New York Museums: The New-York Historical Society Reinvents Itself

Founded in 1804, the New-York Historical Society is the oldest museum in all of New York City, beating out its across-the-park neighbor, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by some 70 years; its vast holdings of artworks–more than 1.6 million pieces!–historical objects, and all manner of printed material, much of it quite rare, making it a treasure trove for students and researchers for, well… centuries! BUT, as any casual history buff will tell you, the New-York Historical Society's dark, massive, stone building on Central Park West, also made it one of the city's most forbidding museums. Well, not any more. 

The New-York Historical Society museum (and gift shop, and the new restaurant, Caffe Storico) just re-opened a few weeks ago after a three-year, $65 million redesign and renovation, and after visiting the newly remodeled space one afternoon last week, we can say that they've definitely succeeded in making the august building a brighter, more inviting and, especially, a more kid-friendly place. The most obvious addition to the New-York Historical Society, and the one that's bound to have the most immediate impact on the institution–both in attendance figures and on New Yorkers perception of the place–is the spanking-new DiMenna Children's History Museum, which takes up a sizable chunk of the building's basement and is filled with the kind of bright, engaging, interactive "pavilions" that the Children's Museum of Manhattan has used to such great effect. Here we liked the "Newsies" exhibit, for its clever "rolling headline" game that shows how much you can change the meaning of a story depending on which at-first-glace-synonymous words you choose; and the baseball pavilion, with its video game, is sure to be a hit as well. 

The lobby of the New-York Historical Society is much brighter, thanks to the addition of windows on the building's exterior, and more contemporary looking, owing it no small part to the "Keith Haring ceiling", covered with the famed NYC graffiti artist's signature cartoony shapes, hanging over the ticker counter. Adding to the immediacy, part of the New-York Historical Society's Remembering 9/11 exhibition, an extensive collection of the harrowing, heartbreaking Here Is New York photographs taken on 9/11/01 and its aftermath, is on display in the lobby as well, an exhibit that also features a heavily-damaged FDNY engine door. Other new exhibitions at the renovated New-York Historical Society include Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn, an extensive collection of documents, art and artifacts that tell the story of the violent, exciting, transformative years of the late 18th Century, focusing on the revolutions in America, Haiti, and France.   

The New-York Historical Society Museum and Museum Store details

The New-York Historical Society Museum and Museum Store is located on the corner of 77th Street and Central Park West and is open Tuesday through Thursday and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., on Fridays until 8:00 p.m. (pay what you wish from 6:00 until 8:00), and on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed Mondays. For more information of the New-York Historical Society and its exhibitions, please see the museum's website, here

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