"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

–Excerpt from The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus, engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty

What does it mean to become an American? In partnership with CUNY’s Citizenship Now!, we’ve launched The Citizenship Project, a major initiative to help the more than one million legal immigrants in the New York region become American citizens through free civics and American history workshops and other educational and digital learning tools. Join us for free workshops, educational programs, special installations, and family activities that examine the basic principles of our American Constitution and democratic institutions.


Beginning summer 2017, free civics and history workshops will be available to help green card holders prepare for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization exam. Nine sessions will take place on-site at New-York Historical at three different times and intensities (weekend immersion, evening program, and weekday program)—so participants can choose the class structure that best suits their work and home life.

Through these courses, made possible by a generous grant from the Ford Foundation, participants will learn about pivotal moments in U.S. history by examining objects and documents from our collections.

To learn more, please contact thecitizenshipproject@nyhistory.org


A host of programs all year long featuring historians and experts explore what it means to be an American, from immigration issues to the concepts and ideals that founded our nation to the future of our justice system and government, including:

May 23: Historian Carol Berkin and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gordon S. Wood will discuss how the fragile republic faced danger of collapse following the ratification of the Constitution. Learn more.

May 25: Legal and Constitutional experts Akhil Reed Amar and Jeffrey Rosen, moderated by journalist Marcia Coyle, discuss the future of the Supreme Court and explore how a new configuration of the judicial power will shape the country for years to come. Learn more.

See the full schedule of public programs.  

Watch and listen to select video and audio from our archive of public programs—including a recent program on immigration and voting rights and how America protects the civil and political rights of newcomers.


Throughout the spring and summer, children can become History Detectives and discover immigration history through games, sketching, and activities with specially designed briefcases housing “detective supplies.” Learn more.

Walk through Museum galleries guided by an engaging Scavenger Hunt that tests your knowledge of American history and civics, finding objects from America’s past and learning about the subjects tested on the naturalization exam. Test questions and answers are also displayed on a wide, digital screen at the Museum’s entrance and on an interactive tablet by the lobby’s elevator.

Other family programs are available throughout the spring and summer, including:

July 4th Weekend: Celebrate American Independence by exploring the founding of the United States through the eyes and lives of our Founding Era’s diverse citizens. Learn more.

See the full schedule of family programs. 


Thomas Jefferson: The Private Man, From the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society
On view April 7 – July 16
One of American history’s protean figures, Thomas Jefferson wrote some of the United States’ most iconic words. Among the 36 documents and artifacts from the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society on display in the exhibition are his last letter to John Adams—our nation’s second president—and a copy of the Declaration of Independence in Jefferson’s hand. Learn more.

Documents at the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library
On view starting June 6
A series of documents and letters shed light on the American immigrant experience of the last three centuries. Read the personal stories of immigrants in the 18th and 19th centuries, such as the Emmet family and Albert Gallatin and lesser known figures such Helen Schechter at the turn of the 20th century. Take a look at the oath of allegiance to George II signed by a group of Sephardic Jews in the mid-18th century, and learn about Castle Garden, the main point of entry for all immigrants arriving in New York by ship. See immigrant guide books and handbooks, qualifications for citizenship in the 19th century, and photographs of immigrants and immigrant groups in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Creative: Tronvig Group