Current & Upcoming Exhibits 

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 2014

View the exact original 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.

She said, She said: Art and inspiration in the work of Nell Painter and Lucille Fornasieri Gold

She said
June 26, 2014 - February 4, 2015

This exhibition juxtaposes two separate but related bodies of artwork - photographs of Brooklyn in the 1970s and 1980s, and the paintings they inspired many decades later. Lucille Fornasieri Gold documented everyday life in her multi-racial, multi-ethnic Brooklyn neighborhood. In 2008, Brooklyn Historical Society acquired her photographs, and two years later, the artist Nell Painter found them. Nell created new images by digitally manipulating fragments of Lucille's photographs and painting them into visual fiction.

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 - January 10, 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

Historical Views of and from Brooklyn

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

An American Family Grows in Brooklyn: The Lefferts Family Papers 

Digital Exhibit

Explore a Brooklyn family's complex legacy through BHS's archival collections.

Spanning almost four centuries, the Lefferts Family Papers reveal Brooklyn’s remarkable transformation from an agricultural frontier to a diverse urban center.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Leon Levy Foundation, Brooklyn Historical Society has been able to process, conserve, and digitize the letters, journals, books, maps, photographs, legal records, and many other documents that chronicle one of Brooklyn’s first families.

View the digital exhibit>>