See 400 years of American History - in one place, in one afternoon. The New-York Historical Society is one of the oldest cultural institutions in the country. It combines timely and substantive special exhibitions with unparalleled museum and library collections for the study of New York and early U.S. history.
The collections span the nation's history from the Revolutionary War to the present, with 40,000 objects ranging from George Washington's camp bed at Valley Forge to the world's largest collection of Tiffany lamps, and manuscripts by U.S. Presidents.
At the New-York Historical Society, we believe that knowing where we came from helps us understand who we are now.
What are the Current Exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society?
Freedom Journey 1965: Photographs of the Selma to Montgomery March by Stephen Somerstein
Through October 25, 2015
This exhibit features the stunning and historic photographs of Stephen Somerstein, documenting the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March in March 1965. Somerstein was a student in City College of New York’s night school and Picture Editor of his student newspaper when he traveled to Alabama to document the March.
He joined the marchers and gained unfettered access to everyone from Martin Luther King Jr. to Rosa Parks, James Baldwin, and Bayard Rustin. “I had five cameras slung around my neck,” he recalled. Over the five-day, 54-mile march, Somerstein took about four hundred photographs including poignant images of hopeful blacks lining the rural roads as they cheered on the marchers walking past their front porches and whites crowded on city sidewalks, some looking on silently-others jeering as the activists walked to the Alabama capital. Somerstein sold a few photographs to The New York Times Magazine, Public Television and photography collectors, but none were exhibited until 2010, when he participated in a civil rights exhibition at the San Francisco Art Exchange.
New York Story
You know the city -- now be enthralled by the stories. Witness New York's rise from remote outpost to city at the center of the world in this 18-minute panoramic film experience shown on a 75-foot screen in surround-sound.
We were absolutely blown away by the film which manages to convey more about New York and its history than one could ever imagine being crammed into 18 minutes.
- Carol Leimas NYC
What are Ongoing & Special Exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society?
New York & The Nation in the The Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History
Explore the story of New York and America in the newly designed Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History. Highlights include:
Collection Highlights and New York and the American Experience
Mounted on the building's original 1904 columns are grand digital screens displaying a continuous, thematically co-ordinated slide show of treasures from the New-York Historical Society's collections. The west face of the columns features individual stations, incorporating interactive touch screens and museum artifacts, presenting six themes in American history which are found interwoven with the history of New York. Currently, the columns display a series of portraits featuring the model Editta Sherman, which were part of Bill Cunningham's Facades project. The series was shown here at the New-York Historical Society in 1976, in an exhibit entitled Fashions and Façades, under the guidance of curator Mary Black. Projected on dramatic flat screens affixed to six structural columns, the array of objects and images functions as visual signage that demonstrates to our visitors the depth of New-York Historical's collections. Visitors can access images and information about our App.
Liberty/Liberté by Fred Wilson
Upon entering the New-York Historical Society, the visitor encounters Fred Wilson's Liberty/ Liberté, an installation that offers the viewer access to the multiple layers of interpretation of the history and historical figures of the Age of Revolution.
New York Rising
The showpiece of the space occupies a forty-two-foot wall facing Central Park West, and illustrates New York's critical contribution to the founding of the United States. Covering the period from the American Revolution through to the New-York Historical Society's 1804 founding, a contemporary interpretation of a nineteenth-century salon-style display uses some of New-York Historical's most treasured objects and cutting-edge technology to convey the historical narrative.
Out of the ashes of the British occupation of New York and Evacuation Day in November 1783 at the American Revolution's end, New York emerged as the first capital of the United States. It was where George Washington was inaugurated the first president; where the Northwest Ordinance, mandating westward expansion, was debated and signed in 1787; where the essays comprising the Federalist Papers advocating the ratification of the U.S. Constitution were written (by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay); where the First Congress sat in 1789; and where the Bill of Rights was introduced. As the place where Hamilton conceived of an American financial system, New York also became the American business capital of the country. Against the philosophical and intellectual framework of the Enlightenment, the New Yorkers who participated in the country's founding were immersed in an often-fractious atmosphere of debate, intellectual discourse, and political experimentation. In 1804, as this historical moment was passing, the New-York Historical Society was founded, motivated by an expressed need to collect items pertaining to the history of the state and of the nation, as well as the mission to capture and interpret not only the revolutionary and Federal eras, but the years to come. In so doing, New-York Historical deliberately participated in the creation of a self-consciously American culture.
Leah and Michael Weisberg Monumental Treasures Wall
A 10-foot-high display case in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History showcases large-scale maps, architectural drawings, documents and other works on paper that previously could not be exhibited because of their size and light sensitivity.
History Under Your Feet
Under visitors' feet, the Smith Gallery also features nine porthole-like floorcases displaying objects found by avocational archaeologists and other professionals seeking history below the ground of New York City. Objects include arrowheads, military buttons, bullets and a colossal oyster shell excavated at an extant nineteenth-century tavern.
here is new york
New-York Historical also displays a rotating selection from the approximately 6,200 photographs comprising the powerful here is new york collection of images taken in New York on and in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The collection echoes the Founding New Yorkers theme of resilience, renewal and transformation emerging from the ashes of catastrophic events. Accompanying the photography installation will be a large fragment of a fire truck destroyed during the 9/11 attack.
Pop Shop Ceiling by Keith Haring
A ceiling mural by Keith Haring hangs above the admissions desk. The work is taken from the interior of the Pop Shop, which Haring opened in SoHo in 1986 to sell shirts, posters, and other merchandise reproducing his artwork. He painted the shop's entire interior in black-and-white. The mural was a gift from the Keith Haring Foundation upon the store's closing in 2005.
Art as Activism: Graphic Art from the Merrill C. Berman Collection
Through September 13, 2015
Throughout much of the 20th century, political protests and calls for
action reached the public on posters and broadsides. Long before digital
technology made worldwide communication possible, graphic artists used
the powerful tools of modernist art to inform communities, stir up
audiences and call attention to injustice. American graphic artists,
often drawing on European models developed in the 1920s to fight fascism
or promote revolution, used brilliant colors and violent imagery to
produce ephemeral artifacts aimed to inspire and energize the angry or
disaffected. Posted on walls and bulletin boards, or slapped up on
store windows and church doors, these bright, quickly produced images
embodied the anger of the masses, ultimately serving as the wallpaper of
Art as Activism: Graphic Art from the Merrill C. Berman Collection
presents a selection of posters produced between the early 1930s and
the 1970s, some by known artists like Emory Douglas and Hugo Gellert,
others by unidentified designers. Many of the best known date from the
activist period of the 1960s, but their style and power have deep roots
in the past and would continue to shape the imagery of protest until
replaced by other forms of social media, including street art and
ultimately the internet.
The exhibition is drawn from the Merrill C. Berman Collection, one of
the world's finest private collections of modern graphic art. Over the
past forty years, Merrill Berman has put together a collection of
graphic design comparable to the collections of the Stedelijk Museum in
Amsterdam and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Selections from his
holdings have appeared in exhibitions throughout the world.
The Beekman Coach
Through September 30, 2015
horse-drawn coach was the 18th century’s ultimate prestige vehicle. With
four wheels, a luxurious enclosed body, and accommodation for liveried
driver and footman, a coach heralded its owner’s gentility and signaled
his position among the ranks of elite society. Colonial coaches were
frequently emblazoned with the owner’s coat of arms, a symbol of
refinement suggesting aristocratic ambition and emulation of European
court traditions. Guaranteed to turn colonial heads, the coach in the
1700s was an American rarity. A visitor to New York in 1716 noted only
two coaches in the entire province; a half century later, just 26 New
Yorkers owned such a status symbol.
New York merchant James Beekman
(1732-1807) acquired this coach in 1771, the crown jewel in his fleet of
prestigious vehicles that already included a chaise, chariot, and
phaeton. Since coaches were susceptible to the shifting tides of fashion
and owners quickly discarded obsolete models, precious few survive
today. The Beekman coach, prized as a tangible link to our nation’s
founding era, was carefully preserved by generations of descendants
until its donation to New-York Historical Society by James Beekman’s
great-grandson, Gerard Beekman, in 1911. This exceptionally rare coach
is one of only three vehicles used in 18th-century America that survives
in original condition. The Beekman coach display is located near the
Museum’s main entrance on the first floor.
The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld
Through October 12, 2015
Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003) brought a set of visual conventions to the
task of performance portraiture when he made his debut in 1926. His
signature work, defined by a linear calligraphic style made his name a
verb to be "Hirschfelded" was a sign that one has arrived. Now for the
first time, nine decades of his art are collected in The Hirschfeld
Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld documenting Hirschfeld's life and
career and, to a great extent, the history of the performing arts in the
twentieth century and beyond.
The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld examines his
influences, his iconography, and his techniques, from his earliest works
to his last drawings. Visitors will have the opportunity to trace this
unique artist's evolution by viewing his own body of work, including
drawings, paintings, selections from sketchbooks, epheme
ra, and video.
The exhibition is being organized in partnership with the Al Hirschfeld
Foundation and is guest-curated by David Leopold, the Foundation's
Lafayette's Return: The “Boy General," the American Revolution, and the Hermione
Through October 12, 2015
"She sails like a bird," the Marquis de Lafayette wrote about the Hermione, the ship that carried him and a decisive stache of arms across the Atlantic in aid of the nascent American Revolution. During the summer of 2015, a reconstructed Hermione returns to America, leaving from France and spending the weekend of the Fourth of July in New York. The New-York Historical Society exhibition focuses on both the recreated ship and Lafayette himself, the Boy General whose close friendship with George Washington and diplomatic networks in Paris helped win the war. The show focuses on Lafayette's early years from his initial advocacy on behalf of the Revolution in the late 1770s to the Hermione's voyage in 1780 and the events leading to the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781.
Nature Illuminated: A Tiffany Gallery Preview
Through October 31, 2015
of the 100 Tiffany lamps will be on view in the Rotunda, offering
museum-goers a preview of the stunning exhibition to come.
December 2016, the New-York Historical Society will unveil a dazzling
new gallery to showcase its renowned collection of Tiffany lamps.
Designed by noted London architect Eva Jiricná, the multi-level glass
gallery on the fourth floor will display 100 lamps produced by Tiffany
Studios between 1900 and 1920. Highlighting the collection amassed by
pioneering collector Dr. Egon Neustadt and donated in 1984, the gallery
will explore Tiffany Studios’ innovative adaptation of electric light:
sheathing the incandescent light bulb in a shimmering veil of leaded
glass. Uniting a reverence for nature and a fascination with the
artistic potential of glass, Louis C. Tiffany and his designers created a
revolutionary design aesthetic that brought the beauty of the natural
world into the home.
Picasso's Le Tricorne
The New-York Historical Society is proud to unveil our newly acquired and conserved Picasso. Pablo Picasso painted the stage curtain for the two-act ballet The Three-Cornered Hat (“El sombrero de tres picos” or “Le tricorne”). The ballet and curtain were commissioned by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev for his avant-garde, Paris-based Ballets Russes, the most influential ballet company of the twentieth-century. The ballet was choreographed by Léonide Massine with music by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. It premiered on July 22, 1919, at the Alhambra Theatre in London with sets, costume designs, and the monumental stage curtain created by Picasso. Picasso biographer John Richardson once called “Le Tricorne” the artist’s “supreme theatrical achievement.” The production, which was conceived by Diaghilev and Massine during a trip to Spain, was enhanced by its many Spanish collaborators, including Picasso who also designed the costumes and set for the ballet.
United States 1933 Double Eagle
On display is one of the most famous and storied coins in the world—the 1933 Double Eagle. The Double Eagle is on display in The Robert H. & Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History. Designed by the renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the coin features the figure of Liberty striding before the Capitol Building on its face and an eagle in flight on the reverse.
In 1933 the United States struck almost a half million twenty-dollar gold coins, commonly known as Double Eagles. At virtually the same time, in one of his first acts as President, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an Executive Order banning the payout of gold, weaning the country off the gold standard. The 1933 Double Eagles, although legally made, became illegal to own and were never circulated. In 1934, two were sent to the Smithsonian Institution for posterity, and in February 1937 the rest were melted into gold bars and sent to Fort Knox—or so it seemed.
In 1944, a 1933 Double Eagle appeared in a New York auction, and the United States Secret Service determined that a U.S. Mint employee had stolen a number of the coins in 1937, and identified ten 1933 Double Eagles that had escaped destruction, of which nine were surrendered or seized. One was beyond reach, as it had been purchased by King Farouk of Egypt, and after 1954 it disappeared. In 1996 a British coin dealer was arrested while trying to sell a 1933 Double Eagle, which he swore had formerly belonged to King Farouk.
In 2002, the coin was sold at auction for $7,590,020, nearly doubling the previous world record. That very coin—the only 1933 Double Eagle which may be legally owned by an individual—will be on display at New-York Historical, on temporary loan from an anonymous private collection.
The Games We Played: American Board and Table Games from the Liman Collection Gift
The Games We Played presents a rotating selection of board and table games from the Liman Collection, an extraordinary collection of more than 500 examples donated to New-York Historical by Ellen Liman in 2000. These games, which entertained families from the 1840s to the 1920s, offer a fascinating window on the values, beliefs and aspirations of middle-class Americans. During the period, families embraced leisure pursuits in the home and encouraged their children to play games that would develop skills and provide moral instruction. At the same time, advances in chromolithography allowed board game manufacturers, like New York City-based McLoughlin Brothers, to produce sumptuous, eye-catching games at affordable prices.
Statues of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass
Through June 1, 2017
The life-size bronze figures of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) and
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) that stand at either entrance to the
New-York Historical Society bring to life the story of freedom that is
deeply embedded in American history and is a primary focus of New-York
Historical's programs. Throughout his candidacy and presidency, Lincoln
emphasized a new birth of freedom for the United States and identified
slavery as a moral and political issue that threatened the nation's
survival. Although Lincoln's home state was Illinois, it was New York
politicians, journalists, and imagemakers who engineered his rise to the
top of the Republican ticket in the 1860 election. His assassination in
1865 united New Yorkers, who turned out en masse to file by the casket
lying in state at City Hall and participate in the funeral procession.
The Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture
The Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture on our
fourth floor will be closed for renovations through December 2016.
What are Upcoming Exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society
Superheroes in Gotham
October 9, 2015-February 21, 2016
Comic book superheroes are a part of our daily lives. They engage our
imaginations on the pages of comic books, television and movie screens,
as well as the Broadway stage and in the virtual world of gaming.
Contemporary literature and art reference them; adults and children
alike delight in donning superhero t-shirts, caps, and sneakers. Since
their introduction in the late 1930s, superheroes have been powerful
role models, inspirational and enviable. Based on mythological
archetypes, they reflect, respond to, and offer ways to navigate the
twists and turns of modern life. Comic books are a great American art
form, a cultural phenomenon born in New York City that now extends
around the globe. Superheroes in Gotham will tell the story of the birth
of comic book superheroes in New York City; the leap of comic book
superheroes from the page into radio, television, and film; the role of
fandom, including the yearly mega event known as New York Comic Con; and
the ways in which comic book superheroes, created in the late 1930s
through the 1960s, have inspired and influenced the work of contemporary
comic book artists, cartoonists, and painters in New York City.
Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection
October 20, 2015-February 22, 2016
The New-York Historical Society will be transformed this holiday season
with the installation of a spectacular exhibit of treasures from the
renowned Jerni Collection, now owned by the New-York Historical Society,
of model trains, scenic elements and toys. The dynamic display will
appeal to all age groups, showcasing the beauty and allure of toys from a
The Holiday Express exhibition will unfold over a broad swath of
New-York Historical’s first floor, featuring pieces from the Jerni
Collection that will transform the space into a magical wonderland. With
the aid of theatrical lighting, an ambient audio “soundscape,” and
other visual effects, visitors will be engaged in an immersive
experience. The exhibition begins at the West 77th Street entrance,
where movement and sound from four large-scale multimedia screens will
make it seem as though trains are roaring through the space. A
360-degree mountainous landscape will be on view in the Judith and
Howard Berkowitz Sculpture Court, featuring artifacts grouped into ten
Silicon City: Computer History Made in New York
November 13, 2015-April 10, 2016
Every 15 minutes, for nearly a year, 500 men, women, and children rose
majestically into “the egg,” Eero Saarinen’s idiosyncratic theater at
the 1964 World’s Fair. It was very likely their first introduction to
computer logic. Computing was not new. But for the general public, IBM’s
iconic pavilion was a high profile coming out party, and Silicon City
will harness it to introduce New York’s role in helping midwife the
digital age. Using images, artifacts, interactives, and oral histories,
the exhibition will look back at local innovations that were key to
computer development, from vacuum tubes and punched cards to
transistors. And it will highlight pioneering work after the 1964 Fair,
such as the computer graphics revolution born in New York City a decade
later. Long before Silicon Valley became synonymous with all things
digital, New York was a key hub for imagining, developing, and selling
the technology that ultimately reshaped entertainment, commerce, and
The Triumphal Return of Taddeo Gaddi's Maestà Conserved
December 11, 2015-March 20, 2016
After a two-year absence for conservation at the J. Paul Getty Museum,
the New-York Historical Society's Virgin and Child Enthroned with Ten
Saints: Maesta returns. Painted ca. 1334 by Taddeo Gaddi, the major
disciple of Giotto, the jewel-like panel will take pride of place in a
small focus exhibition highlighting its conservation treatment. Thomas
Jefferson Bryan, an early connoisseur of Italian "primitives," i.e.,
painters before Raphael, bequeathed the Gaddi panel to New-York
Historical in 1867, along with his entire collection. As New York City's
first museum, New-York Historical wrote an early chapter in preserving
the culture of the City, and Bryan played a pioneering role in its
collecting history, amassing works by both European and American
artists. Fittingly, Gaddi's painting will be displayed with a several
other fourteenth- and early-fifteenth-century Italian panels from the
With its lavish gold leaf background, Gaddi's panel was an expensive
commission for a private Florentine palazzo and for its time was
cutting-edge art. Originally the central section of a folding triptych
consisting of three panels, it will be exhibited with two wings
(sportelli) from a private collection that recently have been linked to
it. Their similar dates, measurements, traces of hinges, and related
iconographies suggest that the trio may once have been part of the same
triptych. At the very least, seen together they help us to envision and
reconstruct how the Maestà appeared in its original glory. It was
recently shown at both the Getty and the Art Gallery of Ontario,
Toronto, in the major exhibition Florence at the Dawn of the
Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300-1350.