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‘The Salem Witch Trials: Reckoning and Reclaiming’ Exhibit at New-York Historical Society Takes on New Relevance

Spectral evidence doomed those accused of witchcraft at the Salem Witch Trials, as shown in the exhibit ‘The Salem Witch Trials: Reckoning and Reclaiming’ at the New-York Historical Society.

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

In an episode that has resonated through American culture from colonial times until today, more than 200 residents of Salem, Massachusetts, were accused of witchcraft in 1692-93. The trials led to the executions of 19 people, most of them women, and the deaths of at least six more. The last of the accused, Elizabeth Johnson Jr., was only officially exonerated this past summer.

In a new exhibit, “The Salem Witch Trials: Reckoning and Reclaiming,” the New-York Historical Society reexamines this defining moment in American history and considers from a contemporary viewpoint how mass panic can lead to fatal injustice. On view through January 22, 2023 in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, this is the final stop of this traveling exhibition, organized by the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts, and coordinated at New-York Historical by its Center for Women’s History, which unearths the lives and legacies of women who have shaped and continue to shape the American experience.

“Countless scholars and authors from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Arthur Miller have kept alive the memory and meanings of the Salem witch trials—but this critical turning point in American history has never before been seen as it is in “’The Salem Witch Trials: Reckoning and Reclaiming’,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical Society © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Countless scholars and authors from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Arthur Miller have kept alive the memory and meanings of the Salem witch trials—but this critical turning point in American history has never before been seen as it is in “’The Salem Witch Trials: Reckoning and Reclaiming’,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical Society. “We are proud to present this extraordinary exhibition through our Center for Women’s History, exemplifying the Center’s mission to rethink familiar chapters of the past and deepen our understanding of them. We hope our visitors will come away with a new perspective on these terrible events from more than 300 years ago and what they still mean for us now.”

Most spectacularly, the exhibit features actual artifacts and personal items from people involved in the Salem Witch Trials – the accused and the accusers – putting into context how personal, more than political, these accusations were, but how easy it was to prey upon the superstition and stereotypes of women.

The exhibit also features two contemporary artists – the acclaimed fashion designer Alexander McQueen and portrait photographer Frances F. Denny, both of whom are descendents of women who were put to death; Denny even has discovered an ancestor on the other branch of her family who was a central judge in the Salem Witch Trials. Both were drawn to their projects as a tribute to their ancestors and to redress the injustice.

The exhibition opens with historical artifacts, rare documents, and contemporaneous accounts, which include testimony about dreams, ghosts, and visions. Handwritten letters and petitions of innocence from the accused convey the human toll. Contextual materials such as furniture and other everyday items help to situate the Salem witch trials within the European tradition of witch hunts, which date back to the 14th century, while suggesting the crucial ways this episode diverged. Rare documents from New-York Historical’s collection, including one of the first written accounts of the trial from 1693, are also on view.

The artifacts and documents that are exhibited that were owned by people involved in the trials are windows into life at that time.

“What we hope people take away, what happened and why, that real people were involved, ensnared in the tragedy, and spark personal reflections of what you might do when confronted with such injustice,” Dan Lipcan, Peabody Essex Museum’s Ann C. Pingree Director of the Phillips Library, said at a press preview of the exhibit. “We want people to think about what we can do to create a more tolerant, compassionate society so that this doesn’t happen again.”

The exhibit feels so much more relevant and urgent in light of what is happening in Texas with SB8 which incentivizes vigilantes to hunt down women and girls for seeking reproductive health care, and anyone who might aid them; and when you see how Florida is requiring girl athletes to provide menstrual data. Quite literal persecution and terrorism.

“Witches were thought to make a pact with Satan, gaining the ability to unleash maleficia – harmful magic – causing sickness, misery and death. Accusations were overwhelmingly hurled at women, particularly those who were poor or older. Trials engaged the entire community as a form of popular entertainment and social control over women’s behavior, fertility, or knowledge.”

The exhibit begins by putting the Salem witch trials in context of the European witch hunts.

“Saducismus Triumphatus” a book dating from 1700 with intricate woodcuts, in which Joseph Glanvill provides point-by-point rebuttal if anyone doubted the existence of witchcraft © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

On view is a “best-selling treatise’ from the 1480s Europe on “how to find, identify, prosecute, torture and condemn women for witchcraft.”

Also on view is “Saducismus Triumphatus,” a book from 1700 with intricate woodcuts, in which Joseph Glanvill provides point-by-point rebuttal to any potential skepticism about the existence of witchcraft.

From 1450-1750, in Europe, witch hunts were rampant, some 110,000 trials held and an estimated 50,000 people – 80 percent of them women, were executed (https://www.gendercide.org/case_witchhunts.html). Imagine the daily terror that would have kept women very much in their place, unwilling to speak out with a remedy for sickness or to prevent a woman from dying in childbirth, for fear of being accused of witchcraft or making a pact with the devil.

A 1600s painting from Flanders, when witchhunts and executions were rampant in Europe, perpetuates the stereotype of witches as women, regularly accompanied by demons, dwarfs, skeletons and boiling pots.

Witch trials made their way into fiction and art, like a mid-1600s painting we see from Flanders, creating the stereotype of witches as women, regularly accompanied by demons, dwarfs, skeletons and boiling pots.

There were other witch hunts in colonial America, but Salem’s witch trials were more lethal and extreme. They also differed in how they featured spectral evidence- testimony from dreams, ghosts and visions – as legal proof. The afflicted were almost all female and initially were children, rather than men. Accusations started with ostracized women but quickly spread to include elite and powerful community members.

Salem’s witch hunts began with Tatuba, an enslaved woman in the Parris household. Tatuba came from Barbados where enslaved women would work over cauldrons to feed their family and heat their home. Girls accused her of making them unwell. Tatuba (likely beaten) confessed to survive.

“She testified that she had practiced magic under the direction of the other two women initially accused, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborn, who, like Tituba, were disempowered in the community and easily scapegoated. Tituba also claimed that there were more witches at work in Salem. Her confession, combining puritanical, African and Caribbean lore, included signing the devil’s book, using animal familiars to hurt the girls, and riding a pole through the air. It ignited and legitimized the ever-growing hunt for those responsible for the girls’ and the community’s unexplainable hardships.”

By confessing, Tituba outlived the trials which ended 1693, after the court would no longer use spectral (“invisible”) evidence. Her trial was declared “ignoramus” (“We do not know”-that is, there was not enough evidence of her guilt).

Window from the Towne family home, 1692. A window was considered a spectral portal © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of the objects on view is an actual portion of a window from the Towne family home from 1692: three sisters who were of grandmother-age at the time, were accused; two were hanged, one survived.

“Such surviving objects are very rare – they are precious, fragile,” Paula Richter, the Peabody curator, said at the press preview. “This 17th century window came from a Towne descendent. A window was a luminal space – the space between outside/inside, look in/out, hear in/outside – site of fear. This type of ‘spectral’ evidence was admitted into court and accepted as fact. A window was considered a portal where spectral (bad, unreal) could enter the home and bewitch inhabitants.”

Salem’s witch trials were particularly more lethal and extreme and allowed spectral evidence – testimony from dreams, ghosts and visions – as legal proof.
 

There is also a tape loom belonging to Rebecca Putnam, decorated with both Christian and folk symbols. The Putnams were an influential and prominent landowning family that actively accused and testified against neighbors during the trials, including the three Towne Sisters (we see the window of the Towne home). Her cousin Ann Putnam Jr. was a principal accuser and one of the first girls to experience afflictions, and other relatives accused dozens of victims. Her uncle, Thomas Putnam Jr., served as a secretary for the trials while her father, John Putnam Jr., was a constable.

Personal objects from people ensnared in the Salem Witch Trials: sundial owned by John Proctor Sr., 1644. A sundial represented a rare luxury. It was a means to organize and regulate time and required an understanding of astronomy and mathematics. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is a cane owned by Philip English, a wealthy man of high social status, who was nonetheless (or because of that) accused of witchcraft; along with an item belonging to a farmer.

And then there are the original documents. The transcript for Elizabeth How – Alexander McQueen’s ancestor – is most complete, from the accusation to the trial to the order of payment of restitution in 1712 to Elizabeth’s How’s daughters, Mary and Abigail, after her exoneration 20 years after her execution.

One of the first histories of Salem Witch Trials was produced by none other than father and son clergymen, Increase and Cotton Mather, expressing discomfort at using spectral evidence, but defending the court’s verdicts and executions because witches were “the embodiment of evil.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We see a copy of one of the first histories of Salem Witch Trials, produced by none other than father and son clergymen, Increase and Cotton Mather. “Salem’s legal proceedings came to an abrupt halt in October 1692 as the mounting death toll alongside widespread chaos provoked a prevailing sense that the trials had gone too far,” the notes say. “The colony was in crisis – threatening the political authority of the Puritans. Father and son clergymen, Increase and Cotton Mather, were allies of the Massachusetts Bay colony’s new governor, Sir William Phips. A year after the trial, they provided contemporary justifications of the controversial trials, instructing their religious flocks on how to interpret the story and providing political cover, while acknowledging faults in the legal system. They attacked witches as the embodiment of evil, and defended the court’s verdicts and executions, but expressed discomfort with the court’s admission of spectral evidence. Only verifiable evidence or witnesses, Cotton Mather argued, should ‘turn the scale’ of justice in court going forward.”

(Notably, the Puritans who established Plymouth and dominated Massachusetts Colony, are extinct.)

In 1693, the Reverend Francis Dane Sr. wrote an apology, disturbed by how easily the community turned against one another. “One of the few courageous voices of resistance, the long-time Andover resident had been named as a possible witch, along with 28 of his family members-including Alexander McQueen’s ancestor, Elizabeth How, and Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Johnson  Jr.” In a statement, Dane expresses regret that the community was not more tolerant, more charitable and more forgiving “hence we so easily parted with our neighbors of honest & good report, and members in full Communion, hence we so easily parted with our Children…hence such strange breaches in families.”

Considering that the population of Salem and Salem Village was about 2000 in 1692, that would mean that 10 percent of the community was ensnared and prosecuted for witch craft, with 19 put to death.

Beginning in 1696, trial victims and family members petitioned the General Court to clear the records of those falsely accused – in order to get their property back, since descendents of a witch could not inherit the property. Many of the relatives fled to other communities to start life over.

In 1711, the Province issued a reversal nullifying all convictions, judgments and attainders against those on the list, but six of those executed were not on the list, presumably because no petitioners applied. Elizabeth Johnson Jr.’s name was only cleared in July 2022.

The irony is that there were no witches in Salem in 1692, but today, you can visit Salem and find a wicca community.

And as I go through the exhibit, it appears to me that the impetus for the Salem witch hunts was different than that of Europe’s.  In Europe, the motivation seemed to have been more clearly a desire for male religious leaders to retain their absolute control against “uppity” women who were healers and midwives and might challenge their divine authority. In Salem, it seems to have been spurred on more because of personal vendettas and outright opportunistic property theft. This may be a distinction without a difference.

“The Salem witch trials have become rhetorical shorthand in contemporary discourse, but the actual historical events are frequently overlooked,” said Dan Lipcan, Peabody Essex Museum’s Ann C. Pingree Director of the Phillips Library © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“The Salem witch trials have become rhetorical shorthand in contemporary discourse, but the actual historical events are frequently overlooked,” said Dan Lipcan, PEM’s Ann C. Pingree Director of the Phillips Library, along with Curator Paula Richter and Associate Curator Lydia Gordon. “When we conceived of this exhibition, we set out to provide a framework for a modern-day audience to reckon with what this chapter of history meant for the development of this country, and what it says about the potential within each of us. We want visitors to feel the continuing impact of the Salem witch trials, to consider what it says about race and gender, and to think about how they themselves might react to similar moments of widespread injustice.”

Coming into the exhibit, I had the idea that the Salem Witch Trials factored into Thomas Jefferson’s call for Separation of Church and State, as well as the judicial due process that was embedded into the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

But what was remarkable to me is to realize that the Salem Witch Trials apparently were not widely known through the rest of the colonies. This is before there would have been newspapers that were linked together by Ben Franklin (I believe the first actual syndicated columnist). The trials only lasted a year and were followed by community-wide shame over what occurred – both for the relatives of those accused, many of whom left Salem and by the accusers who realized they had gone too far.

Other places that had witch trials (Long Island and in Virginia) but these were more likely triggered by events in Europe than by what went on in Salem.

The Founders were more likely inspired to institute Separation of Church and State and judicial due process – 80 years later – by the Enlightenment which looked to science, reason and humanism, in place of the supernatural, Lipcan suggested to me.

So how did the Salem Witch Trials become so prominent in the American psyche?

I suspect it had a lot to do with American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne and the publication of “The House of Seven Gables” in 1851, a follow-up to his hit, anti-Puritan “The Scarlet Letter” novel in 1850. (Hawthorne was so ashamed of his great-great-grandfather John Hathorne, one of the judges who oversaw the Salem witch trials that added the “w” to his surname when he was in his early twenties.) I suggest Hawthorne resurrected the Salem Witch Trials and brought widespread awareness, igniting imagination and intrigue.

Hawthorne’s friend, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, did his part to create the myths surrounding the Salem Witch Trials, depicting Tituba as an African (“Obi”) practitioner of magic, though there is no evidence she was either Black or a witch, aside from the confession she gave under duress and later retracted.

An illustration for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem enshrined an image of Tituba.

The exhibit has a copy of a poem by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) written in her own hand, “Witchcraft was/ hung, in History, / but History / and I /Find all the / Witchcraft that /we need /Around us,/every Day—“

Also in the mid-1800s, a new train from Boston brought visitors to Salem who were taken around to sights by street car. Then around the bicentennial, 1892, the witch trials became commercialized – an industry of witch and related ephemera like buttons, even a souvenir witch spoon, developed, Paula Richter of the Peabody Essex Museum tells me.

The Salem Witch Trials became the center of a massive tourism economy that emerged in the 1950s, growing steadily until today. An annual event, Salem’s Haunted Happenings, has become so popular, it has expanded from Halloween weekend, to October weekends, to all October, with a score of perennial attractions that include the House of Seven Gables; Cry Innocent: The People vs. Bridget Bishop, recreating a trial based on actual transcripts; The Witch House, home of Judge Jonathan Corwin ( the only structure still standing in Salem with direct ties to the Witchcraft Trials of 1692; and Witch Dungeon Museum. It was not until 1992, the tercentenary of the Salem Witch Trials, that the Salem Witch Trials Memorial was dedicated – by Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

“Many people are introduced to the Salem Witch Trials through popular film and television. Fictionalized versions of the story and its legacy continue to captivate audiences to this day. Yet these depictions often rely on stereotypes that ignore the complex social and gendered circumstances that led to the events of 1692.”

A life-size painting that dates from 1869 of “The Salem Martyr” – the woman who posed as a condemned witch was a descendent of one of the hanged victims.
 

We see one of these in a life-size painting that dates from 1869 of “The Salem Martyr” – the woman who posed as a condemned witch was a descendent of one of the hanged victims.

Arthur Miller used the Salem Witch Trials as his metaphor for McCarthy’s “House on Unamerican Committee’s” witch hunts for Communists in Hollywood and government. (See “Why I Wrote “The Crucible”, New Yorker Magazine)

The exhibition also features two reclamation projects by contemporary artists who are descendants of the accused, including a dress and accompanying photographs from fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s fall/winter 2007 collection, “In Memory of Elizabeth How, 1692.” In creating this collection, which was based on research into the designer’s ancestor—one of the first women to be condemned and hanged as a witch—McQueen mined historical symbols of witchcraft, paganism, religious persecution, and magic. Documents show how Elizabeth How was accused and ultimately condemned in July 1692, adding to the gravity of the designer’s show.

Fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s fall/winter 2007 collection, “In Memory of Elizabeth How, 1692” was dedicated to his ancestor who was among the first women to be executed in Salem as a witch © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibit features one of the dresses – a stunning and dramatic black velvet that shimmers with light –along with photos from the runway show and a painted red pentagram just as in the Paris show – juxtaposed with copies of the original transcripts from the trial.

Photographer Frances F. Denny went on a three-year odyssey to document people who today identify as witches. Thirteen from her series, “Major Arcana: Portraits of Witches in America” challenge the traditional notion of witchery by celebrating the spectrum of identities and spiritual practices of people who identify as witches today. Complementing the photographers are audio recordings so you can listen to their voices.

Photographer Frances F. Denny went on a three-year odyssey to document people who today identify as witches. Thirteen from her series, “Major Arcana: Portraits of Witches in America” challenge the traditional notion of witchery by celebrating the spectrum of identities and spiritual practices of people who identify as witches today © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is also an immersive experience based on New-York Historical’s collection of tarot cards that prompts viewers to imagine what reclaiming witchcraft might mean.

The exhibition concludes with a display that connects the Salem witch trials to modern life and a warning and a challenge of sorts: what would you do when such profound injustice arises?

“The Salem Witch Trials: Reckoning and Reclaiming” is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts. It was co-curated by Dan Lipcan, the Ann c. Pingree Director of the Phillips library; Paula Richter, Curator; and Lydia Gordon, Associate Curator. At New-York Historical, it was coordinated by Anna Danziger Halperin, Mellon Foundation postdoctoral fellow in women’s history and public history, Center for women’s History.

There is also various programming related to the exhibit, and a special exhibition guide for families.

The Salem Witch Trials exhibit is enhanced with tarot cards from the New-York Historical Society’s own collection© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There’s so much to see and enjoy at the New-York Historical Society, a destination for history since 1804 and New York’s first museum. There is a world-class permanent exhibit of Tiffany; a relatively new (and fascinating exhibit) about journalist and historian Robert Caro’s process (looking at his notebooks and manuscripts is amazing); two sensational films, “We Rise” about the women’s movement, and “New York City”, plus changing exhibits. (There is also a lovely café.)

The Museum and the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library convey the stories of the city and nation’s diverse populations, expanding our understanding of who we are as Americans and how we came to be. Ever-rising to the challenge of bringing little or unknown histories to light, New-York Historical will soon inaugurate a new annex housing its Academy for American Democracy as well as the American LGBTQ+ Museum. These latest efforts to help forge the future by documenting the past join New-York Historical’s DiMenna Children’s History Museum and Center for Women’s History. Digital exhibitions, apps, and its For the Ages podcast make it possible for visitors everywhere to dive more deeply into history.

The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org. Connect at @nyhistory on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and Tumblr.

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New-York Historical Society  Presents Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through Children’s Books

PJ Loughran, Illustration for Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery. Collection of the artist. © 2015 PJ Loughran. Used by permission of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

NEW YORK– The New-York Historical Society, New York’s first museum, presents an exhibition that explores the civil rights movement through one of the most emotionally compelling forms of visual expression—the children’s picture book. Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through Children’s Books, on view April 1 – July 24, 2022, highlights some of the most consequential moments in American history that continue to impact the nation today. Through illustrations and objects, the exhibition traces the legacy of social justice, thoughtfully presented for young audiences, and provides a jumping off point for important conversations about race, justice, and America’s past. The exhibition is co-organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, where it debuted in August 2020, and The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, Massachusetts.

“We’re so pleased to welcome Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through Children’s Books to New York so that our audience can gain a powerful new perspective on the long march towards social justice,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “By showing how the civil rights movement has been interpreted for children throughout the decades, the exhibition demonstrates the important role young people have played and highlights the influential figures and moments that are working towards moving our society forward.”

“Through an immersive tapestry of images and ideas, the artworks in Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through Children’s Books take viewers by the hand and guide them through times of bravery and triumph,” said New York Times bestselling author Andrea Davis Pinkney, the exhibition’s curator and award-winning children’s book creator. “It’s an honor to collaborate on this experience that delivers a front-row seat to the dramatic events that continue to shape our world.”

The exhibition gives a comprehensive view of American history, explored through titles by established children’s book authors and artists as well as talented newcomers. Among the important historical moments highlighted: Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama; Ruby Bridges becoming the first Black student to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in 1960; Barack Obama’s swearing in as president in 2009; and the Black Lives Matter protests. Supplemented with historical items, the exhibition also emphasizes children’s roles as activists and the powerful role they have played in civil rights movements throughout history. A short documentary film, historical footage, and a series of compelling interviews with authors, illustrators, and activists provide context and an in-depth look at the faces of the movement as well as the artists who visualize history in the pages of picture books.

Given the controversy of how such issues as race and slavery are treated in children’s books – going as far as to ban certain books from schools – the exhibit is especially timely. Asked about the controversy, the museum distinguished between politics and history:

“For almost two decades, ‘History Matters’ has been New-York Historical’s motto and an essential part of its mission. With this new exhibition, we show that history continues to matter,” the museum stated. “New-York Historical along with the artists and authors featured in this show persist in telling these great historical stories even as our children’s education is scrutinized by those seeking to avoid difficult conversations. This exhibition traces the legacy of social justice thoughtfully presented for young audiences, and provides a jumping off point for important conversations about race, justice, and America’s past.”

The exhibition has been in the works to come to New-York Historical since August 2020 after it debuted at the High Museum. “It comes from trusted partners and was previously on view in Atlanta, Georgia and Amherst, Massachusetts, it is at its core a history show that centers the experiences of kids, and it tackles tough history in age-appropriate and challenging ways. All of this is in alignment with New-York Historical’s mission to bring history to the widest possible audience.”

The exhibit features original artworks, plus related objects and images from New-York Historical’s collection.A reading nook is also available for visitors to read the books from which the illustrations are taken. 

Special to New-York Historical’s presentation are a historical timeline and artifacts from the Museum’s History Responds collection, including drawings by artists and children inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and objects from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The gallery also features a reading nook with books featured in the exhibition available for visitors’ enjoyment.

Several of the books featured in the exhibition have been honored with Coretta Scott King Book Awards, including Hidden Figures, illustrated by Laura Freeman and written by Margot Lee Shetterly, and Let the Children March, illustrated by Frank Morrison and written by Monica Clark-Robinson.

Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through Children’s Books is curated by award-winning children’s book author Andrea Davis Pinkney, and is coordinated at New-York Historical by Alice Stevenson, vice president and director of the DiMenna Children’s History Museum, and Alexandra Krueger, manager of museum affairs.

The exhibition’s curator, Andrea Davis Pickney, chose the books featured in the exhibition, with the intent to include those currently in print so that children would have the opportunity to read them. Notably, no changes were made to the selections based on the controversy over book banning, the museum said.

Among the books featured in the exhibition are:

  • A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Philippe Lardy
  • Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman  
  • Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Shane Evans
  • A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney  
  • If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks written and illustrated by Faith Ringgold  
  • Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker and Jessica Curry, illustrated by Brittany Jackson  
  • Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney  
  • I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012
  • Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, illustrated by Raúl Colón  

Programming

Throughout the exhibition, a variety of family and education programs are planned. In April, families are invited to take part in online and in-person story times featuring books from Picture the Dream during Little New-Yorkers and Sunday Story Time. Among the books to be read are Our Children Can Soar: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change, written by Michelle Cook and illustrated by 13 different award winning illustrators; All Because You Matter by Tami Charles and illustrated by Bryan Collier; Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson and illustrated by Frank Morrison; A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson and illustrated by Eric Velasquez; and Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman and illustrated by Loren Long. Additional details about these and other children’s programs are available online.

Open House Teacher Appreciation Day takes place on Saturday, May 14, and includes story times throughout the day along with a drop-in craft for any families at the Museum. Educators can learn more and register here.  

Major support for New-York Historical’s presentation of Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through Children’s Books is provided by the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation. Additional support provided by New-York Historical’s Frederick Douglass Council. 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 the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor. 

At the New-York Historical Society, New York’s first museum, you can experience 400 years of history through groundbreaking exhibitions, immersive films, and thought-provoking conversations among renowned historians and public figures. A great destination for history since 1804, the Museum and the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library convey the stories of the city and nation’s diverse populations, expanding our understanding of who we are as Americans and how we came to be.

Ever-rising to the challenge of bringing little or unknown histories to light, New-York Historical will soon inaugurate a new annex housing its Academy for American Democracy as well as the American LGBTQ+ Museum. These latest efforts to help forge the future by documenting the past join New-York Historical’s DiMenna Children’s History Museum and Center for Women’s History. Digital exhibitions, apps, and our For the Ages podcast make it possible for visitors everywhere to dive more deeply into history.

The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400,  nyhistory.org. Follow the museum on social media at @nyhistory on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube and Tumblr.

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Against Backdrop of Ukraine Crisis, Rise in Antisemitic Hate Crimes, “Courage to Remember” Holocaust Exhibition Opens in NYS Capitol

“Courage to Remember,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s 40-panel traveling exhibition on the Nazi Holocaust is on view at New York State’s capitol building from March 22-25, 2022.

Albany, NY – Against the backdrop of the horrific invasion of Ukraine and continuing anti-Semitic attacks across the U.S., New York State Senator Anna Kaplan, a leading advocate for increased Holocaust education in the state’s schools, is bringing the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s (SWC) “Courage to Remember” exhibition on the Holocaust to the State Capitol.

“Courage to Remember” is the SWC’s 40-panel traveling exhibition on the Nazi Holocaust, which has been seen on six continents by tens of millions of people and continues to be displayed in cities across the United States and across the globe. It is on view from March 22-25, 2022.

The exhibition is being brought to Albany days after the NYPD reported a 400% spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City over the month of February. The “Courage to Remember” exhibition not only serves as a memorial for the past, but also reenforces what could transpire if the evils wrought by tyrants are left unchecked.

This exhibition has additional significance amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. As a pretext for Russia’s invasion, President Putin has falsely weaponized the Nazi Holocaust as a ploy to invade a peaceful neighbor and unleashed one of the worst humanitarian disasters of this century. The Russian invasion has also damaged the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial, houses of worship, kindergartens, and schools. 

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, SWC’s Associate Dean & Director of Global Social Action, remarked that “these events have shed light on the dangers of Holocaust distortion, which is a rapidly growing new variant of anti-Semitism. Furthermore the ‘Courage to Remember’ exhibition reinforces the importance of Holocaust monuments which serve as an invaluable teaching tool and physical reminder of the lessons of the past.”

Rabbi Cooper will provide a tour of the exhibit along with Senator Kaplan, as well as present SWC’s endorsement of The Holocaust Education bill, S.121A/A.472A which is currently under consideration in the Legislature.

“Six million Jews and millions of others, including Gypsies, Slavs, political dissenters, homosexuals, P.O.W.’s and the mentally ill and infirm were murdered by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. The Nazi policy of racial hatred moved with relentless cruelty from hateful propaganda to mass murder, culminating in the extermination of European Jewry and culture,” The Simon Wiesenthal Center stated.

“The magnitude of brutality, the remorseless cruelty, and the cold industrial character of mass murder during the Holocaust are unique. However, the root causes of the Holocaust persist.

“Racial hatred, economic crises, human psychological and moral flaws, the complacency or complicity of ordinary individuals in the persecution of their neighbors are still ominously common.

“Thus we must have the courage to remember and study the Holocaust, no matter how disturbing these studies and memories may be. For only informed, understanding, and morally committed individuals can prevent such persecution from happening again. The persecution of people is always and everywhere intolerable and to act against it is a beginning for hope.”

“The Courage to Remember” is both a tribute and a warning; a tribute to the six million Jews and millions of others, including Gypsies, Slavs, political dissenters, homosexuals, and prisoners of war, who were murdered by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945; and a warning that the root causes of the Holocaust persist.

The importance of teaching about the Holocaust and about the dangers of unchecked bigotry and hatred is also relevant in light of right-wing efforts to ban teaching of such “uncomfortable” subjects as slavery, the genocide of American Indians, anti-immigration movements and systemic racism. It’s a reflection that the title of the exhibit is ‘The Courage to Remember.” Why does it take “courage” to remember?

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JFK Hyannis Museum on Cape Cod Reopens with ‘Ripple of Hope’ Exhibit Commemorating RFK

The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum announced the return of a special exhibit to commemorate the life and legacy of Robert F. Kennedy as it reopens for the 2021 season. Tickets are capacity controlled to adhere to health protocols.

(HYANNIS, MA) –The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum announced the return of a special exhibit to commemorate the life and legacy of Robert F. Kennedy as it reopens for the 2021 season. Tickets are capacity controlled to adhere to health protocols.

The “RFK: Ripple of Hope” exhibit, assembled in collaboration with RFK Human Rights Foundation, will open on Saturday, April 17, 2021 at the Hyannis museum and will be on display through 2022.

“The theme ‘Ripple of Hope’ comes from his most famous and powerful speech delivered in Cape Town, South Africa,” said the exhibit curator Rebecca Pierce-Merrick. “It’s a fitting title for our exhibit as well because that’s exactly what his life of public service created ­– a ripple of hope that continues to reverberate through the generations since his passing.”

This exhibit begins with Robert Kennedy’s early years within the Kennedy family, including rarely seen images of his time on Cape Cod. The focal point of the exhibit however, covers his time serving as the U.S. Attorney General, his election to the U.S. Senate, and culminating with his inspirational presidential campaign, which began on March 16, 1968 and ended with his death on June 6, 1968.

One particularly poignant part of the exhibit highlights an impromptu speech he gave before a large group of distraught onlookers the night Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April 1968 just weeks after Kennedy announced his bid for the presidency.

The exhibit includes 45 images and excerpts from Robert Kennedy’s speeches that convey the boundless energy he showed on the campaign trail, often with Ethel and his children at his side. “Ripple of Hope” also has very moving eight-minute video narrated by Kathleen Kennedy and Joseph P. Kennedy III.

Tickets should be purchased online at www.jfkhyannismuseum.org for specific time of visit as limits are in place for daily admissions for health and safety of museum guests. The Museum will be open daily during April school vacation, and thereafter each Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 PM until Memorial Day at which time the summer schedule will commence.

The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum Foundation preserves and promotes the legacy of President Kennedy, his family, and their deep connection to Cape Cod.

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New-York Historical Society Reopens September 11 With Special World Trade Center Exhibit

The Women March exhibit at the New-York Historical Society, tracing the history of women’s rights during this Centennial Celebration of Women’s Suffrage, has been extended to Jan. 24, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New-York Historical Society reopens on Friday, September 11, 2020, with a full slate of exhibitions throughout the building and safety protocols in place for visitors and staff. The three-day opening weekend celebrates New York’s resilience with a special digital installation titled World Trade Center Four Decades: Photographs by Camilo José Vergara, a free virtual public program about 9/11, and joining institutions across the city by lighting up its façade as part of “Tribute in Lights.” The Museum has extended a number of special exhibitions, including Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll RevolutionWomen MarchColonists, Citizens, Constitutions: Creating the American Republic; and The People Count: The Census in the Making of America. 

On display September 11-13, World Trade Center Four Decades: Photographs by Camilo José Vergara showcases more than 40 digital photographs depicting the World Trade Center from the south, east, and west, chronicling its changes over half a century―from the early days of the Twin Towers’ construction in the 1970s, to their dominance of the skyline in the 1980s and 1990s, to the emptiness of the city’s horizon in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, to the slow rebuilding process that followed. On September 11 at 6 pm, a free, online program, History Responds: Pondering the Present, Revisiting the Past, recounts the advent of New-York Historical’s History Responds collecting initiative in the wake of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The conversation features Valerie Paley, senior vice president and chief historian at New-York Historical and director of the Center for Women’s History; and Kenneth T. Jackson, Barzun Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University and president emeritus of New-York Historical.

Also on view outdoors in the Museum’s rear courtyard is the free exhibition Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine, which documents the experiences of New Yorkers across the five boroughs during the height of the pandemic. And opening October 23 as part of the Asia Society Triennial: We Do Not Dream Alone—a multi-venue festival of art, ideas, and innovation—New-York Historical and Asia Society Museum present their first ever collaborative exhibition, Dreaming Together, featuring side-by-side pairings from New-York Historical’s American art collection and Asia Society’s contemporary Asian art holdings.

“We are so pleased to once again welcome visitors to the indoor spaces of New-York Historical’s home on Central Park West,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO.  “We have made our building safe through rigorous processes and protocols, and our staff has undergone extensive training to ensure that these safety measures are strictly enforced and respected by all. As the city’s oldest museum, New-York Historical has for 216 years served a vital role in chronicling the city and nation’s history, from New York’s emergence from the ruins of British occupation at the end of the Revolutionary War to the major metropolis the city is today. We are proud to welcome visitors again to engage in and enjoy learning about history, as the city itself comes back to life.”

New-York Historical’s new hours are Fridays, 10 am – 8 pm; and Saturdays and Sundays, 11 am – 5 pm. (Fridays 6 ­– 8 pm are pay-as-you-wish.) Special Member access will be offered every Friday 10 –  11am, and on September Thursdays 11am – 5pm. Seniors and immune-compromised visitors are also welcome on those dates. The DiMenna Children’s History Museum and Audubon’s Birds of America Focus Gallery will remain temporarily closed to visitors. Enhanced sanitizing and cleaning protocols, increased air filtration, and other safety measures have been implemented, and temperature screenings and face coverings are required for entry. Physical distancing will also be enforced: Attendance has been reduced to 25% of typical capacity, and timed-entry tickets can be booked online at nyhistory.org. Additional details about safety protocols can be found at nyhistory.org/safety.

Since New-York Historical closed to the public on March 13 to help contain the spread of COVID-19, it has been actively collecting during these unprecedented times through its History Responds initiative, documenting the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests in New York City. For more details on its ongoing collecting efforts and how to donate items, visit nyhistory.org/history-responds.

Exhibitions on View

In addition to permanent exhibitions like the Gallery of Tiffany LampsObjects Tell Stories, and Meet the Presidents and the Oval Office, the following extended, special exhibitions will be on display when the Museum reopens:

·       Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolutionthrough January 3, 2021

·       Women Marchthrough January 24, 2021

·       The People Count: The Census in the Making of Americathrough November 8, 2020

·       Colonists, Citizens, Constitutions: Creating the American Republic, through February 7, 2021

·       In Profile: A Look at Silhouettesthrough November 29, 2020

Outdoor Exhibition: Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine
Curated by writer Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman, Hope Wanted comprises more than 50 photographs by Hickman and 12 audio interviews with the photographs’ subjects conducted by Powell, gathered during the team’s intensive two-day odyssey across the city on April 8–9, 2020. The free exhibition, on display through November 29 in New-York Historical’s rear courtyard (entrance located by 5 West 76th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue), provides an open-air environment for visitors to view the works on display and contemplate the impact of COVID-19 on New York City. The empathetic photographs of New Yorkers and their neighborhoods across all five boroughs and the compelling interviews capture both the tragedy of the pandemic as well as the remarkable resilience of the city and its people.

The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent 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. New-York Historical is also home to the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, one of the oldest, most distinguished libraries in the nation—and one of only 20 in the United States qualified to be a member of the Independent Research Libraries Association—which contains more than three million books, pamphlets, maps, newspapers, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings.

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. Follow the Museum on social media at @nyhistory on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and Tumblr.

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New-York Historical Society to Open Free Outdoor Exhibition, ‘Hope Wanted: NYC Under Quarantine’ Aug. 14

The New-York Historical Society plans to reopen starting August 14 with a special free outdoor exhibition, ‘Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine.’

New York, NY – The New-York Historical Society, the city’s oldest museum, plans to reopen in stages starting August 14, 2020, pending approval from local and state officials. The Museum will first open a special free outdoor exhibition, Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine, which documents the experiences of New Yorkers across the five boroughs during the height of the pandemic. Then on September 11, 2020, the Museum is planning to reopen indoors, with safety protocols in place for visitors and staff.

“We are eager to welcome visitors back to the New-York Historical Society,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “While so much has changed over the past several months, our mission of ‘Making History Matter’ remains vital, now more than ever before.”

Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine

Curated by writer and humanitarian Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman, Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine features more than 50 photographs taken by Hickman along with 12 audio interviews with the photographs’ subjects conducted by Powell during the team’s intensive two-day odyssey across the city on April 8–9, 2020; the audio will be accessible to visitors through their cell phones. Hickman’s empathetic photographs of people and their neighborhoods in all five boroughs and Powell’s searching interviews of New Yorkers impacted by the crisis capture both tragedy and remarkable resilience at a moment in time during the pandemic. The exhibition text and audio will be offered in both English and Spanish.

Hope Wanted will take place outdoors in New-York Historical’s rear courtyard (located at West 76th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue), providing an open-air environment for visitors to view the exhibition and contemplate the impact of COVID-19 on New York City. Admission is free; access will be limited and face coverings will be required for entry, with social distancing enforced through timed-entry tickets and on-site safety measures.

The exhibition also includes a quiet seating area, surrounded by plantings and conducive to reflection, where visitors can record their own experiences of the pandemic in an open-sided story booth. These oral histories will be archived by New-York Historical.

Kevin Powell is a poet, journalist, public speaker, civil and human rights activist, and the author of 14 books, including his new title, When We Free the World (Apple Books), about the present and future of America, which is exclusively excerpted in the New York Times (“A Letter From Father to Child”). Kay Hickman is a documentary photographer and visual artist. Her passion is highlighting the human experience as it relates to identity, human rights, and health issues. Her work has been featured in the New York TimesTimeVogueMs., VibeUtne, and MFON Women Photographers of the African Diaspora. Dr. Marilyn Kushner, curator and head, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, is New-York Historical’s curatorial coordinator for the exhibition.

Major support for this exhibition is provided by the Ford Foundation. Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, 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.

Museum Reopening

Details of the Museum’s indoor reopening protocols and visitor safety measures will be announced soon. Since the New-York Historical Society closed to the public on March 13 to help contain the spread of COVID-19, it has been actively collecting during these unprecedented times through its History Responds initiative, documenting the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests in New York City. For more details on what New-York Historical is currently collecting and how to donate objects, visit nyhistory.org/history-responds.

The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent 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. New-York Historical is also home to the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, one of the oldest, most distinguished libraries in the nation—and one of only 20 in the United States qualified to be a member of the Independent Research Libraries Association—which contains more than three million books, pamphlets, maps, newspapers, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings.

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. Follow the Museum on social media at @nyhistory on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and Tumblr.

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Tiffany Glass Exhibition at Rosecliff, One of Newport R.I. Mansions

Colorful glass artwork and objects by Louis C. Tiffany is on display at Rosecliff, one of the famed Newport, Rhode Island, Mansions, through March 1 (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEWPORT, R.I. – Colorful glass artwork and objects by the renowned Louis C. Tiffany is on display at Rosecliff, one of the famed, grand, historic Newport Mansions, through March 1.

“Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light” opens Sunday at 4 p.m. with a lecture and reception featuring Lindsy Parrott, executive director and curator of The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass in New York City, which organized the exhibition. Hosted by The Preservation Society of Newport County, the exhibition showcases a selection of objects from the Neustadt’s vast collection.

“Tiffany’s work is one of the defining examples of innovation in Gilded Age decorative arts,” said Trudy Coxe, CEO and executive director of the Preservation Society. “This is a great addition to our series of exhibitions on the second floor of Rosecliff, following upon our recent, successful Audubon presentation.”

As a painter, Tiffany (1848-1933) was captivated by the interplay of light and color, and this fascination found its most spectacular expression in his glass “paintings.” Through the medium of opalescent glass, Tiffany manipulated light and color to achieve impressionistic effects using innovative techniques and materials. His Tiffany Studios created leaded-glass windows and lampshades in vibrant colors and richly varied patterns, textures and opacities.

“Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light” is composed of five windows, 19 lamps and more than 100 pieces of opalescent flat glass and glass “jewels.”

“We are thrilled to be partnering with The Preservation Society of Newport County to share some of Tiffany’s most iconic and celebrated works, especially since several Newport mansions featured decorations commissioned from Tiffany,” Parrott said. “The exhibit illustrates the rich expanse of color and light available to the artists at the Tiffany Studios, and captures Tiffany’s artistic innovations during the Gilded Age.”

Rosecliff is located at 548 Bellevue Ave. The exhibition is free to view with paid admission to Rosecliff. For tickets and information, visit newportmansions.org/learn/adult-programs or call 401-847-1000, ext. 178.

The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history. Its 11 historic properties – seven of them National Historic Landmarks – span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.

For more information, visit NewportMansions.org.

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