About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research, presenting history and art exhibitions, and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical is the oldest museum in New York City. New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered political, cultural and social history of New York City and State and the nation, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.
New-York Historical is recognized for engaging the public with deeply researched and far-ranging exhibitions, such as Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America; Slavery in New York; Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School at the New-York Historical Society; Grant and Lee in War and Peace; and the 2009 exhibition Lincoln and New York. Supporting these exhibitions and related education programs are one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, works of American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States and New York.
The New-York Historical Society Museum
The New-York Historical Society’s museum is the oldest in New York City and predates the founding of the Metropolitan Museum of Art by nearly seventy years. Its art holdings comprise more than 1.6 million works. Among them are a world-class collection of Hudson River School paintings, including major works by Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church; iconic genre and history paintings including works by William Sidney Mount and Eastman Johnson; a vast range of American portraits, including paintings by Rembrandt Peale and Gilbert Stuart; all 435 of John James Audubon’s extant preparatory watercolors for Birds of America; and an encyclopedic collection of more than 800 works documenting the full range of representational sculpture in America from the colonial period to the present day. The Museum also holds much of sculptor Elie Nadelman’s legendary American folk art collection, including furniture and household accessories such as lamps, candlesticks, textiles, glass and ceramic objects, as well as paintings, toys, weathervanes, sculptural woodcarvings and chalkware.
The Patricia D. Klingenstein Library
The New-York Historical Society’s Patricia D. Klingenstein Library is one of the oldest and most distinguished in the United States, containing more than three million books, pamphlets, maps, atlases, newspapers, broadsides, music sheets, manuscripts, prints, photographs and architectural drawings. The Klingenstein Library is one of only sixteen libraries in the United States qualified to be a member of the Independent Research Libraries Association. Among its collections are far-ranging materials relating to the founding and early history of the nation; one of the best collections of eighteenth-century newspapers in the United States; an outstanding collection of materials documenting slavery and Reconstruction; an exceptional collection of Civil War material, including Ulysses S. Grant’s terms of surrender for Robert E. Lee; collections relating to trials in the United States prior to 1860; American fiction, poetry and belles-lettres prior to 1850; a broad range of materials relating to the history of the circus; and American travel accounts from the colonial era to the present day.
The Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture
The Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture offers visitors a behind-the-scenes look at a working museum collection, displaying nearly 40,000 museum objects to the public in a single place. Highlights of the Center include George Washington’s camp bed from Valley Forge, the desk at which Clement Clarke Moore wrote “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” one of the world’s largest collections of Tiffany lamps and glasswork and a collection of more than 550 late nineteenth-century American board games. Audio guides, interactive computer ports and mini-exhibition stations allow for guided tours at the visitor’s convenience. The wealth of significant objects housed in the Luce Center and their power to convey the physical reality of the past, from colonial times to recent events, complement the special exhibitions, library resources and public programs that are also available to visitors.
The New-York Historical Society Education Center
The New-York Historical Society organizes and presents an extensive range of school programs, teacher resources and adult and child workshops. New-York Historical’s school programs introduce research skills to young historians throughout the academic year. By examining primary sources such as maps, photographs and newspapers and studying material culture such as works of art, furniture and tools, students develop independent views of history. Curricula based on exhibitions and collections help students develop research, analysis and interpretation skills. After-school workshops and special projects further integrate source materials into teaching units and classroom work. Programs for adults foster lifelong learning and a deeper appreciation of the relevance of history in our lives.
The Gilder Lehrman Collection
The Gilder Lehrman Collection—a nationally renowned archive of more than 60,000 manuscripts, documents, diaries, maps, books, photographs and iconography documenting four centuries of American history—is housed at the New-York Historical Society. The Collection contains thousands of unpublished letters and manuscripts detailing the founding of the United States, the anti-slavery movement and the Civil War. Treasures of the collection include signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth Amendment, and the Constitution, as well as seminal letters and documents written by leaders ranging from George Washington to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Growth and Enhancement of New-York Historical
Over the past decade, the New-York Historical Society has invested significantly in facility and installation upgrades and has increased the operating budget by 160 percent to enhance and expand its public programs, while maintaining a balanced budget from 1998 to the present. Recent renovations to New-York Historical include new galleries and exhibition spaces; the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture; a state-of-the-art library reading room; and a new lower-level facility to house and provide public access to the letters and manuscripts of the Gilder Lehrman Collection. New-York Historical’s three-year, $70 million renovation of its landmark building on Central Park West, completed November 2011, further enhanced the institution’s status as one of the premier cultural and educational resources in the nation.