The New-York Historical Society honors the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG)—the trailblazing Supreme Court justice and cultural icon—with a special exhibition this fall. On view October 1, 2021 – January 23, 2022, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is based on the popular Tumblr and bestselling book of the same name. A traveling exhibition organized by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, the show takes an expansive and engaging look at the justice’s life and work, highlighting her ceaseless efforts to protect civil rights and foster equal opportunity for all Americans.
In light of the extraordinary developments on the Supreme Court threatening to overturn Roe v. Wade with the breathtaking, unprecedented lightning-fast addition (even as voting for president was underway in 2020) of Amy Coney Barrett in place of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the threats to women’s reproductive and voting rights sweeping the nation, this exhibit opening at the New-York Historical Society brings special significance on top of honoring the heralded Justice’s extraordinary life and legacy – a legacy that is being ripped apart with breakneck speed.
It has been all too easy to take for granted the rights won over the course of RBG’s trail-blazing life and fight, and it is important to be reminded of the way things were and could be again.
“It is a great honor that we celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a native New Yorker whose impact on the lives of contemporary Americans has been extraordinary,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “Justice Ginsburg fought hard to achieve justice and equality for all, inspiring us with her courage and tenacity in upholding our fundamental American ideals. A special friend to New-York Historical, in 2018 she presided over a naturalization ceremony in our auditorium. The exhibition is a memorial tribute to her achievements and legacy.”
Notorious RBG features archival photographs and documents, historical artifacts, contemporary art, media stations, and gallery interactives spanning RBG’s varied roles as student, wife to Martin “Marty” Ginsburg, mother, lawyer, judge, women’s rights pioneer, and internet phenomenon. Highlights include a robe and jabot from RBG’s Supreme Court wardrobe; the official portraits of RBG and Sandra Day O’Connor—the first two women to serve on the Supreme Court—on loan from the National Portrait Gallery; and QR-code listening stations where visitors can hear RBG’s delivery of oral arguments, majority opinions, and forceful dissents in landmark Supreme Court cases on their own devices.
The exhibition also displays 3D re-imaginations of key places in RBG’s life—such as her childhood Brooklyn apartment; the kitchen in RBG and Marty’s home, with some of Marty’s favorite recipes and cooking utensils; and the Supreme Court bench and the desk in her chambers.
Personal materials range from home movies of RBG with Marty on their honeymoon and in the early years of their marriage to yearbooks from RBG’s academic life—from her Brooklyn high school to Harvard, Columbia, and Rutgers Universities—to a paper that she wrote as an eighth grader exploring the relationship between the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the recently formed United Nations Charter.
Special to New-York Historical’s presentation are remembrances from RBG’s visit to the Museum in 2018 to officiate a naturalization ceremony of new citizens after she learned about New-York Historical’s Citizenship Project which teaches U.S. history and civics to green card holders, a video featuring a map and photographs of key places in her life as a New Yorker, and an overview of the memorials that cropped up around her hometown in the wake of her passing. As part of New-York Historical’s upcoming public program series, on December 8, Supreme Court expert Linda Greenhouse looks at where the courts stand following Justice Ginsburg’s death. Families can explore the exhibition with a specially created family guide, and themed story times will take place throughout the exhibition’s run.
After debuting at the Skirball Cultural Center in 2018, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has toured the country and was on view at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Cleveland, through August 29, 2021. After its New York run, the exhibition will travel to the Holocaust Museum Houston in Houston (March 2022) and the Capital Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C. (September 2022).
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been coordinated at New-York Historical by Valerie Paley, senior vice president and Sue Ann Weinberg Director, Patricia D. Klingenstein Library; Laura Mogulescu, curator of women’s history collections; and Anna Danziger Halperin, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s History and Public History, Center for Women’s History.
Lead sponsorship for Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg at New-York Historical is provided by Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. Major sponsorship is provided by Northern Trust. Generous additional support is provided by Helen and Robert Appel and Bernard and Denise Schwartz. Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Evelyn & Seymour Neuman Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.
The Skirball Cultural Center is a place of meeting guided by the Jewish tradition of welcoming the stranger and inspired by the American democratic ideals of freedom and equality. The Skirball welcomes people of all communities and generations to participate in cultural experiences that celebrate discovery and hope, foster human connections, and calls upon everyone to help build a more just society.
New York City’s oldest museum, the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library was founded in 1804. The Patricia D. Klingenstein Library—one of the most distinguished in the nation—fosters research through its outstanding collections, which include more than 10 million items. The Museum presents groundbreaking history and art exhibitions as well as public programs that convey the stories of New York and the nation’s diverse populations to the broadest possible public.
The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), New York, NY 10024. Information: (212) 873-3400. Website: nyhistory.org.
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