Current & Upcoming Exhibits 

Personal Correspondents:
Photography and Letter Writing in Civil War Brooklyn

April 9, 2015 - Spring 2016
Personal Correspondents



Between 1861 and 1865, over 30,000 men departed Brooklyn to fight in the American Civil War. They left behind spouses, sweethearts, parents, children, siblings, and friends. Personal Correspondents: Photography and Letter Writing in Civil War Brooklyn examines how these Brooklynites remembered and communicated with each other, and how they chronicled the war on the home front and the battlefield. Featuring evocative letters and photographs from Brooklyn Historical Society’s collection, this exhibition brings to life Brooklynites’ everyday experiences during one of the nation’s most transformative times.

Personal Correspondents was developed in collaboration with Green-Wood as part of a joint programming initiative commemorating the 150th anniversary of the war’s end through exhibitions, educational curricula, and public programming. Visit Green-Wood’s exhibition, To Bid You All Good Bye: Civil War Stories, on display from May 23 to July 12, 2015.

Brooklyn Sewers: What’s Up Down There?

June 9, 2015 - May 29, 2016
Brooklyn Sewers



BHS is pleased to be opening an exhibition that explores one of Brooklyn’s oldest and most extensive infrastructure projects: its sewer system. This exhibition tells the story of the creation of the Brooklyn sewer system through a historical look at four corners of Kings County: Flatlands, Bushwick, Coney Island and Fort Greene. Visitors are invited to look beneath the surface into the problems, challenges, and issues that each of these neighborhoods faced in the creation of the sewer system, and the factors that made an integrated municipal system for sewerage an absolute necessity. The exhibition was curated by a team of teen curators who participated in BHS’s free afterschool museum studies program known as Exhibition Laboratory, or Ex Lab.


Mapping Brooklyn

Les États-Unis d’Amérique
   Joyce Kozloff, Les États-Unis d’Amérique, 2013;
   acrylic, collage and digital archival inkjet print.

Co-presented at BRIC Arts | Media House and the Brooklyn Historical Society

Curated by Elizabeth Ferrer, Vice President, Contemporary Art at BRIC


On view at BHS
February 26, 2015 - September 6, 2015
On view at BRIC
February 26, 2015 - May 3, 2015

A prime impetus for visual artists has been to better understand and interpret the world around them.  In contemporary practice, artists observe, collect, explore, interact, depict, and diagram. Cartographers follow similar impulses in seeking to give visual form to geography and to physical space. Mapping Brooklyn juxtaposes the work of contemporary artists working with historic maps, with examples of maps themselves, suggesting the myriad ways that maps can represent, on the one hand, such practical matters as way finding, property ownership, population shifts, and war strategy, and on other, the terrain of the metaphorical, psychological, and personal. In the galleries at both venues, historic maps and contemporary works will be in dialogue, suggesting common themesthe desire to explore, chart, and analyze territoryand highlight the innovative ways that contemporary artists use mapping, cartography, and exploration, to reveal data, ideas, and emotions.

A key element of Mapping Brooklyn is its local focus. Brooklyn is not only an international center of the contemporary art world, but also the most populous of New York’s boroughs, with over 2.5 million residents.   It is a place of astounding diversityfew Brooklynites can claim familiarity with all of its neighborhoods and diverse cultures. It is also a place of changeneighborhoods and demographics are in constant flux, as are the built environment and use of land. With this exhibition, we aim to introduce visitors to the remarkable range of historic maps that have sought to study and document facets of the borough to contemporary art works that reveal mapping as a powerful means of representation.

Brooklyn Abolitionists/In Pursuit of Freedom

In Pursuit of Freedom
John Halpern for Brooklyn Historical Society.
January 15, 2014 – Winter 2018

This major, long-term exhibit explores the unsung heroes of Brooklyn’s anti-slavery movement -- ordinary residents, black and white -- who shaped their neighborhoods, city and nation with a revolutionary vision of freedom and equality. The exhibit is part of the groundbreaking In Pursuit of Freedom public history project that features new research on Brooklyn's abolition movement in partnership with Weeksville Heritage Center and Irondale Ensemble Project.

Learn more on the exhibition website here.






Brooklyn Remembered: The Watercolors of James Ryder Van Brunt

Brooklyn Remembered
August 27, 2014 - June 28, 2015

This exhibit presents thirteen watercolors from BHS’s collection by 19th century Brooklyn native James Ryder Van Brunt. Van Brunt was a descendant of Brooklyn’s earliest settlers and a gifted amateur painter who devoted decades to recording neat and colorful views of Dutch homesteads and historic landmarks.  His images of these picturesque sites, a number of which had already been demolished, reflected the widespread nostalgia for an agrarian past during a period of rapid change as Brooklyn grew from a collection of villages into a city.

The Emancipation Proclamation 

Emancipation Proclamation
October 16, 2013 – Winter 2018

View a replica of Brooklyn Historical Society’s rare copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, and examine its dramatic and polemic impact on Americans at the height of the Civil War. The exhibit suggests ways that the document’s social and political meaning has evolved in the 150 years since it was signed, and invites visitors to reflect on its legacy in the twenty-first century.


Full Steam Ahead: 200 Years of Ferries in Brooklyn

Full Steam Ahead
May 2014 - June 2015

In 1814, Robert Fulton launched the first steam ferry between Brooklyn and Manhattan, transforming the relationship between the two places and ushering in a period of enormous growth in Brooklyn. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Fulton's ferry, BHS has mined its archives to reveal wonderful details of Brooklyn’s ferry history. Materials on display include paintings of the Union Ferry Company fleet, colorful tickets and timetables, and business records from the early days of steam ferry travel.

Sweet Industries: Refining What We Know

Sweet Industries June 10, 2014 - May 17, 2015

Sugar has fueled Brooklyn’s economic growth for over 150 years. Sweet Industries reveals stories of this delicious commodity and its associated businesses with a focus on two companies: Domino Sugar Corporation and Drake’s Bakeries. The exhibit shares the experiences of generations of Brooklynites who dedicated their working lives to satisfying America’s sweet tooth. Sweet Industries was curated by nine Brooklyn teens who participated in “Ex Lab,” BHS’s annual museum studies afterschool program.

Permanent Collection Installations

Chronicling Brooklyn’s Landscapes

Features paintings of Brooklyn from many eras alongside a copy of Brooklyn Historical Society's rare Ratzer Plan of New York.
2nd Floor Parlor

Portraits of Prominent New Yorkers 

Includes paintings from Brooklyn Historical Society's historic collections as well as a recent artist commission by Meredith Bergman, Historia Testis Temporis: Pinky.
2nd Floor Hall and 3rd Floor Landing