Inside Port City, 1609-1898. Photo by Filip Wolak courtesy MCNY

New York At its Core at the Museum of the City of New York is a landmark exhibit covering 400 years of New York City history. Even though the entire first floor of the museum is dedicated to this new permanent exhibition, four hundred years of history necessarily requires a Herculanean task of curating and editing. As Sarah Henry, Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Museum of the City of New York, explained to us as we walked through the exhibit just before the opening in October, “We are not trying to do an encyclopedia here. We are trying to give people a framework in which to think about what makes New York, New York.” And the items are included to illustrate that framework are carefully chosen.

Here, we pick out ten things to keep your eye out for in New York At its Core as you walk through New York City’s past, present and future.

1. Tiffany & Co. Shovel and First Subway Ticket

The second gallery, World City, covers a time period that includes the opening of the first New York City subway line. On display is a ceremonial Tiffany & Co. silver shovel from 1900, used by Mayor Robert Van Wyck to break ground on the IRT subway line, which would open in 1904. The wood is made from a tree planted by Alexander Hamilton in 1803 and from a ship that fought in the War of 1812. The shovel is in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York, a gift of Mrs. William Van Wyck. Also in this case is one of the first subway tickets for the new line.