Presidents' Day Hours

The Museum will be open Monday, February 19, 10 am – 6 pm.



On View through March 20, 2016

New York, NY, December 2, 2015—Life changed instantly across the United States on Sunday, December 7, 1941, in the wake of Japan’s surprise attack against U.S. Armed Forces in Hawaii. Targeting the Army, Navy, and Marine airfields before bombing the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, the strike lasted nearly two hours and left 2,403 Americans dead and another 1,178 wounded. Within a day, the United States was officially at war. In commemoration of the events at Pearl Harbor, the New-York Historical Society, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, presents a special installation featuring photographs taken by both Japanese pilots and U.S. Navy personnel, as well as other artifacts that bring America’s entry into World War II into stark view. On display through March 20, 2016, Witnesses to History: Pearl Harbor includes a rare copy of the Imperial Rescript Declaring War on the U.S. and Great Britain, one of only 12 known to exist.

Objects on view include photos taken of Pearl Harbor in the first moments of the raid by Japanese pilots, as well as images captured by the U.S. Navy depicting the widespread damage of battleships, including the U.S.S. Arizona and Oklahoma, engulfed in flames and heavy smoke from torpedo and bomb damage.

Also on display are letters from two New Yorkers who joined the Army in the wake of the attack. Sidney Diamond gave up his college deferment and enlisted in April 1942, and in a letter described meeting a survivor from Pearl Harbor and learning about the true horrors of the attack. Brooklyn resident Moe Weiner, writing to his wife in 1944, realized it was the third anniversary of Pearl Harbor: “It hardly seems possible to believe that there ever was a time when things were any different and any other existence doesn’t have the ring of reality. Strange, isn’t it, how the abnormal state of affairs can become to be accepted as the normal.” These sentiments, expressed more than 70 years ago, continue to echo as New York City and the world face on-going threats to our safety and security.  

Accompanying Witnesses to History: Pearl Harbor is an online exhibition featuring high-resolution images, interactive maps, and more:

About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and 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 has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.


Press Contacts
Marybeth Ihle
New-York Historical Society
(212) 873-3400

Julia Esposito
Polskin Arts & Communications Counselors
(212) 715-1643

Photo credit: Firefighters work on blazing battleship, December 7, 1941

Hi-res images available. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Creative: Tronvig Group