile of George Washington’s lower denture (the original, which is made of hippopotamus ivory, is currently on loan to Mount Vernon through June of 2013), and (2) a collection of dental tools (constructed out of hand-forged metal and bone and/or ivory) made and used by Washington’s dentist, Dr. John Greenwood (1760 – 1819).

plaster-cast facsimile of George Washington’s lower denture

Facsimile of Washington’s lower denture

9 ivory-handled dental instruments in custom fit tray

Greenwood’s ivory tools

Proper housing is an important element in the overall preservation of any artifact.  By protecting objects from improper handling and adverse environmental conditions (including light, water, dust, and pollutants), boxes and other types of protective enclosures — especially when made using pH neutral and chemically inert materials – can add decades to the life of an artifact.

In this case, the conservator’s custom-made boxes allow for easy access and display of the objects during tours and exhibitions.  Interior trays easily lift out of the structural exterior boxes, preventing the need to touch the objects themselves.

Facsimile denture in custom-made clamshell box

Custom-made box housing facsimile denture

If you take a close look at the denture, you will see engravings. They were made by Dr. Greenwood and read:  “This was Great Washingtons Teeth” and “First one made by J. Greenwood,” accompanied by the date 1789.  Several of the tools also carry an engraved message (albeit a slightly more ominous one):  ”[D]on’t touch these instruments.”  Thanks to their new box, it is now easy to honor Dr. Greenwood’s wish!

Close up of Washington's lower denture showing engraving saying "This was Great Washingtons teeth"

Original denture with engraving

The tools and the denture facsimile are all beautifully made and are now securely housed and preserved among NYAM’s special collections.  You can arrange for a tour to see the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room and some of NYAM’s many treasures by contacting

– The Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory