Top of the Ernest Irroy champagne bottle used by Louisa Pierpont Morgan (American, 1866–1946) to christen J. Pierpont Morgan’s (American, 1837–1913) steam yacht Corsair III on 12 December 1898, in Newburgh, New York
Morgan Library Archives, Gift of Mrs. Jan Vanheerden, 1997


Nina Katchadourian: Undoubtedly, one of my favorite objects discovered at the Morgan was this broken champagne bottle top. It turns out it had been used to christen Morgan's yacht called Corsair III, and through this broken bottle top I learned the term realia, which is a category of objects in the collection that don't necessarily contain information as such, but still have qualities about them worth preserving. To me, this object also turns a museum into something that feels a little bit more like a domestic home. The way that we sometimes save things that mark important occasions might look like junk to somebody else, but to us, uh, indicates something important that happened. And I'd like moments in a collection where things jump categories a little bit like this. It's located where it is in this exhibition because it's a way into one of the subjects that has been a lifelong fascination for me, which is that of true stories of shipwreck survivors. I imagine the bottle here as a kind of inauguration into a shipwreck story. In this case, the true story of the Robertson family.