NYC abounds in its wealth of iconic museums, obscure museums and more. Which takes the prize for aging gracefully against the test of time? Discover the ten oldest museums in New York City in our list below.
Photo by The New York Historical Society via the Hathi Trust Digital Library
The New-York Historical Society Museum and Library, founded in 1804, takes the title of oldest museum in New York City. The Society changed locations eight times until 1902, when construction began on its present building on 170 Central Park West. The photo above shows the Society’s building in 1908. See past exhibits and events at the NYHS.
Yesterday afternoon, two historic events occurred. First, the oldest known, unopened time capsule was opened with ceremonial pomp at the New York Historical Society. As we published about earlier, the bronze capsule was deposited by the Lower Wall Street Business Men’s Association in 1914 for an intended opening date of 1974, but it missed its date with destiny due to miscataloguing. Of most interest is that in the capsule there was believed to be a copy of a letter written in May 1774 at the Merchants’ Coffee House, believed to be the impetus for the united colonies and the American Revolution.
Image via New York Historical Society
It seems to be the month of time capsule openings here in New York City, with a 1949 time capsule that was just opened this morning on Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn. Next week on October 8th, the New York Historical Society will open a bronze one from a century ago deposited by the Lower Wall Street Business Men’s Association. In fact, it’s the oldest, unopened time capsule because it was temporarily lost for a few decades.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 75 years since twelve little girls in two straight lines were introduced to the world. This Friday, The New York Historical Society Museum & Library is opening their newest exhibit, Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans, in celebration of the beloved children’s literature and media franchise Madeline, and in honor of the life and work of her creator, writer and artist Ludwig Bemelmans. The retrospective of Bemelmans work (the first in 50 years) features over 100 classic and recently discovered drawings, paintings, sketches, photos, memorabilia and commissioned works of art. While the character Bemelmans created 75 years ago is known to countless children and adults worldwide as Parisian; President of the NYHS Dr. Lousie Mirrer made it clear that Madeline’s “biography is a New York story,” with much of Bemelmans’ inspiration coming from the city where he made his home.
Since Madeline’s introduction in 1939, she has graced everything from books, to toys, to video games, to live action cinema to children’s cartoons. What started out as a story about a girl living in an old house in Paris has become a media empire. But her success wasn’t always so clear. Despite its eventual fan base, when Bemelmans first showed May Massee–an editor working for Viking Press in NYC who told him specifically when they first met that he “must write children’s book’s!–the first Madeline book, she refused to publish it. Massee felt that the book was too complicated for younger reader, which turned out to be the greatest mistake of her career.
In the book New York City in the Gilded Age, Esther Crain, founder of the website Ephemeral New York, supported by the New York Historical Society, explores how New Yorkers’ lifestyle and the architecture of the time influenced each other. From the late 1860s up until the beginning of the 1900s, Crain delves into the expansion of the city, the construction of monuments, and common street scenes. Her details range from the popularity of brownstone houses in the 1860s and 1870s to the creation of the Broadway theater district that New Yorkers are familiar with. (more…)
Keith Haring in the Pop Shop. Photo via the Keith Haring Foundation
Even now, more than twenty years after his death, Keith Haring remains a symbol of New York City’s street art scene. Haring came to New York to study at the School of Visual Arts in 1978 and quickly immersed himself in the city’s alternative art scene, befriending Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf and Andy Warhol. While he experimented with video, installation, collage and performance art, his true talent lay in his line paintings.
Over time, he came to be known for his distinctive style using bold, heavy lines, simple shapes and figures, and bright colors. In the ’80s, Haring gained international recognition, but he never stopped giving back to the community, creating many public murals around the world. Since Sunday, May 4 is his birthday, we’re looking at the work Haring left behind for New Yorkers to enjoy. Had he lived, he would have been turning 56 years old.