July 11, 2019
Each post I write describes what I saw at the museum and what I learned after my initial visit. I decided to share my experience visiting the New-York Historical Society in honor of their new exhibit that opened last week, Revolutionary Summer. Another reason I wrote about this museum is my husband and I visited New-York Historical during our honeymoon back in March. We wanted to see as much of the New-York Historical Society as we possibly could before we went to dinner and a show later. As a historian, I was in awe of how much was displayed in each exhibition and I admire their efforts to engage its visitors with the collections.
According to their website, the New-York Historical Society was established in 1804 as New York’s first museums. Its founders who lived through the American Revolution and the British occupation of New York believed New York’s citizens needed to take action to preserve eyewitness evidence of their own historical moments; they also believed if the evidence was left in the hands of private individuals then the collections would have the inevitable fate of obscurity. Today the New-York Historical Society offers visitors on-site and online a massive collection of art, objects, artifacts, documents, and an ongoing collecting program to facilitate a broad grasp of history’s enduring importance and its usefulness in finding explanations, causes, and insights. I noticed their efforts during the visit as I explored through the exhibits. My husband and I went to exhibits on the four floors of the New-York Historical Society.
One of the first exhibits my husband and I visited was the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps which featured one hundred illuminated Tiffany lamps from their collections. Each Tiffany lamp in the exhibit was displayed within a dark space mainly lit by the Tiffany lamps. I loved looking at each unique designs and patterns, and I also thought the exhibit was thought provoking by showing visitors the differences between a Tiffany lamp and a knock off. The display had two lamps that looked like each other and in the drawers below them there are pieces of lamps and descriptions that explain the differences between the Tiffany lamp and the knock off.
Another exhibit we visited was the Objects Tell Stories exhibit located in the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture. The exhibit featured treasures from their permanent collection which tell the story of New York and American history. Within the Center, there are themed displays in the North Gallery present a variety of topics including slavery, war, infrastructure, childhood, recreation, and 9/11. A lot of the displays had touchscreens and interactive kiosks to allow visitors to explore American history and engage with objects. I was impressed by how much they were able to fit into the space. If my husband and I were able to spend more time, I could easily spend at least a whole day in the New-York Historical Society.
When we visited the gift shop, I spoke with the staff and after I told them my background as a public historian they showed me the gift shop bags that had various questions on the outside of the bag for visitors and gift shop customers to ponder and answer. The bag also included a link to the answers that they can check. If you can visit the New-York Historical Society, I recommend going in a little earlier to fully explore the museum. As for me, I look forward to the next time I visit the Historical Society.