Current & Upcoming Exhibits 

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.

We The People: The Citizens of NYCHA in Photos + Words

September 27, 2014 - March 8, 2015
We The People
   Photo by Shino Yanagawa

We the People challenges and confronts
misconceptions and stereotypes associated with African-American and Latino residents living in New York City public housing. The project, a collaboration between journalist Rico Washington and photographer Shino Yanagawa, pairs photographs alongside candid interviews with residents. Inspired by the documentarian works of Jacob Riis, Gordon Parks, and Ruiko Yoshida, Washington and Yanagawa conducted interviews in various housing authority complexes across New York City’s five boroughs over a period of 18 months. We the People features such notable NYCHA former residents as hip-hop artist/actor Yasiin Bey (formally known as Mos Def), jazz musician/recording artist Olu Dara, filmmaker Dennis Watlington, hop-hop icon Afrika Bambaataa, and many more.


The exhibit also includes an essay by Jamel Shabazz, a Brooklyn-born fashion, fine art, and documentary photographer whose work has been exhibited at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, as well as featured in films and album covers.

Wonder: First Encounters with Green-Wood

September 30, 2014 - Spring 2015
Wonder John Bhatia
Photo by John Bhatia


In Digital Photography, a beginning photography course at City tech, Robin Michals’ students visited Green-Wood Cemetery for the first time, and experienced, interacted, and captured the cemetery through fresh eyes. The images chronicle the wonder of experiencing Green-Wood Cemetery for the first time. Whether capturing gravestones and statuary, the natural environment, or the interplay of graveyard and urban center, these photographs show students from five different semesters experimenting, taking risks, and honing their own aesthetic approach.

Before photographing Green-Wood, the students visited Brooklyn Historical Society to examine original documents related to the cemetery’s history. Directly and indirectly, their work reflects the knowledge they gained from their archival research. Together, the images reveal the many personal, social, and cultural roles that the cemetery has played and continues to play in the lives of Brooklynites.

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.

Unlocking Two Revolutionary War Maps: The Ratzer Maps at BHS

Unlocking Two Revolutionary War Maps
August 27, 2014 - February 26, 2015

On display are two versions of a map created by Lieutenant Bernard Ratzer, an engineer and surveyor in the British Army. He surveyed New York and its environs between 1766 and 1767 and printed the map in 1770. The larger map is a rare, first state (i.e. first edition) of Ratzer’s Plan of the City of New York. It is 1 of only 4 versions of this map known to exist in the world.  The second is a portion of that same map that was used by Hugh Earl Percy, General in the British Army, during the Battle of Long Island in August 1776. Both are being shown to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Long Island, as well as BHS’s joint acquisition of the “Lord Percy” map with Green-Wood Cemetery.

The installation includes a new reading rail featuring text from historian Barnet Schecter as well as BHS President Deborah Schwartz.

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