Galle, Philips after Maarten van Heemskerck | The Triumphs of Petrarch (The Triumph of Fame), 1565 | Engraving on paper |Unknown provenance, PO625

A New Queens College Exhibition Explores Global Material Culture Through Godwin-Ternbach Museum’s Expansive Collection

Wunderkammer I: Material Pleasures

September 28, 2022 – August 10, 2023

“Wunderkammer I: Material Pleasures” exhibition reveals the breadth and vitality of objects across a period of five thousand years from diverse cultures in far-reaching geographical locales

A new exhibition in the Lobby Gallery, Godwin-Ternbach Museum (GTM) at Queens College, “Wunderkammer I: Material Pleasures”, on view features over sixty-five outstanding works from antiquity to modern times drawn from the museum’s encyclopedic collection of 7,000 objects.

Ivory objects from Godwin-Ternbach Museum collection | Gifts from various donors including Jack and Belle Linsky and Max and Georgina Falk

GTM was founded in 1981 though the art collections at Queens College reach back to the year of its founding in 1937. In the sculpture collection, cultures of Asia, Africa, Egypt, Greece and Rome, South Pacific and India, as well as European (Medieval and Renaissance), Pre-Columbian, and the Americas, are represented. 

Earliest works in the exhibition include a Canopic jar container for viscera, Egyptian, 2060 – 1786 BC, Plaque with male nude, Egyptian, 300-399, and a Marriage coffret with scenes from the story of Susanna and the Elders, Italian (Venice), mid-14th century. Some recent works include an Inuit Eskimo cribbage board decorated with animal motifs, ca. 1900, an elephant tusk depicting European and Bakongo people from Zaire, ca. 19th – 20th centuries, and modern works by John Flannagan and Chaim Gross.

Periodically, GTM chooses to shine a light on the legacy of its founders. This exhibition honors the primary mission and values of Dr. Frances Gray Godwin and Joseph Ternbach. That is, to develop a teaching collection for students to be able to handle and study works of art and cultural artifacts without the usual constraints of a museum environment, and to create a general resource for the wider communities of Queens and New York City. Their fortuitous introduction to each other by Ternbach’s daughter in 1957 created what is today a world class institution.

(left) Dr. Frances Gray Godwin, 1908-1979 Falk | Photo courtesy Edward O’Donnell (right) Joseph Ternbach, 1897-1982 | photo courtesy Godwin-Ternbach Museum

Beloved professor of Medieval Art, Dr. Godwin was eulogized by art historian and NYU professor Robert Rosenblum upon her passing in 1979, “At Queens College, where she taught from 1945 to 1970, she had become a living fable, a teacher who, fusing enchantment and scholarship, had inspired both love and respect for the history of art.”

Rosenblum, Robert. “Frances Gray Godwin, 1908-79.” Art Journal 38, no. 4 (1979): 282–282.

With renowned art restorer Joseph Ternbach’s vast knowledge of materials and techniques, his intellectual curiosity and passion for history brought this awareness to classes of students from the mid-1950s on. On speaking of a small Hellenistic bronze of a draped female figure, Ternbach said, “ I can only tell you, I have never had such great pleasure. When I cleaned this figure, I saw those living folds, the beautiful form of her body, the beautiful design, the movement of her body–she was so beautiful, I wanted to bite her.” Weintraub, Steven.

“Conversations with Joseph Ternbach,” Joseph Ternbach Conservator/Collector, Queens Museum (1984), 16-29.

Through Godwin and Ternbach’s collaboration, the museum was able to attract world class collectors such as Jack and Belle Linsky, Charles B. Rogers, Syril and Walter Frank, Judge Irwin Untermeyer, Ernest Erickson, co-founder of the WPA Federal Works Project and New York Regional Director Audrey McMahon, and of course, works from the private collections of the founders themselves. Later important donors include the Lannan Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation, and Estate of Rose Choron, among others.

The show is organized by Louise Weinberg, GTM’s co-director, director of exhibitions and collections, and curator. A public opening reception for both fall exhibitions will take place on Wednesday, September 28, from 6 to 8 pm at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum. Visit for museum entry information, hours, location, and directions to campus.

Support for “Wunderkammer I: Material Pleasures” is provided by the Milton & Sally Avery Arts Foundation, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Kupferberg Center for the Arts, and Queens College, CUNY.