Tag Archives: New York Historical Society

N-Y Historical Society Planning WWII & NYC Exhibit


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The most widespread, destructive, and consequential conflict in history will be the subject of WWII & NYC, a major new exhibition planned for the New-York Historical Society from October 5, 2012 through May 27, 2013. The exhibit is expected to feature New York City’s multifaceted role in the war, and commemorate the 800,000 New Yorkers who served in combat while also exploring the many ways in which those who remained on the home front contributed to the war effort. Continue reading

Historic New York Beer Tastings Set in NYC


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To celebrate its summer exhibition Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History, the New-York Historical Society will host a series of beer tastings that showcase the thriving brewing culture in New York City and State.

Beer Here will examine the social, economic, political, and technological history of the production and consumption of beer, ale, and porter in the city from the seventeenth century to the present day. The beer tasting program, run by Starr Restaurants catering group, will take place in the exhibition’s beer hall on most Saturday afternoons from May 26 through August 25, 2012. Continue reading

Lecture: Secret Journeys from Black to White


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In America, race is a riddle. With the widespread availability of DNA testing and the boom in genealogical research, it has become even harder to view race neatly in black or white. Daniel J. Sharfstein, in conversation with Brent Staples, unravels the stories of three families who represent the complexity of race in America and force us to rethink our basic assumptions about who we are at an event on Thursday, April 12, 6:30 PM [note, new date] at The Robert H. Smith Auditorium at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, NYC. Continue reading

New-York Historical Announces Fellowships


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The New-York Historical Society has announced five fellowship recipients for the 2012-2013 academic year. New-York Historical offers fellowships to scholars dedicated to understanding and promoting American history. Basing their work on New-York Historical’s museum and library collections of more than 350,000 books, three million manuscripts, and collections of maps, photographs, prints, art objects and ephemera documenting the history of America from the perspective of New York, these scholars extend and enrich their previous work to develop new publications that illuminate complex issues of the past. Continue reading

John Lewis Gaddis Wins American History Book Prize


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The New-York Historical Society has announced that historian John Lewis Gaddis, recipient of the National Humanities Medal in 2005, will receive New-York Historical’s seventh annual American History Book Prize for George F. Kennan: An American Life (Penguin Press, 2011). He will be presented with a $50,000 cash award, an engraved medal and the title of American Historian Laureate on April 13, 2012, during the Weekend with History event of the New-York Historical’s Chairman’s Council. Continue reading

Camilo José Vergara Exhibit Features Harlem


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Photographs by MacArthur Foundation “genius award” winner Camilo José Vergara, will be on display at the New-York Historical Society in two rotations — Harlem: The People on view through June 10 and Harlem: The Place, from June 13 through September 16. The photographs in both exhibitions, part of the original 2009 exhibition Harlem 1970-2009, explore the effervescent neighborhood of Harlem by showing the transformation of the area over the past 40 years.

The images in Harlem: The People and Harlem: The Place show streetscapes that the photographer visited repeatedly over the course of thirty-eight years, so he could create a composite, time-lapse portrait of a vibrant, world-famous neighborhood seen as a place of ongoing transformation. The series has become a living historical record of Harlem. Vergara has been photographing this vital neighborhood of New York City since 1970, and in doing so he demonstrates, with powerful “before” and “after” images, how one of New York City’s most important neighborhoods has been redefined. As such, Vergara also captures the social and cultural changes in Harlem as he returns to photograph the same street corners and storefronts year after year. He continues to photograph these locations today and writes about his process:

“For a long time I have thought of myself as more a city builder than as a photographer. I think of my images as bricks which when placed next to each other give shape and meaning to a place. I see the images of neighborhoods arranged according to time and location, each one … linking the hundreds of stories that are a place’s history. This is how photographs tell how Harlem evolved and what it gained and lost in the process.”

Selected from the artist’s archive on the Invincible Cities website, the exhibition includes a sequence of photographs showing the evolution of Harlem, its buildings and its people—from the murals that used to condemn racism to advertisements for sports cars, liquor and young rappers; from shops owned by Koreans and West Indians to corporate franchises; from an incubator for struggling churches to famous landmarked churches that attract busloads of visitors from around the world.

All of these historically compelling photographs were donated to the New-York Historical Society by Camilo José Vergara in 2009.

N-Y Historical Black History Month Offerings


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The New-York Historical Society has a number of exhibits and programs planned for Black History Month. All exhibitions are presented at the New-York Historical Society 170 Central Park West, New York, N.Y., unless otherwise noted. Phone (212) 873-3400 or visit www.nyhistory.org for more information.

THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT SIGNED BY LINCOLN
February 1 through April 1, 2012

The New-York Historical Society displays a rare handwritten copy of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution–the measure that abolished slavery—signed by President Lincoln himself. The document, which was recently acquired by David Rubenstein, managing director of The Carlyle Group, will be on loan to the New-York Historical Society until April 1, in the new Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History.

FREEDOM NOW: PHOTOGRAPHS BY PLATON
Until April 29, 2012

This installation of large-scale images by the celebrated photographer Platon, gives the historic struggle of the 1950s and 1960s a stirring contemporary presence. Julian Bond—statesman, professor, writer and a leader in the Civil Rights movement—has written a personal introduction to the exhibition. Among the subjects of the photographs are the Little Rock Nine, whose attempt to enter Little Rock Central High School in 1957 became a national cause célèbre; Joseph A. McNeil and Franklin E. McCain, participants in the 1960 Greensboro lunch-counter sit-in; Southern Christian Leadership Conference members Joseph Lowery, Fred Shuttlesworth, C.T. Vivian and Andrew Young; Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee leaders James Lawson, Robert Moses and Diane Nash; Chris and Maxine McNair, parents of Denise McNair, murdered in the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church; Black Panthers Kathleen Cleaver, Emory Douglas and Bobby Rush; Muhammad Ali; Harry Belafonte; Congressman John Lewis; and Jesse Jackson, Sr.

REVOLUTION! THE ATLANTIC WORLD REBORN
Until April 15, 2012

The path-breaking exhibition Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn, is the first exhibition to relate the American, French and Haitian struggles as a single global narrative. Spanning decades of enormous political and cultural changes, from the triumph of British imperial power in 1763 to the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, Revolution! traces how an ideal of popular sovereignty, introduced through the American fight for independence, soon sparked more radical calls for a recognition of universal human rights, and set off attacks on both sides of the Atlantic against hereditary privilege and slavery. Texts and audio guides are in English, French and Haitian Krèyol. Highlights on view: the original Stamp Act as it was passed by Parliament in 1765, setting off the riots that led to the American Revolution, on loan from the Parliamentary Archives, London, displayed for the first time outside the U.K. the only known surviving copy of the first printing of the Haitian Declaration of Independence (1804, National Archives, London), recently discovered and exhibited here to the public for the first time.

Napoleon’s authorization to French negotiators to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States (1803, New-York Historical Society), as a direct consequence of the Haitian rebellion

THE BATTLE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS
Thursday, February 16, 6:30 PM
David Levering Lewis, Khalil Gibran Muhammad (moderator)
Location: Robert H. Smith Auditorium at New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West

In this powerful program, two experts reflect on the successes and setbacks in the struggle for civil rights and the changing ways in which the story of the Civil Rights Movement is told, from early writers and activists like W.E.B. DuBois, to the turbulent years of the 1950s and ’60s, to the present. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Freedom Now: Photographs by Platon. A collaboration with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

MEET AUTHOR MAIRA KALMAN—LOOKING AT LINCOLN
President’s Day, Monday February 20, 2012, 1 pm

Award winning artist and author, Maira Kalman, reads from the historical gem Looking at Lincoln. From his boyhood in a log cabin to his famous presidency and untimely death, Kalman shares Lincoln’s remarkable life with young readers. Her charming text and bold artwork make history come alive in a fresh and exciting way.

HISTORY DAYS PRESIDENT’S’ VACATION WEEK
February 20 – 24, 2012

Show off your presidential history skills at our daily family quiz show; drop in for some art making, or join our presidential history scavenger hunt. Best for ages 4 – 14. No preregistration required. Free with museum admission.

Family Presidential History Quiz, 2 pm

Where did George Washington take his first oath of office? Team up, sharpen your pencils, and enter our family quiz! Prizes for participation and grand prizes for high-scorers.

Presidential Art making, 1 – 4 pm
Make and decorate your own election button or poster.

Join the Hunt! Presidential Scavenger Hunt, 11 am – 4 pm

We don’t know if George Washington had a cat, but we do know he had a cot and we’ve got it! Find amazing memorabilia when we let you loose in the museum looking for everything presidents! Prizes for participation, and everyone can enter our Liberty the Dog raffle!

Living History Days: 1st RHODE ISLAND REGIMENT (CONTINENTAL)

Sunday, February 5 and February 19, 2012 11 am – 5 pm

As one of the earliest regiments in America to actively enlist African Americans, the 1st Rhode Island Regiment was assembled into service in late 1776 and early 1777. The Regiment fought in the battle of Newport in 1778, spent the infamous winter at Valley Forge, and participated in the Yorktown campaign without receiving any post-war compensation for their efforts. Since 2002, the 1st Rhode Island re-enactors have portrayed the regiment by recreating battles and encampments and presenting programs to audiences in an attempt to educate them about the role of African-Americans in the war effort.

Photo: Platon for The New Yorker, Emmett Tills’ cousins: the Reverend Wheeler Parker, Jr. and Simeon Wright, November 2009. Light jet print. Courtesy of the artist.

New ‘Crossing the Delaware’ on Display Amid Debate


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The New-York Historical Society is displaying Mort Künstler’s “Washington’s Crossing at McKonkey’s Ferry” until January 17, 2012. Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” commemorates General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River on December 25 in 1776 during the American Revolutionary War. His original painting is part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mort Künstler, a New York artist known for his historical paintings, has created what he considers a more historically accurate version of Washington crossing the Delaware River. The painting was unveiled at the New-York Historical Society on Monday, December 26, the date in 1776 that Washington led his troops into battle in Trenton after crossing the Delaware.

David Hackett Fischer, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Washington’s Crossing, and featured speaker at the unveiling, says Künstler’s version is “quite accurate” and “got more right than any other image.”

The original painting shows the Betsy Ross flag flying, however that flag was not adopted until 1777; Mr. Künstler’s version has no flag. The original painting depicts the action taking place in the middle of the day, though the actual crossing took place during a stormy night. Based on historical research, the new painting shows Washington and company in a flat-bottomed ferry boat rather than on a row boat.

On that last detail however, there has been some debate. Rick Spilman, writing in the Old Salt Blog, noted:

“The problem is that most historians think that the American crossing of the Delaware used Durham boats, large flat-bottomed boats which hauled cargo such as ore, pig-iron, timber, and produce from upcountry mines, forests and farms down the Delaware River to Philadelphia’s thriving markets and port. Robert Durham, an engineer at the Durham Iron Works in Reiglesville, Pennsylvania, reputedly designed a prototype for these large cargo boats as early as 1757. Washington wrote to Governor Livingston of New Jersey, directing him to secure “Boats and Craft, all along the Delaware side…particularly the Durham Boats” for his anticipated crossing.”

In any event, you’ll have just one day to compare the two paintings first hand. The newly restored Luetze painting will be unveiled in a new frame in the New American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum on January 16, the day before the new Künstler painting comes down at the New-York Historical Society.

Illustrations: Above, Mort Künstler’s “Washington’s Crossing at McKonkey’s Ferry”; below, Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 “Washington Crossing the Delaware”.

1st Jewish Congregation Torah Scroll Exhibition


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Rare and centuries-old liturgical objects, manuscripts, maps and other historic artifacts—including a Torah scroll rescued from the hands of British troops during the American Revolution — will be on loan to the New-York Historical Society beginning November 11, 2011, for the installations The Resilient City and Treasures of Shearith Israel.

The presentations of Treasures of Shearith Israel and The Resilient City at the renovated and transformed New-York Historical highlight the history of religious freedom in New York City and honor the first Jewish congregation to have been established in North America—a congregation that remains vibrant and active today, and is a neighbor of New-York Historical.

Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue, was founded in 1654 by the first Jews to settle in North America: a group of 23 immigrants who came to New Amsterdam from their previous place of residence in Recife, Brazil. From 1654 through 1825, Shearith Israel was the only Jewish congregation in New York City. The congregation met in rented quarters until 1730, when it constructed its first building, which was located in downtown Manhattan on Mill Street (now known as South William Street). Many of the furnishings from the 1730 building are now installed in an intimate chapel, called the Little Synagogue, in Shearith Israel’s current home, consecrated in 1897, on the Upper West Side.

The Torah Scroll will be on display in the Judith and Howard Berkowitz Sculpture Court in the Rotunda of the New-York Historical Society, where it will be surrounded by four late-20th-century views of the New York cityscape by artist Richard Haas. This installation will establish a dialogue between the city’s past and present and help reinforce the underlying themes of diversity, tolerance and resilience that are also addressed in inaugural installations presented in New-York Historical’s new Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History, where visitors may explore the history of the United States as seen through the lens of New York. The many other significant objects on loan to New-York Historical from Shearith Israel will be displayed in the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture.

These loans have been facilitated Norman S. Benzaquen.

Photo: Congregation Shearith Israel, (founded 1655) New York, 1897 building. Courtesy Wikipedia.

New-York Historical American Art Lecture Dec 1st


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A huge range of print media — newspapers, magazines, short stories, even song lyrics— flooded the popular market in the early years of the 20th century. These publications relied on illustrations by William Glackens, John Sloan, George Luks and their contemporaries to inform, entertain and shape public attitudes.

The New-York Historical Society will host Dr. Mecklenburg’s free lecture, sponsored by the Sansom Foundation, about how these visual narratives helped Americans deal with the fast-changing circumstances of contemporary life. The lecture will be held on December 1, 2011, beginning at 6:30 pm. Seating is limited, and reservations are required; please call (212) 485-9266 or e-mail sansomrsvp@nyhistory.org to reserve seats.

Distinguished art historian and curator Virginia Mecklenburg, Senior Curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., will deliver the 2011 C. Richard Hilker lecture titled “Guttersnipes and Suffragettes: Ashcan Art and the Popular Press.” Dr. Mecklenburg earned both her BA and MA at the University of Texas at Austin, and her doctorate in art history at the University of Maryland at College Park. Her recent publications include Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and Modern Masters: American Abstraction at Midcentury. She is currently working on African American Art in the 20th Century, the catalogue for an exhibition that will open at the Smithsonian in April 2012.

The Sansom Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports numerous causes. The Foundation is named for the Philadelphia street where the American painter William J. Glackens was born, and was established in the 1950s by the artist’s son Ira Glackens and his wife Nancy. In 1990, after the founders’ deaths, C. Richard Hilker assumed leadership of the Foundation until his death in 2001, when the Sansom Foundation inaugurated a series of scholarly lectures to celebrate and commemorate his leadership.

Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered political, cultural, and social history of New York City and State and the nation and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.

Illustration: Cover of The Masses by John Sloan following the Ludlow Massacre of April 20, 1914.

New-York Historical Society to Reopen


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The New-York Historical Society will re-open its landmark building to the public at 11:00 a.m. on Veterans’ Day, Friday, November 11, 2011. A three-year, $65 million renovation of the Central Park West building has sensitively but thoroughly transformed the face of the institution — the first museum established in New York.

The Historical Society will remain open on November 11 until 11:00 p.m., offering free admission during that day to veterans and active service members and to children under 13, and free admission for all visitors after 6:00 p.m.

Entering the Historical Society, renovated by the firm of Platt Byard Dovell White Architects, visitors will encounter:

* an admissions area incorporating the ceiling from Keith Haring’s original “Pop Shop,” donated to the Historical Society by the Keith Haring Foundation

* a multi-media installation in the reconfigured Great Hall where the new Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History introduces major themes of American history through stories and figures from New York’s past; to include a selection of objects from the Historical Society’s collection

* a new facility, the DiMenna Children’s History Museum and the Barbara K. Lipman Children’s History Library, designed especially to engage young visitors as History Detectives exploring the richness and wonder of America’s past

* the first major special history exhibition in the renovated building, Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn, an exploration of the interconnections among the American, French and Haitian revolutions

* an art exhibition drawn from works in the Historical Society’s collection: Making American Taste: Narrative Art for a New Democracy offers for the first time an in-depth look at the 19th-century paintings and sculpture collected by the New Yorkers who founded and built the Historical Society

* an Italian-themed dining facility operated by the Starr Restaurants group, offering a light menu throughout the day and full restaurant service at night

“I believe 11-11-11 – November 11th, 2011 – will be marked as the most important date for our Society since its founding 207 years ago,” stated Roger Hertog, Chairman of the Board of the New-York Historical Society in a prepared statement to the press.

“The world has long known that the New-York Historical Society holds unmatched collections in its museum and library,” stated Louise Mirrer, President and CEO. “More recently, people have also begun to know us for our vibrant special exhibitions, which bring complex historical themes to life. But we have never before opened ourselves up to the public with such light and transparency, or provided the kind of immediate access to our objects and ideas that we will offer when we re-open in November. It’s as if, at entry level, we are going from being a beautiful treasure house to a great showplace of the American experience.’”

Renovating a Landmark

On the exterior, the renovation project creates a wider main staircase and expanded main entrance on Central Park West; better sightlines into the building from the street; a redesigned 77th Street entrance with improved accessibility for school groups and visitors with disabilities, and illumination to highlight the architectural features at night.

Inside the building, the project creates the Historical Society’s first new gallery on the ground floor, the 3,400-square-foot Great Hall; renovates and improves the adjacent Robert H. Smith Auditorium; provides for the new restaurant, renovated Museum Store and Rotunda on the 77th Street side; and establishes the DiMenna Children’s History Museum and the Barbara K. Lipman Children’s History Library, designed separately by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership.

The building was designed and constructed in 1903-08 by York and Sawyer, a firm established by architects who had trained with McKim, Mead and White. York and Sawyer was also responsible for projects including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Bowery Savings Bank, New York Athletic Club and several of the buildings at Vassar College. In 1938, two new wings were completed at the Historical Society, designed by Walker and Gillette. The current renovation is the most ambitious construction project at the Historical Society since that 1938 expansion.

To increase the street presence gained through the renovation and heighten the building’s identity as a cultural destination, the Historical Society will install bronze statues of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass at the east and north stairways. The statues are fabricated by Studio EIS.

Creating the Great Hall Exhibition

For the first time, visitors coming into the Historical Society from Central Park West will immediately see into the heart of the building, thanks to a reconfiguration of the entrance space and the opening of a vista to the interior through a broad wall of glass. Visible at once through the glass will be the Great Hall— redesigned to house the Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History. The Gallery is the first permanent installation at the Historical Society to illustrate the themes addressed by the institution, provide an overview of the priceless collection and orient visitors to the experiences they may encounter.

The principal components of the Great Hall exhibition will be:

Liberty/Liberté

Created by the New York-based artist Fred Wilson (who represented the United States at the 2003 Venice Biennale), this sculptural installation takes objects from the Historical Society’s collection and arranges them into a complex and engaging environment, where the possible meanings of the artifacts seem to shift as the visitor walks through the space. Originally conceived for the Historical Society’s 2006 exhibition Legacies: Contemporary Artists Reflect on Slavery, the work incorporates items ranging from a section of wrought iron balustrade from the original Federal Hall, where George Washington took the oath of office as President, to slave shackles and an anonymous tobacco shop figurine of an African American man.

Through the Lens of New York

A dozen large-scale, high-definition digital screens affixed to the columns in the Great Hall will present a continuous, thematic slideshow of hundreds of treasures from the Historical Society’s collections. On the other side of the columns, touch-screen stations will allow visitors to investigate large themes that represent points of intersection between the histories of New York City and the United States: slavery, capitalism and commerce, toleration for dissent, immigration and diversity, expansion and westward movement, and the development of America’s low and high culture.

Monumental Treasures

A ten-foot-high display case beyond the columns will showcase large-scale maps, architectural drawings, documents and other works on paper, which previously could not be exhibited because of their size and light sensitivity. In its first version, this changing installation will include the 8-foot-square Popple map (1733) of British possessions in North America, flanked by the Montresor map of New York City (1776) and the Battle of Long Island Map (August 27, 1776).

Founding New Yorkers

The centerpiece of the Great Hall will be an installation about New York’s critical role in United States history during the early Federal period, from around 1776 through 1804, the year of the Historical Society’s founding. A contemporary reinterpretation of a nineteenth-century salon-style art installation, the wall will feature a dense hanging of paintings, documents, artifacts and video monitors, divided into five sections: The American Revolution in New York; Mercantile New York City, Coffee House Culture and the Expansion of Urban Space; The Inauguration of George Washington and New York City as the First Capital; The Hamilton-Burr Duel and the Political and Banking System; and The Founding of the New-York Historical Society and the Forging of an American Culture. A dynamic concept developed by the David Small Design Firm (Cambridge, MA) will allow visitors to learn about the web of relationships among the events, ideas and people depicted on the wall by using touch-screen monitors only a few feet from the objects themselves.

Here is New York

Facing Founding New Yorkers will be Here is New York, a display of approximately 1,500 photographs taken by the people of New York City on September 11, 2001, and immediately afterward. These images by 790 contributors were first collected in an almost impromptu exhibition in SoHo soon after 9/11. Accompanying the photography installation will be a large fragment of a fire truck destroyed during the 9/11 attack.

The Dying Chief Contemplating the Progress of Civilization

At the opposite end of the Great Hall from Founding New Yorkers and Here is New York will be an installation of Thomas Crawford’s sculpture The Dying Chief Contemplating the Progress of Civilization (ca. 1856). A version of this important work is installed in the sculptural pediment over the U.S. Capitol’s east front.

History Manholes and History At Your Feet: Floor Cases of Urban Archaeology

In 1918, the New-York Historical Society founded the Field Exploration Committee, headed by the amateur archaeologists William Calver and Reginald P. Bolton, to explore and document historic sites in New York City and State and to recover and catalogue their artifacts. This work made the Historical Society a pioneer in the field of urban archaeology years before it became a professional discipline. Twelve manhole-like, circular exhibition cases, installed flush to the floor, will be dispersed throughout the Great Hall, showcasing relics such as arrowheads, military buttons, a colossal oyster shell excavated at an extant nineteenth-century tavern and a clock from the World Trade Center debris. The manholes will be part of a lively history-themed, educational scavenger hunt for visitors called, “History At Your Feet.” Through these objects, visitors of all ages will be introduced to the notion that history is all around us, even underfoot, in the modern city.

Keith Haring’s “Pop Shop” Ceiling Fragment

The ceiling over the admissions desk will be adorned with a fragment from Keith Haring’s “Pop Shop,” a store in the SoHo area of lower Manhattan that sold the artist’s graffiti-inspired t-shirts and souvenirs until after his death in 1990.

Bringing History to Life for Children

Located in a 4,000-square-foot vaulted space on the building’s lower level is the new DiMenna Children’s History Museum and the Barbara K. Lipman Children’s History Library, both designed to engage families.

The DiMenna Children’s History Museum, designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, invites children to become History Detectives, learning about the past through the use of historical artifacts and replicas, illustrations and interactive elements. The core of the experience is a series of three-dimensional pavilions, where children can identify with figures whose enterprise and creativity changed the course of our history. These biographical pavilions will introduce children to:

o Cornelia van Varick (ca. 1692-1733), daughter of Margrieta Van Varick, textile merchant in 17th century New York

o Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), the orphaned immigrant from the West Indies who became a Founder of the United States

o James McCune Smith (1813-65), the son of an enslaved woman who became the country’s first university-trained African American physician;

o Esteban Bellán (1850-1932), a Cuban youngster who became the first Latino to play professional baseball in the United States

o an Orphan Train girl (ca. 1890), one of the many New York City children transported by the Children’s Aid Society to new homes in the Midwest; and

o a New York “newsie” (ca. 1890), one of the children who eked out a living selling newspapers on the street

In other interactive experiences, young visitors will be able to go to the polls at the Cast Your Vote pavilion; deliver a presidential address at the First President kiosk, featuring a representation of Federal Hall; use the Historical Viewfinder display to see how selected sites in New York City have changed over time; and add their voices to the Children’s History Museum at the installation You Are An American Dreamer, Too.

At the Barbara K. Lipman Children’s History Library, young visitors and their families will find an area to sit and read children’s books, and to use interactive displays to explore rare books, manuscripts and maps from the Historical Society’s collection. Surrounding these interactive elements will be artifacts related to the volumes on display.

The development of Children’s History Museum and Library educational materials is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Tracing the Course of Revolution

The New-York Historical Society was born in 1804 in the aftermath of revolutions—in America, France and Haiti—that reverberated like rolling thunder back and forth across the Atlantic, with consequences that are still felt today. To mark its re-opening in 2011, the Historical Society will present Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn, the first exhibition to relate the American, French and Haitian struggles as a single global narrative.

Spanning decades of enormous political and cultural changes, from the triumph of British imperial power in 1763 to the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, Revolution! traces how an ideal of popular sovereignty, introduced through the American fight for independence, soon sparked more radical calls for a recognition of universal human rights, and set off attacks on both sides of the Atlantic against hereditary privilege and slavery. Among the astonishing, unforeseen outcomes was an insurrection on the French possession of Saint-Domingue, leading to the world’s only successful slave revolt and the establishment in 1804 of the first nation founded on the principles of full freedom and equality for all, regardless of color.

Richard Rabinowitz, founder and president of American History Workshop, serves as chief exhibition curator. Thomas Bender of New York University and Laurent Dubois of Duke University have served as the co-chief historians for Revolution!, drawing on the scholarship of an advisory committee of distinguished historians and specialists.

Following its presentation at the New-York Historical Society (November 11, 2011 – April 15, 2012), Revolution! will travel to venues in the U.K., France, and elsewhere in the United States. Educational materials and programs will be distributed internationally, including in Haiti.

Revolution Exhibit Funded For Travel


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The New-York Historical Society has announced that the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded it a grant of $400,000 to support a traveling program and educational initiatives surrounding its new exhibition Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn.

Revolution! is the first museum exhibition to explore the revolutions in America, France and Haiti as a single grand narrative from 1763 to 1815, tracing their cumulative transformation of politics, society and culture across the Atlantic world. It will also be the first major history exhibition to be presented by the New-York Historical Society when it fully re-opens its galleries on November 11, 2011, after a three-year, $65 million renovation.

“The New-York Historical Society is deeply grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for this very generous endorsement of our mission, which is to engage the broadest possible public in the enjoyment of learning about history,” said Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Through this grant, we will be able to extend the reach of Revolution! and make it accessible to a much wider audience.”

The NEH has awarded the grant through its “America’s Historical & Cultural Organizations Implementation Grant” program, which supports museum exhibitions, library-based projects, interpretation of historic places or areas, websites and other project formats that excite and inform thoughtful reflection upon culture, identity and history.

Revolution! traces how an ideal of popular sovereignty, introduced through the American fight for independence, soon sparked more radical calls for a recognition of universal human rights and set off attacks on both sides of the Atlantic against hereditary privilege and slavery. Among the astonishing, unforeseen outcomes was an insurrection on the French possession of Saint-Domingue, leading to the world’s only successful slave revolt and the establishment in 1804 of the first nation founded on the principles of full freedom and equality for all, regardless of color.

Strengthening NY’s Historical Enterprise


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Anyone who follows this website, New York History: Historical News and Views From The Empire State, knows the close to astonishing amount of historical activity going on in our state. New York’s history, I believe, has more variety, interest, and potential for us to draw insights today, than the history of any other state. We have hundreds of historical programs and officially designated local historians. But we also know that the state of the historical enterprise is not as strong as it ought to be. Continue reading

New-York Historical, NYC Media Offer Video Shorts


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The New-York Historical Society and NYC Media, the official network of the City of New York, have partnered to produce When “Did the Statue of Liberty Turn Green? & Other Questions about New York City,” a special series of 90 one-minute videos that feature the staff of the New-York Historical Society answering some of the most captivating questions ever posed to them about the City’s unique history. The video series airs every evening at 7:30pm on NYC life (Channel 25) in anticipation of the reopening of the New-York Historical Society’s Museum galleries on November 11, 2011. The series can also be viewed online on the NYC Media Video on Demand player.

“Inquisitive viewers will get the answers they’ve been looking for as the New-York Historical Society shares its vast knowledge and archive in our new series,” said Diane Petzke, general manager, NYC Media. “As part of our ongoing efforts to partner with local cultural organizations, we’re delighted to bring this fun and engaging perspective of City history to New Yorkers.”

“We are pleased to partner with NYC Media as we count down toward the re-opening of our galleries 90 days from now,” said Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “As the oldest cultural institution in New York City, we have a history that is closely tied to the history of the City as a whole. What better way to celebrate than by exploring the fascinating, sometimes surprising questions put to us by curious New Yorkers and visitors?”

On Veterans’ Day, Friday, November 11, 2011, the New-York Historical Society will throw open its doors as never before after completing a three-year renovation of its Central Park West building. The face of the institution—the first museum established in New York—will be transformed as visitors of all ages are welcomed to this great cultural destination. Visitors will experience brand-new gallery spaces that are more open and hospitable, both to major exhibitions and to a vastly expanded public. Highlights include, a multi-screen presentation of American history seen through the lens of New York City; the DiMenna Children’s History Museum, the first of its kind in New York, where the past comes to life through the stories of real children; a new museum restaurant operated by Stephen Starr Restaurants in a light-filled, modern space; and a permanent exhibition taking visitors on an interactive journey from colonial times to the September 11th attacks, incorporating high-definition digital screens and original artifacts. For more information about the New-York Historical Society’s re-opening, visit nyhistory.org.

N-Y Historical Commemorates 9/11 With Exhibition


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One month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the New-York Historical Society committed its resources to a new initiative called, History Responds, with exhibitions, public events and educational initiatives. Since then, the Society has presented 17 special exhibitions relating to the attacks, 20 public programs, five community meetings, numerous school and teacher programs and, when the Society’s newly-renovated headquarters reopens on September 8, 2011, a permanent installation of photographs and other materials donated by survivors, witnesses, and rescuers.

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of September 11, the New-York Historical Society will present a special exhibition, Remembering 9/11, which will be free to the public. The exhibition opens on September 7, 2011 and will remain on view through April 1, 2012. The exhibition presents a selection of several hundred photographs taken by professional and amateur photographers in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center (originally collected in the independent exhibition “here is new york: a democracy of photographs”), as well as letters written to policemen and firemen; objects that were placed in makeshift shrines around New York; images and texts from the New York Times “Portraits of Grief” series; photographs of the Tribute in Light; and drawings of the National September 11 Memorial, designed by architect Michael Arad with the assistance of landscape architect Peter Walker.

As a special presentation for families, the Historical Society will also host a free reading by Vin Panaro, Bugler for the Fire Department of New York, and Katie Fuller, Museum Educator, of Maira Kalman’s book Fireboat, to be held in the Rotunda from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 11, 2011.

“In the months immediately following September 11, 2001, the New-York Historical Society began a vigorous collecting initiative and exhibition program regarding the terrorist attacks,” Kenneth T. Jackson stated. “This was our responsibility, as the institution founded to gather, preserve and interpret materials related to the history of New York City and State and the nation. “On the tenth anniversary of the attacks, it is important that the Historical Society is continuing this effort with Remembering 9/11.”

Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, stated, “It takes a great historian to recognize the importance of his or her own historical moment, and to collect and preserve its effects. My predecessor, Kenneth T. Jackson is that great historian. On September 11th Ken recognized the tragedy of the day keenly, but saw also the need to collect and preserve so that future generations would understand what September 11th meant, for our city, our nation, our history. It is because of Ken’s work that our tenth anniversary exhibition Remembering 9/11 is able to document New York’s, and the nation’s, resilience along with the selfless acts of heroism, not only at the World Trade Center but also at the Pentagon and Shanksville.”

Remembering 9/11 is organized for the New-York Historical Society by Marilyn Satin Kushner, Curator and Head, Department of Prints, Photographs and Architectural Collections. “I wanted to create a space where people could come to quietly remember those days in 2001 and honor the memories of the people who were lost in the attacks. The solemnity of this occasion calls for a mood of respect and introspection,” stated Dr. Kushner.

When the renovated and transformed New-York Historical Society opens fully to the public on November 11, 2011, Remembering 9/11 will be joined by a permanent installation of photographs from “here is new york” in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History. Approximately 1,500 photographs by 790 contributors will be on display, along with a large fragment of a fire truck destroyed during the 9/11 attack.

Since the inception of the Historical Society’s History Responds, more than 150,000 visitors have taken part in its interpretive programs. Today, the History Responds collection includes numerous artifacts associated with September 11, ranging from architectural relics of the Twin Towers to artworks inspired by the catastrophe.

Remembering 9/11 is supported by Bernard and Irene Schwartz.

Photo: Alan Finkel, Untitled, 2001. New-York Historical Society, Courtesy of Alan Finkel.

NY Historical to Reopen with Revolution! Exhibit


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After three years of construction New York’s first museum, the New-York Historical Society, will re-open fully on November 11, 2011 with the exhibition Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn, the first exhibition to relate the American, French and Haitian struggles as a single global narrative.

Spanning decades of enormous political and cultural changes, from the triumph of British imperial power in 1763 to the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, Revolution! traces how an ideal of popular sovereignty, introduced through the American fight for independence, soon sparked more radical calls for a recognition of universal human rights, and set off attacks on both sides of the Atlantic against hereditary privilege and slavery. Among the unforeseen outcomes was an insurrection on the French possession of Saint-Domingue, leading to the world’s only successful slave revolt and the establishment in 1804 of the first nation founded on the principles of full freedom and equality for all, regardless of color.

“Just as the New-York Historical Society set new standards for American culture when it opened in 1804, Revolution! will break new ground for American history in 2011,” Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the Historical Society, said in a press statement announcing the new exhibit. “This trailblazing exhibition underscores how much our nation has always been an integral part of a much broader world, and how our city’s great cultural pantheon took shape against the backdrop of a sweeping play of historical forces on an international stage. As we established in our widely acclaimed exhibition on Nueva York, the history of our city has always implicated the history of the world.”

Richard Rabinowitz, founder and president of American History Workshop, serves as chief exhibition curator. Thomas Bender of New York University and Laurent Dubois of Duke University have served as the co-chief historians for Revolution!, drawing on the scholarship of an advisory committee of historians and specialists.

Following its presentation at the New-York Historical Society (November 11, 2011 – April 15, 2012), Revolution! will travel to venues in the U.K., France, and elsewhere in the United States. Educational materials and programs will be distributed internationally, including in Haiti.

The exhibition is made possible with grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural (URR) program and The Nathan Cummings Foundation.

On view in Revolution!

With texts and audio guides in English, French and Haitian Krèyol, the exhibition unfolds in galleries designed to evoke varied gathering places, such as a baroque palace, a portside tavern and a rural Haitian lakou: sites where people of the era felt and shared the “common wind” of political information and opinion. Within these galleries, visitors will encounter paintings, drawings and prints from collections in a dozen countries; historical documents, maps and manuscripts from the hands of participants in these revolutions; audiovisual presentations and interactive learning stations; and curriculum materials for students from kindergarten through graduate school.

Highlights among the three hundred objects in Revolution! include:
· the original Stamp Act, as it was passed by Parliament in 1765 setting off the riots that led to the American Revolution, on loan from the Parliamentary Archives, London, displayed for the first time outside the U.K.

· Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam (oil on canvas, 1752-58, by John Greenwood), the first genre painting in American art history, on loan from the Saint Louis Art Museum, illustrating the sort of tavern where discontent brewed in the Atlantic world, in an 18th-century version of “social networking”

· a first edition of Thomas Paine’s epoch-making pamphlet Common Sense (1776), from the collection of the New-York Historical Society

· an elegant mahogany desk from the first capitol of the United States, Federal Hall in lower Manhattan (c. 1788, New-York Historical Society): the first example of a legislator’s desk in Anglo-American history

· the “Africa Box” filled with craftworks and agricultural products from Africa (ca. 1785, on loan from the Wisbech and Fenland Museum, U.K.), used by Abolitionist Thomas Clarkson in his lectures against slavery, and never before exhibited outside the U.K.

· Vue de l’incendie de la ville du Cap Français (1795, by J.B. Chapuy, Archives départementales de la Martinique), an example of the sort of engraving that brought impressions of the Haiti uprising to an international public

· Napoleon’s authorization to French negotiators to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States (1803, New-York Historical Society), as a direct consequence of the Haitian rebellion

· the only known surviving copy of the first printing of the Haitian Declaration of Independence (1804, National Archives, London), recently discovered and exhibited here to the public for the first time

· a wooden model of the slave ship Brookes, produced for the French revolutionary leader Mirabeau, intended to be used as a prop in the National Assembly’s debate on ending slavery in France (1789, Bibliothèque nationale de France)

· Thomas Jefferson’s copy of Notes on the State of Virginia, his only book, inscribed to the Abbé Morellet, and used by the latter to make the first French translation (1785, New York Public Library)

· a 2nd-century C.E. Roman marble bust of a young man wearing a Phrygian (or “liberty”) cap, which became an inspiration for one of the great symbols of the revolutionary era (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

· three superb vodou sculptures, produced by secret societies in Haiti that were established during the Haitian Revolution (early 20th century, La Fondation pour la Préservation, la Valorisation et la Production d’Oeuvres Culturelles Haïtiennes)

· Anne-Louis Girodet’s magnificent portrait of the great Saint-Domingue military and political leader Jean-Baptiste Belley, the “most important image of a black revolutionary” (1797, Musée National du Château de Versailles)

· a seven-foot-long “carcan” or leg-yoke, used to shackle five captives together, taken from a French slave ship (ca. 1800, Bibliothèque nationale de France)

· and many examples of the broadsides, pamphlets, and political and satirical cartoons that spread, and reflected, revolutionary fervor throughout the period

Plan of the Exhibition

Revolution! tells its story through the following main sections:

The Palace: Imperial Ambitions, Political Realities provides an overview of the Atlantic imperial world in 1763 at the moment when the British defeated French and Spanish forces in the first truly global conflict, the Seven Years War. This triumph came at a price, as the gallery illustrates with evidence of the material riches of the colonial possessions, and the high-level debates within the capital about the costs of exploiting them. Warfare and colonial government were expensive; yet greater taxation within the imperial homeland carried political risks. The leaders of Britain (like their imperial counterparts in Spain and Portugal) chose instead to impose new taxes and regulations on their colonies.

The Tavern: A World of Conspiracy and Connivance brings visitors into contact with the new public sphere of political argument that emerged in the world of the Atlantic’s maritime commerce, as broadsides, pamphlets and dockside murmurings circulated among a growing population of “masterless” people: men and women uprooted from their ancestral homes in Africa, Europe and the Americas. A seaport tavern in the Caribbean is the exhibition’s setting for the exchange of arguments, rumors, information and grievances that took place among colonial planters, royal officials, free people of color, fugitives, sailors, dockworkers and demimondaines. Their public chatter became an increasingly loud, dissonant and often corrosive counterpoint to the official pronouncements of palaces, ministries, cathedrals and courtrooms.

The Uncharted Upheaval in British North America traces the unforeseeable course of American rebellion from the protests against the Stamp Act to the aftermath of the War of Independence, showing these events less as a chronology of conflicts than as a set of “inventions.” Having begun by arguing for their traditional English rights within the empire, the colonists went on to construct universalist arguments for independence and a government based on popular sovereignty. Materials in the gallery illustrate the increasing political and cultural alienation of the colonists; the evolution of their colonial assemblies into wartime “committees of safety”; the formation of a military alliance with England’s imperial rival, France; and the postwar invention of self-government under the Articles of Confederation and then the Constitution.
The British Campaign for the Abolition of Slavery and the Slave Trade explores how the impact of the successful American rebellion—combined with the resistance of the enslaved aboard ships and within American plantations—set off a powerful impulse for reform in Great Britain, as the greatest slave-trading power on earth began the march toward emancipation. Materials in the gallery show how the anti-slavery forces used lectures, community meetings, marches, rallies, petitions to Parliament, the publication of propaganda images and personal testimonies—techniques of political mobilization that are now standard in the democratic world—to advance their cause. By 1807, the British had abolished the slave trade and assumed the role of maritime policemen in the Atlantic, aiming to cripple the human trafficking of Britain’s imperial rivals. This was the second great achievement of the revolutionary era.

Free and Equal: French and African Ideals Liberate the World’s Richest Colony takes the story of revolution to Paris—where the American example, and the cost to the royal treasury of assisting the Americans, contributed to the monarchy’s downfall—and to France’s own prize colony, Saint-Domingue, the western third of the island of Hispaniola. In the wake of 1789, the rich sugar planters of Saint-Domingue struck out for autonomy from France. Meanwhile, their mixed-race offspring, the often prosperous free people of color, responded to the new egalitarian ideals by calling for racial equality within economic classes; and the colony’s poor whites, hating both groups, agitated for the overthrow of all hierarchies. None of these forces wanted the abolition of slavery; but after more than two years of universal conflict, the ninety percent of Saint-Domingue that was African and enslaved rebelled, in summer 1791. At the heart of this chapter is Toussaint Louverture, the military genius, economic czar and law-giver of the rebellion. Its legacy included the total abolition of slavery by the Convention in 1794—the third great achievement of this revolutionary era—but also the ongoing resistance in Saint-Domingue, as ex-slaves chafed at Louverture’s orders for them to remain at their places of work.

The Second Haitian Revolution takes the story into the foothills and mountains of the island, where the formerly enslaved population stole away from the plantations and began creating a distinctive national identity. They melded the enormous diversity of their native African backgrounds into a single culture, through the development of a new form of spirituality (vodoun), a new national language (Krèyol) and a new form of household space and organization (the lakou).

The Triumph of Haitian Independence concludes this part of Revolution! with the story of Napoleon’s 1802 invasion of Saint-Domingue (with the goal of reinstituting slavery, threatening to kill off the existing adult African population and importing an entire new workforce from Africa) and the subsequent resistance. Although successful at first, the French army fell victim to yellow fever, the maroon insurgency in the mountains and their own government’s ineptitude. At the beginning of 1804, having driven the French out of Saint-Domingue, the victorious General Dessalines declared the independence of the second republic established in the Americas, the newly named nation of Haiti, concluding the first (and only) successful slave revolt in history and establishing the first nation to guarantee unconditional equality and emancipation in its constitution. This was the fourth great achievement of this era of revolution.
Legacies, the 19th century shows how the immediate consequences of this first Age of Revolution fell short of the dreams and sacrifices of the revolutionaries. The new Haitian state was quarantined by the imperial powers, with France extending recognition only after Haiti agreed to indemnify whites for the loss of their land and slaves—leaving the nation crippled by debt, and chronically unable to construct a workable political system. The British went on to abolish slavery in their West Indian possessions in the 1830s—but only after compensating slaveholders, and providing them with a new supply of indentured workers from Asia. As for the U.S., it ceased to be a fount of revolutionary activity after its purchase of the Louisiana Territory—a direct consequence of the Haitian revolution—turning inward to a project of continental expansion. (The question of extending slavery into western territories, ironically, would break apart the Union.) Despite these reversals, however, the events of 1776-1804 had implanted an ineradicable aspiration for democratic rights in the Atlantic world and beyond.

Legacies for our time carries the story of Revolution! into the 20th century, when the attainment of universal human rights came to be a global ideal, if certainly not an achieved reality. Dozens of colonial nations declared their independence from European powers, often in language adopted from Jefferson and Lafayette. Slavery, though persisting outside the law, became illegal everywhere. And in 1948, the United Nations brought forth the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which codified a new norm in human affairs: the fundamental entitlement of every person to a life of dignity, liberty and equality. This is the ultimate legacy of the half-century we call the Age of Revolution.

Exhibition Catalog

The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-color, illustrated catalogue edited by Thomas Bender, Laurent Dubois, and Richard Rabinowitz. The volume will feature ten essays by leading scholars: Thomas Bender; Laurent Dubois and Julius S. Scott (University of Michigan); Richard Rabinowitz; T. H. Breen (Northwestern University); Cathy Matson (University of Delaware); David Brion Davis (Yale University) and Peter P. Hinks; Robin Blackburn (New School University); Jeremy D. Popkin (University of Kentucky); Vincent Brown (Duke University); Rebecca J. Scott (University of Michigan) and Jean M. Hébrard (University of Michigan); and Jean Casimir (Université d’État, Haiti).

Education: School Programs

Curriculum materials for grades K through graduate school will include teacher lesson plans and student materials such as maps, copies of primary resources, life stories of exhibition protagonists and timelines. As with all major exhibitions, Museum educators from the Historical Society will conduct teacher training and onsite tours for school groups throughout the run of the exhibition. Teacher materials will also be accessible for download from the Revolution! website at no charge.

Public Programs

A series of evening programs at the Historical Society will feature some of the nation’s top historians, journalists and authors. These programs will be digitally recorded and posted as podcasts on various sites. In addition, the Historical Society will offer educational and community outreach programs for the Haitian-American community in New York and other venue cities, including visual and performing arts, oral history and citizenship education.

A joint scholarly conference with the John Carter Brown Library (Providence, RI) in March 2012 will convene post-secondary audiences and scholars of the subject.

Illustration: Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam (oil on canvas, 1752-58, by John Greenwood).

New-York Historical Aquires Lansing Papers


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At an auction held in May at Sotheby’s the Chairman of the New-York Historical Society, Roger Hertog, purchased the Constitutional Convention notebooks of John Lansing, Jr., a New York delegate to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention. Mr. Hertog has announced that he will donate the exceptionally rare documents to the Library of the Historical Society.

The New-York Historical Society plans to digitize the Lansing papers in their original format to share with scholars everywhere. The documents will also be displayed in an exhibit when the Historical Society’s galleries re-open in November 2011.

“With this magnificent gift, Roger Hertog has secured the New-York Historical Society’s place of privilege as one of the most important repositories in the world for scholarship and teaching around constitutional history,” said Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the Historical Society. “Together with the notes on the Convention written by South Carolinian Pierce Butler—part of the Gilder Lehrman Collection on deposit at the Historical Society—and other extraordinary original resources of both Gilder Lehrman and Historical Society collections, Lansing’s Constitutional Convention Notebooks establish our institution as a principal site for understanding that the Constitution was a product of compromise, negotiation and brilliant thinking, an accomplishment nearly without parallel in modern history.”

“If you love American history, ask yourself how often (if ever) you get the chance to see a first-hand account of one of the most important events in that history,” Roger Hertog stated. “John Lansing’s notebooks from the Constitutional Convention are a rare such account: an eye-witness report of what went into the creation of the U.S. Constitution.”

John Lansing, Jr. (1754-1829) was born in Albany, took up the legal profession and served as a New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention. His detailed notes of the Convention join those of Rufus King, which are already in the Historical Society’s collection, and enrich our knowledge of the debates and compromises that helped forge the foundational document of the United States. Lansing was also a major figure in the New York State ratification convention in 1788 in Poughkeepsie, where his insistence that the new Constitution be enlarged by a Bill of Rights helped to secure the protections that citizens enjoy today.

The delegates’ vow of secrecy, which banned the taking of notes for publication, limited the amount of material created documenting the Convention proceedings. Although notes by a number of other delegates, including James Madison, survive, Lansing’s are among the purest and most detailed, providing a unique and unedited first-hand account of the period of Lansing’s attendance at the Convention.

“Reading through the Lansing notebooks is a thrilling experience,” Jean Ashton, Executive Vice President of the New-York Historical Society and Director of the Library Division said in a prepared statement. “Lansing recorded speeches and discussions, assigning names and identifying positions, as the delegates participated in the give-and-take of debate. Lansing became distressed that the meeting was seeking to establish an entirely new government rather than simply amending the Articles of Confederation, as charged. Lansing and his fellow New Yorker Richard Yates left the Convention early, but not before he had participated actively and created this illuminating and highly significant record.”

Illustration: Engraving of John Lansing (1754–1829) from the New-York Historical Society Library, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, Gift of Albert Rosenthal.

JFK Program at Society for Ethical Culture


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It’s been fifty years since John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the nation’s 35th president, yet his specter remains ever present in the American consciousness. In conversation with Bob Herbert, celebrated biographer Robert Dallek examines the trials and tribulations Kennedy faced during his political career—obstacles that are surprisingly resonant to issues facing our current president—including the Cold War, conflict in Southeast Asia, and the resistance he faced in passing domestic policy.

Robert Dallek is the author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 and the new book John F. Kennedy, and is a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Bob Herbert (moderator) is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. He is the author of Promises Betrayed: Waking Up from the American Dream.

During the New-York Historical Society’s major renovation project (from April 2010 – November 2011) the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Distinguished Speakers Series will be presented at the New York Society for Ethical Culture at 2 West 64th Street at Central Park West.

Date: May 24 2011 6:30 PM
Full Price Ticket (Non-Members): $20.00
Member Cost: $10.00

Tickets for this program are sold through SmartTix. To order online visit www.smarttix.com. To order by phone please call SmartTix at 212-868-4444. The SmartTix Call Center is open 9am-8pm Monday through Friday, 10am-8pm Saturday and 10am-6pm Sunday. For more information on programs:

Please call the N-YHS Public Programs Department at 212-485-9205. Management reserves the right to refuse admission to latecomers.

Times Square Photo Contest Winners


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To add to the public’s appreciation of New York’s cityscape, and to encourage photographers to share their visions of America’s greatest city, the New-York Historical Society initiated its Times Square photography contest: an open competition in which anyone could submit views of the architecture, people, billboards and bustle of the gaudiest and most celebrated district in Manhattan.

A panel of distinguished judges—society photographer Mary Hilliard, muralist Richard Haas and Times Square photographer and collector Barney Ingoglia—today announced the three winners of the contest.

All photographs submitted by the contestants may become part of the New-York Historical Society’s permanent collection. The photographs of the 29 semi-finalists, including the top three prize-winners, will also be featured on Flickr.

The winning photographs will be displayed in Times Square, in partnership with the Times Square Alliance and in continuation of both organizations’ public art initiatives.

First prize went to Fallon Chan for “Watching over Broadway,” which shows the back of the statue of George M. Cohan that stands facing Broadway. Taken with a telephoto lens, the photograph pulls in the Broadway sign nearly a block away, along with the crowd of pedestrians, while evoking the history of the Theater District through the figure of Cohan: the playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer and producer once known as “the man who owned Broadway.”

Second prize went to Michael Schmidt for “These Lights Will Inspire You,” the quintessential signage photograph. The foreground captures the speed and excitement of the taxis in the streets, while the background of marquees for Broadway shows leaves no doubt about where the photograph was taken.

Third prize went to Juan Beltran for “The Recruiter,” a mysterious image evoking a moment at the long-standing Times Square Recruitment Center. The composition draws in the viewer with its interplay of direct vision, shadow and mirrored reflections of Times Square street activity.

Photo: Hilton Times Square Hotel, West 42nd St., by Nancy Fred.

Ron Chernow Awarded American History Book Prize


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Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, announced today that Ron Chernow has been chosen to receive the Society’s sixth annual American History Book Prize for his most recent work, Washington: A Life (Penguin Press, 2010). The Historical Society will present Chernow with an engraved medal, the title of American Historian Laureate and a cash award of $50,000 at the beginning of its annual Weekend with History event, hosted by the Chairman’s Council, on April 8, 2011.

Ron Chernow’s previous books include The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance (for which he received the National Book Award), The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and Alexander Hamilton.

Roger Hertog, Chairman of the New-York Historical Society’s Board of Trustees, stated, “With his studies of Hamilton, Rockefeller, the Warburgs and the House of Morgan, Ron Chernow has become the biographer’s biographer. His Washington will undoubtedly become the definitive life of our first President.”

“How can I not be thrilled to receive an award bestowed by a jury that includes distinguished historians under the auspices of one of our foremost historical societies?” Chernow asked. “We are living through an unusually rich period of historical writing, and I have no doubt that the field was crowded in 2010 with many worthy competitors for the prize.”

Washington: A Life
was selected from a pool of 99 submissions made by a committee comprised of historians and New-York Historical Society leadership.

In its award citation, the award jury stated, “Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life is an exceptionally well-written book and offers a truly fresh perspective on the personality of Washington, bringing him to life and paradoxically making him more sympathetic because of the faults (vanity, aloofness, ambition) that are delineated.”

Pam Schafler, Vice Chair of the New-York Historical Society and Chair of the Chairman’s Council, added, “We are delighted that Ron Chernow is being recognized for this latest biography, which joins his distinguished body of work. His remarks are sure to be a highlight of our Weekend with History gala dinner on April 8.”

Now being presented for the sixth year, Weekend with History offers participants the opportunity to engage in two days of presentations and informal conversations with leading historians and cultural figures. The event is hosted by the Chairman’s Council, comprised of the Historical Society’s most committed supporters. Individuals may be invited to join the Council by Trustees and senior staff of the Historical Society and by existing members of the Council.

The American History Book Prize was previously awarded during Weekend with History to Doris Kearns Goodwin for Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln; David Nasaw for Andrew Carnegie; Daniel Walker Howe for What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848; Drew Gilpin Faust for This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War; and Gordon S. Wood for Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815.

An honors graduate of Yale and Cambridge, Ron Chernow has received wide acclaim for his deeply researched yet vivid explorations of the course of individual lives within the structures and institutions of American history. In addition to winning the National Book Award, Chernow received the prestigious George S. Eccles Prize for Best Business Book for The Warburgs and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in biography for his lives of both John D. Rockefeller and Alexander Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton was also the first recipient of the influential George Washington Prize for the year’s best book on the founding era.

For more information on Weekend with History or the Chairman’s Council, please contact Corrie Manis at 212-485-9221 or cmanis@nyhistory.org.