This week, The Museum of the City of New York is debuting a museum exhibition about museums. Cultivating Culture: 34 Institutions That Changed New York highlights the history of all thirty-four museums, spread throughout the five boroughs, that make up New York City’s Cultural Institutions Group. The Cultural Institutions Group is a public-private initiative established in the 19th-century to support the city’s cultural institutions with public investments. Members of the group range from renowned institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art to more local institutions like Flushing Town Hall. The artifacts in the exhibit have been mined from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York as well as the collections of the featured institutions. These objects, most of which are on public display for the first time, along with photographs taken at various points in history, represent each institution’s founding, mission, and future goals.
Representing the Museum of the City of New York there is a miniature model of the museum that was designed and created by architect Joseph H. Freedlander in 1936. Freedlander wanted the museum to resemble other important buildings in New York City such as Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated. Throughout the third floor exhibit, visitors will find all manner of fascinating items such as a signed copy of the 1870 charter of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the visitor’s log from Opening Day at the Brooklyn Museum, and an invitation to the opening of the American Museum of Natural History. The museum will be accompanied by public programs and a fun scavenger hunt. Guests can purchase a special #CultivatingCulture tote bag emblazoned with a list of the thirty-four CIG institutions, and a mini-Sharpie pen to mark off each site as you visit them. We’ve picked ten of the most interesting items you will find in the new exhibit. Cultivating Culture opens this Friday, October 18th, and runs through Sunday, February 9, 2020.
1. “Weeksville Lady” Tintype
The iconic “Weeksville Lady” has become a symbol of The Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History, the organization which landmarked, purchased and renovated the houses that now make up the Weeksville Heritage Center, a historic community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The portrait was discovered behind the mantel of a home near near Troy and Dean Streets just before it was going to be torn down in 1968. The portrait was taken sometime around the year 1880 and the identity of the female subject is unknown.
Weeksville Heritage Center is in the process of becoming the newest member of the Cultural Institutions Group, the first to join in the past ten years. Becoming a part of the Cultural Institutions Group will help the Center continue to share the history of Weeksville through the preservation of its four historic wood-frame houses, oral histories, photographs, genealogies, documents, and educational and cultural arts programming.