The introductory film at the New-York Historical Society demonstrates how easy it is to fill the giant Central Park West building with relevant artifacts. The multi-media experience, "New York Story" condenses 400 years of history to 18 minutes, tying the city to every great moment in American history. Occupied by the British in the American Revolution, the commercial powerhouse behind the victories in every conflict from the Civil War to World War II, the birthplace of social movements and cultural developments, the history of America cannot be told without New York. The historical society undertakes editing and organizing this vast history into digestible pieces.
Situated on an island which I think it will one day cover, it rises like Venice from the sea, and like that fairest of cities in the days of her glory, receives into its lap tribute of all the riches of the earth.
What You Will See
The permanent collection contains some of the most important documents and artifacts in New York and American History. But it also contains the quaint, whimsical detritus of hundreds of estate sales and antique stores. This is the history of great men and women. But it is also the history of the daily lives of New Yorkers, rich and poor, important and forgotten, from four centuries of the city's history. However, with the renovation of the gallery space dedicated to the permanent collection undergoing renovations until 2017, and afternoon getting lost in the gallery must wait. Fortunately, the rest of the museum is filled with compelling temporary exhibits drawn from its extensive and ever-increasing collection.
Why You Should Go
Few museums have a greater distance between how fun they sound to visit and fun they actually are to visit. The name 'Historical Society' conjures scenes of dusty archives full of irrelevant genealogies and damp galleries filled with glowering portraits of forgotten merchants. But this is New York City. Even our historical societies are exciting. While access to the permanent collection is temporarily limited, the remaining gallery space will give you insight into corners of this city's fascinating history and changing identity unavailable anywhere else. And, for the purists, there are still glowering portraits and irrelevant genealogies.
closes 12 January 2020
The Big Picture
closes 08 December
Artist in Exile
The Visual Diary of Baroness Hyde de Neuville
closes 26 January 2020
All Aboard to Richard Scarry's Busytown
closes 23 February 2020
Mark Twain and the Holy Land
closes 02 February 2020
Founded on the great collections of early 19th-century philanthropists like Luman Reed, Robert L. Stuart, and Thomas Jefferson Bryant, highlights from the museum's collection of over 2,500 early American paintings are on display on the second floor. Highlighting the original collectors rather than the individual pieces, you will see works by Thomas Cole, Gilbert Stuart, and Charles Wilson Peale, as well as the massive Le Tricorne by Pablo Picasso, which dominates the exhibition hall.
The Historical Society is home to 132 Tiffany Lamps from the collection of Egon Neustadt, the world's premier collector of Tiffany Glass and there have always been samples on display somewhere in the museum. In 2017 the museum opened a gorgeous new gallery to place the lamps on permanent display and tell the story of the men and (mainly) women who contributed to these iconic pieces.