Public Programs

Brooklyn Historical Society offers a wide array of public programming that celebrates the diversity of Brooklyn's past and present and takes a close look at where the borough is headed. With panel discussions with Brooklyn luminaries, screenings of classic and groundbreaking films, thought-provoking talks on Brooklyn's history from new perspectives, family art and dance activities, and more, BHS has something for everyone.

Recently at BHS

Brandon Willitts, Executive Director of Words After War, leads a panel discussion about writing war with National Book Award winner Philip Klay (Redeployment), former U.S. Army Captain Matt Gallagher (Kaboom), author Sara Novic (Girl at War), and poet and playwright Maurice Decaul.

For more BHS public programs you can watch from home, browse our Vimeo page.

Calendar of Programs



How Brooklyn Works films

Why New York? Our Broken Bail System

Tue, Oct 6, 6:30 pm
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The sole purpose of bail is to ensure that defendants return to court. Yet in Brooklyn, nearly 90% of misdemeanor defendants can’t afford $1,000 bail. The result: they’re sent to Rikers and ultimately plead guilty just to go home. Shaila Dewan, a New York Times journalist who has written extensively about bail, will moderate a panel that explores New York’s two-tiered criminal justice system where income too often determines guilt or innocence. Panelists will include Honorable Judge George Grasso, Public Defender (previously with Brooklyn Defender Services) Josh Saunders, and criminal justice reform advocate Glenn E. Martin, and an individual who couldn't afford bail.

SIMS Recycling PlantHidden Brooklyn: SIMS Recycling Plant

Wed, Oct 7, 6:30 pm
$15/$10 for BHS & G-W Members
Newly opened in 2013, the state-of-the-art SIMS Recycling Facility in Sunset Park is changing how Brooklyn handles recycling, with an eye to sustainability and all-ages education. Get a behind-the-scenes introduction to the history of the company, including its work on metal clean-up after 9/11, and a special tour of the innovative, fascinating, and (a little bit) loud recycling plant. Please note that this is an off-site tour. Exact meeting location for the tour is included in the confirmation email upon purchasing tickets to this event. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

Changing Face of ActivismThe Changing Face of Activism

Thu, Oct 8, 6:30 pm
$5/Free for BHS & G-W Members
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How has affecting social change evolved, from desegregation in the 1960s, to Black Lives Matter today? Moderated by Alethia Jones, a leader of 1199SEIU UHWE, the panelists include Barbara Smith, who has spent four decades fighting racism, classism, homophobia and sexism; Joo-Hyun Kang of Communities United for Police Reform; and Jose Lopez, Lead Organizer at Make the Road NY and member of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Joseph AlexiouJoseph Alexiou on Gowanus: Brooklyn's Curious Canal

Tue, Oct 13, 7 pm
$10/$5 for BHS & G-W Members
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Joseph Alexiou's forthcoming book, Gowanus: Brooklyn's Curious Canal, narrates more than three hundred years in the history of our borough's most compelling former industrial waterway. From idyllic oyster beds to dumping grounds for toxic waste, Gowanus is intrinsically linked to Brooklyn's industrial and agricultural past. In celebration of his book’s release, Alexiou will discuss the parallels in today's Gowanus real estate rush with that of the 1860s, which coincided with Brooklyn's rapid industrial transformation.

Presented in partnership with Brooklyn Brainery.

Whitney PlantationA Conversation with John Cummings, Founder of the Whitney Plantation, America’s First Slavery Museum

Thu, Oct 15
TIME CHANGE: This program will now begin at 6pm
$10/$5 for BHS & G-W Members
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Last year, the first museum of slavery opened on the site of a former Louisiana plantation. John Cummings spent 15 years and $8 million of his own fortune to do it. Hear his story and the story of the Whitney Plantation in this fascinating conversation. Jelani Cobb, whose writings about race frequently appear in The New Yorker and The New York Times, moderates, and Dr. Ibrahima Seck, Director of Research at the Whitney Plantation, joins the conversation.

              Free Fridays

Life after Surveillance in Bay Ridge's Muslim Community

Tue, Oct 20, 6:30 pm
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New York City's post-9/11 security measures had a tremendous affect on Bay Ridge's Muslim community. At its height, the extensive police use of informants sewed deep distrust in the neighborhood. Now that the post-post-9/11 era is upon us with an administration that says it's moving away from heavy intelligence penetration, has life changed in Bay Ridge? Join Jarrett Murphy, Executive Editor of City Limits, as he engages in this important discussion with community leaders, scholars, and experts such as Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York, Moustafa Bayoumi, award-winning writer, and Professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and Dr. Ahmad Jaber, an OB/GYN at the Lutheran Medical Center in Bay Ridge and a Muslim religious educator.

In Clay Lancaster’s Footsteps: A Walking Tour of NYC’s First Historic District

Sun, Oct 25, 2 pm
$25/$20 for BHS, G-W and Brooklyn Heights Association members
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Fifty years ago, before landmark protection laws were established, preservationist Clay Lancaster developed a walking tour that celebrated the architectural treasures of Brooklyn Heights. His efforts helped save a threatened neighborhood and led to designating the Heights as NYC’s first historic district. Re-live Lancaster’s fabled walk in this special tour. Led by architectural historian Francis Morrone and preservationist Liz McEnaney, light refreshments will be served at the surprise last stop! Tickets must be purchased in advance. Meeting location will be shared upon purchase.

Ron Chernow & Oskar EustisAlexander Hamilton, the Man and the Play: A Conversation with Ron Chernow and Oskar Eustis

Mon, Oct 26, 6:30 pm
$10/$5 for BHS and G-W members
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Historian Ron Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton, inspired The Public Theater’s hit musical, Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Oskar Eustis, The Public’s Artistic Director, joins Chernow to discuss the complexities of staging history. Moderated by Rebecca Mead of The New Yorker.

How Brooklyn Works: Sewers and Wastewater Treatment

Wed, Oct 28, 6:30 pm
$5/Free for BHS and G-W members
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A system designed to be invisible, Brooklyn’s sewers are vast, complex, innovative, and integral to the functioning of New York City, and yet the average New Yorker rarely needs to consider their existence. Kate Ascher, author of The Works: Anatomy of a City, leads a diverse panel of experts who will shine a light on the system’s history, as well as its contemporary challenges and the creative solutions that will lead to a more sustainable unseen system.

Presented in partnership with Atlas Obscura.


Brother Outsider“Activism on Film” Screening and Discussion: Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin

Mon, Nov 2, 6:30 pm
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We continue our “Activism on Film” documentary series with a screening of the award-winning film on civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Rustin’s work, including his organization of the 1963 March on Washington, should have made him a household name, but he was forced to remain in the background due to his open homosexuality. This film finally brings his incredible story to light. Talk-back with director Bennett Singer and Walter Naegle, Rustin’s surviving partner, to follow.

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Brooklyn Trial of KGB Spy Rudolf Abel

Wed, Nov 4, 6:30 pm
$5/Free for BHS and G-W members
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Soviet spy rings on American soil? Microphotographs hidden in hollow nickels? It may seem the stuff of a Hollywood espionage thriller, but this all happened in our backyard. Hear the true story of Spielberg and Hanks’ latest film, Bridge of Spies, when a panel of experts shines a light on Cold War Brooklyn and the case of KGB spy Rudolf Abel.

Cry Havoc

Mon, Nov 9, 6:30 pm
$20/$15 for BHS and G-W members
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Actor/veteran Stephan Wolfert’s one-man show, Cry Havoc, directed by Eric Tucker, brings us face to face with the horrors of war and the unexpected battles faced by the return to civilian life, interspersing Shakespeare’s timeless warriors into a contemporary tale.

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1Screening and Discussion: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Wed, Nov 11, 6:30 pm
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This Veterans Day, join us for a screening of the 2015 Academy Award-winning Best Documentary, a powerful film that follows those on the frontline of the only veterans’ suicide hotline in the country. Introduced by director Ellen Goosenberg Kent, a talkback with Bryan Doerries of “Theater of War,” Iraq war veteran Phoebe Gavin, and others, follows.

TFTV: War CorrespondenceTales from the Vault: War Correspondence

Thu, Nov 12, 6:30 pm
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Join us for a Veterans Day celebration in our archives as we explore the life and times of American veterans in Brooklyn. BHS archivist John Zarrillo examines Brooklyn’s role in America’s wars, from the Revolutionary War to the present, and shares stories from veterans and their families in their own words using correspondence and objects found in our collections.

Malcolm X in BrooklynMalcolm X in Brooklyn

Mon, Nov 16, 6:30 pm
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Although most closely identified with Harlem, Malcolm X’s work and influence extended throughout New York City—including Brooklyn, where he helped to establish a Muslim mosque and encourage its members to establish local businesses. Fifty years after his death, Malcolm X’s influence in Brooklyn can be seen not only in its religious life, but also in its politics and culture. Drawing on his work at Columbia University’s Malcolm X Project and his own graduate research, BHS’s Oral Historian Zaheer Ali explores Malcolm X’s history and continued legacy in Brooklyn.

Bobbito and StretchTold It First Hand: Screening and Discussion of Stretch and Bobbito: Radio that Changed Lives

Tue, Nov 17, 7 pm
$10/$5 for BHS and G-W members
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Hosts of “The Best Hip Hop Radio Show of All-Time” on WKCR, Stretch and Bobbito left an indelible mark on the Hip Hop world, introducing the public to now larger-than-life names like Nas, Biggie, Jay-Z, Eminem, and the Fugees. After a screening of their new documentary, Stretch and Bobbito: Radio that Changed Lives, Brooklyn Bodega’s Wes Jackson is joined by Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia for a discussion of their radio careers.

Photo by Jon Lopez

Movers and Shakers: Dance Activists in NYC

Thu, Nov 19, 6:30 pm
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New York City has always been a place where artistic expression and activism merge, and the dance world is no exception. Eva Yaa Asantewaa leads a discussion about artistic expression as activism among pioneering dancers who are leaders in their genre including Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Camille A. Brown, Ant Boogie and Jason Samuels Smith.

Presented in partnership with the Brooklyn Dance Festival.

Brooklyn HeightsSPECIAL EVENT
Cocktails and Conversation:
An Evening to Honor NYC's First Historic District

Mon, Nov 23, 2015, 6:30pm
General Admission: $100
Member Price: $80
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Join us for a very special celebration honoring the 50th Anniversary of the designation of Brooklyn Heights as New York City's finest historic district. This elegant evening will include cocktails and a program that features architectural historican Francis Morrone and Anthony C. Wood, founder and chair of The New York Preservation Archive Project (NYPAP). Offered in partnership with NYPAP and the Brooklyn Heights Assocation.

The Long Island Historical Society, circa 1890, v1973.6.224; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection,
ARC.202; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Mary-Louise ParkerPerson Place Thing with Randy Cohen and Mary-Louise Parker

Mon, Nov 30, 6:30 pm
$5/Free for BHS and G-W members
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Local resident Mary-Louise Parker chats with Randy Cohen in this latest installment of Person Place Thing. As always, Cohen will record the conversation as he talks to Parker about life and her new memoir, Dear Mr. You. An Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress, Parker has taken on a wide-array of memorable roles on stage (Proof, Reckless, Hedda Gabler, etc.), on the big screen (Fried Green Tomatoes, Mr. Wonderful, The Portrait of a Lady, RED, etc.), and the small screen (The West Wing, Angels in America, Weeds, etc.). Now she can add published author to her long list of accomplishments.

Photo (left) by Melanie Dunea


City Reliquary’s Annual Collector’s Night!

Wed, Dec 2, 6:30 pm
$10/$5 for BHS and G-W Members
Ticket information will be available soon!
People say that if something exists, somebody somewhere probably collects it! Brooklyn’s dusting off its quirkiest collections for City Reliquary’s Annual Collector’s Night!

Art by Joan ChivertonConcert: Brooklyn Art Song Society Presents Britannica Part III: Gerald Finzi and Ralph Vaughan Williams

Thu, Dec 3, 7 pm
$25/$15 for BHS and G-W members
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Brooklyn Art Song Society returns to BHS after last year’s sold out all-Poulenc program. For this program BASS features two of the most beloved British song cycles: Gerald Finzi’s A Young Man’s Exhortation and Ralph Vaughan William’s Songs of Travel. Gerald Finzi’s masterpiece will be performed by tenor Dominic Armstrong accompanied by pianist Michael Brofman. Baritone Sydney Outlaw and pianist Brent Funderburk both make their BASS debut with Songs of Travel.  

Art by Joan Chiverton

Cocoa in the City: NYC Chocolate Makers

Thu, Dec 10, 7 pm
$12/$8 for BHS and G-W members
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Historic gastronomist Sarah Lohman returns to BHS, this time to explore the history and intricate production process behind everyone’s favorite treat: chocolate. With a panel of chocolate makers, from bean to bar producers to confectioners of fine chocolates, discover the origin story behind some of your favorite chocolate bars and mouth-watering truffles. Tastings included!

Presented in partnership with Brooklyn Brainery.

Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival

Fri, Dec 11, 6:30 pm
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Perhaps the one constant in our dynamic borough is that it is constantly changing, so thank goodness there are documentarians capturing the stories that make Brooklyn what it is. Join us for an evening of visual storytelling hosted by the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival.

Harvey Milk“Activism on Film” Screening and Discussion: The Times of Harvey Milk

Mon, Dec 14, 6:30 pm
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Our “Activism on Film” series concludes with a screening of the Academy Award-winning documentary about trailblazing activist Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States. Nearly 40 years after his assassination, Milk’s work remains a powerful symbol in the fight for equality.

NYC and Food Poverty: Margarette Purvis, Food Bank For New York City President and CEO, In Conversation

Tue, Dec 15, 6:30 pm
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In New York City, approximately 1.4 million people rely on soup kitchens and food pantries. In conjuction with BHS's exhibition, Hidden in Plain Sight: Portraits of Hunger in NYC, opening November 11, 2015, Margarette Purvis, President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City, shines a spotlight on a problem that is hiding in plain sight.

Disguising Brooklyn: Film and TV’s Favorite Location

Thu, Dec 17, 6:30 pm
$5/Free for BHS and G-W members
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Brooklyn is known for being the centerpiece of many popular television shows and films throughout history, but did you know that many of the stories you see on the big and small screens often disguise Brooklyn to look like someplace else? Join Jim O'Grady of WNYC as he talks to location scouts from popular TV shows like The Good Wife about the hows and whys of disguising Brooklyn.

The Moth

Mon, Dec 21
Doors: 7 pm; Stories: 7:30 pm
*Advance member registration via special BHS e-blast in early December. Become a BHS member today and be amongst the first to sign up for this popular program!*
The Moth StorySLAM returns to BHS! In connection with the BHS exhibition on the history of the Brooklyn Americans hockey team, the theme of the evening will be THIN ICE. Test your storytelling prowess and regale the wintertime audience with your story of successfully navigating from thin ice to solid ground… or of falling through.

Family Programs

Art, Movement, Music, Pretend!
BHS Family Programs Return in October!

Join us every Saturday at 11am, October 10th through April 16th.

For children ages 3-7. Program admission is $5 per participating child; accompanying adults and siblings are free! Make sure to arrive early, as admission will be first come, first served.

To keep up-to-date on whether we will be singing with Lloyd H. Miller, making history-themed crafts, or moving and grooving with Together in Dance,
sign up to receive our weekly eblast reminding you of this week's BHS Family Program HERE.

Partner Series

BLAST! from the PastBLAST! from the Past: A Dinner Party Series

Remaining Date: Oct 15

Humboldt & Jackson
434 Humboldt Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
$70 for each program (including tax, gratuity and all beverages)
Join Brooklyn Brewery and BHS in New York City’s first culinary time machine at Humboldt & Jackson as we journey back through great eras in New York’s culinary history. We’ll be visiting four unique periods, bringing you beer-centric meals inspired by each evening’s place in history. This is BLAST! from the Past: A Brooklyn Brewery Dinner Party Series.

Dinner Party No. 4: Windows on the World
Oct 15, 6:30 pm
We’re going back to Back to the Future to visit New York City in the 1980s. This wild decade included not only the founding of the Brooklyn Brewery, but co-founder Steve Hindy hosting his first-ever beer dinner at Windows on the World. That menu will be brought back to light just in time for our trip.


Brooklyn Historical Society requires 24 hours notice before the date of the event to refund a ticket. No refunds are provided after that point. This means no refunds are provided on the day of the event and all subsequent days.

Bank of AmericaPublic Programs are made possible, in part, by a generous grant from Bank of America. 

Additonal funding provided by The Agnes Varis Trust.