Current & Upcoming Exhibits 

Gaining Access: The New York City Disability Rights Movement

July 1, 2015 - October 2015
Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association March, 1946

In celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the passing of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), this exhibition looks at the growth of the Disabilities Rights Movement in New York City. Chronicling stories of civil disobedience and self-advocacy, “Gaining Access” charts the history of the modern movement which arose in the early 1960s and illustrates the rise of disability as a demographic and social issue. Accessible transit, building access, curb cuts in sidewalks, and deinstitutionalization of individuals with mental and cognitive disabilities are some of the battlegrounds and hard-won victories described. These are stories of advocates who recognized that they needed to remake the world, so that they might fully participate in it. Their accomplishments included the first legal protections against discrimination, and the creation of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.

The exhibit features dozens of historic images, rare video footage, and one-of-a-kind original artifacts from the half century history of the movement. “Gaining Access” is the first museum exhibition about the Disability Rights Movement in New York City, recounting a history reminiscent of the civil rights struggles waged by other groups of Americans.

The exhibit is curated by historian Warren Shaw, and presented in partnership with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.

AT&TFREE FRIDAYS! Every Friday throughout the run of this exhibition, we’re pleased to offer people with disabilities free admission to BHS, with special thanks to AT&T and the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities.


For an audio version of the exhibition, click here. Braille copies are available for the signs and exhibit item labels, which you may request at the admissions desk on the Ground Level.

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.

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.

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.

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