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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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New-York Historical Society Exhibition Honors Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The New-York Historical Society honors the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG)—the trailblazing Supreme Court justice and cultural icon—with a special exhibition on view October 1, 2021 – January 23, 2022, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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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New-York Historical Society Commemorates the 20th Anniversary of September 11 With Special Programs, Displays

The New-York Historical Society, the oldest museum in New York City, is commemorating the 20th anniversary of September 11 with displays of objects collected in the aftermath of the attacks and special programs taking place throughout the day on Saturday, September 11, 2021.

The New-York Historical Society, the oldest museum in New York City, is commemorating the 20th anniversary of September 11 with displays of objects collected in the aftermath of the attacks and special programs taking place throughout the day on Saturday, September 11, 2021.

ON VIEW

Remembering 9/11: On the morning of September 11, 2001, just 15 minutes after hearing the alarm, the FDNY’s elite Rescue Company 2—Lieutenant Peter Martin and firefighters William Lake, Daniel Libretti, John Napolitano, Lincoln Quappe, Kevin O’Rourke, and Edward Rall—arrived at the unfolding World Trade Center tragedy.  All seven were killed when the building collapsed. On special display is a damaged door of Rescue 2’s fire truck that is part of New-York Historical’s collection. 

Objects Tell Stories: 9/11: In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, New-York Historical launched the History Responds collecting program to document monumental events as they are happening. Explore objects from that initiative in our fourth floor permanent display, including a mangled Venetian blind retrieved from St. Paul’s Churchyard and a memorial of candles, notes, and mementos erected on Barclay Street.

PROGRAMS

Captioned videos related to 9/11 and the aftermath as well as images from here is new york, a photographic archive that documented the various aspects of Ground Zero, will be projected on digital displays in the Smith Gallery. In addition, a 25-minute cinematic experience with accompanying music will screen in the Robert H. Smith Auditorium on the hour and half hour, providing a quiet place for visitors to reflect.

From sundown on Friday, September 10, to sunrise on Sunday, September 12, New-York Historical’s facade will be lit up in “Memorial Blue,” as we join other cultural organizations across the city for the annual Tribute in Light.  

As part of New York City’s Key to NYC program, all visitors to New York City museums age 12 and over are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. For more details, go to our FAQ page.

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, 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org.

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Happening at New-York Historical Society: Holiday Express Toys and Trains, Last Chance for ‘Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution’

Last chance! Listen to the music Bill Graham promoted in his concert venues as you go through the tribute exhibit “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution“ at the New-York Historical Society, on view through Jan. 3, 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The fabulously popular seasonal Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection may be running through Feb.21, but the New-York Historical Society is issuing notice of a last chance to experience the remarkable Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution (through Jan. 3, 2021), and Women March (through Jan. 24, 2021), plus other events, exhibits, and online and virtual programs.

The New-York Historical Society is open to visitors with timed-entry tickets and safety protocols in place

Here’s what’s on view as well as programs available virtually, on demand, and what is coming up in 2021:

Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection

Now through February 21, 2021
A magical wonderland awaits visitors with the return of this holiday tradition. Featuring toy trains, figurines, and miniature models from the renowned Jerni Collection, the exhibition transports young and old alike to a bygone era. The display includes a variety of toy train stations dating from the turn of the 19th century to the WWII era, showcasing the evolving designs of American and European toymakers. Visitors are greeted by animations and fun facts about the toys on nearby screens, and kids will be delighted by a specially created bench inspired by a sleigh in New-York Historical’s collection.

EXHIBITIONS

Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution
LAST CHANCE: Now through January 3, 2021
The New-York Historical Society presents the rock & roll world of Bill Graham (1931–1991), one of the most influential concert promoters of all time who worked with the biggest names in rock music—including the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and the Rolling Stones. Organized by the Skirball Cultural Center, this comprehensive retrospective of Graham’s life and career explores some of the 20th century’s momentous cultural transformations through the lens of rock & roll. Showcasing more than 300 objects—including rock memorabilia, photographs, and concert posters—the exhibition features a site-specific installation of “The Joshua Light Show,” the trailblazing liquid light show, and a special, immersive audio experience, providing a musical tour through the exhibition with songs by rock superstars Blondie, David Bowie, the Doors, Janis Joplin, and Neil Young, among others.

Women March
LAST CHANCE: Now through January 24, 2021
For as long as there has been a United States, women have organized to shape the nation’s politics and secure their rights as citizens. Their collective action has taken many forms, from abolitionist petitions to industry-wide garment strikes to massive marches for an Equal Rights Amendment. Women March commemorates the centennial of the 19th Amendment—which granted women the right to vote in 1920—as it explores the efforts of a wide range of women to expand American democracy in the centuries before and after the suffrage victory. On view in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, this immersive exhibition features imagery and video footage of women’s collective action, drawing visitors into a visceral engagement with the struggles that have endured into the 21st century.

Colonists, Citizens, Constitutions: Creating the American Republic
Now through February 7, 2021
America has been singular among nations in fostering a vibrant culture of engagement with constitutional matters and the fundamental principles of government. Featuring 40 books and documents from collector and philanthropist Dorothy Tapper Goldman’s collection—including constitutions from the federal and state levels—Colonists, Citizens, Constitutions: Creating the American Republic depicts the story of America’s unique constitutionalism from the founding era through the turn of the 20th century. The exhibition, which sketches the often troubled history of the country as it expanded across the continent, serves as a timely reminder of our country’s democratic foundations and its relentless quest for improvement.

Dreaming Together: New-York Historical Society and Asia Society Museum
Now through July 25, 2021

As part of the Asia Society TriennialWe Do Not Dream Alone—a multi-venue festival of art, ideas, and innovation—the New-York Historical Society and Asia Society Museum opens their first ever collaborative exhibition, Dreaming Together. More than 35 interwoven works drawn from both art collections generate dialogue about the urban and natural environments, protest and rebellion, individuals and identities, borders and crossings. Highlights include the Canal Street diptych (1992) from Martin Wong’s Chinatown series, 98-foot hanging scrolls by Dinh Q. Lê featuring abstractions of the World Trade Center towers (2016), and a dystopic video narrative of war and destruction by Shiva Ahmadi (2014). The result is a powerful reflection on the possibilities unleashed when people, cultures, and institutions dream in tandem.

Meet the Presidents and the Oval Office
Ongoing

A special permanent gallery on New-York Historical’s fourth floor features a detailed re-creation of the White House Oval Office, where presidents have exercised their powers, duties, and responsibilities since 1909. Visitors to New-York Historical can explore the Oval Office and hear audio recordings of presidential musings. The Meet the Presidents Gallery traces, through artwork and objects, the evolution of the presidency and executive branch and how presidents have interpreted and fulfilled their leadership role. Highlights include the actual Bible used during George Washington’s inauguration in 1789 and a student scrapbook from 1962 chronicling JFK’s leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

New-York Historical’s Permanent Collection Displays 
Ongoing
As the centerpiece of the fourth floor, the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps features 100 illuminated Tiffany lamps from the Museum’s spectacular collection—regarded as one of the world’s largest and most encyclopedic— displayed within a dramatically lit jewel-like space. In the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture, treasures from our vast permanent collection tell the story of New York and American history. Themed displays present a variety of topics—such as slavery, war, 9/11, and childhood. Highlights include George Washington’s camp cot from Valley Forge; the preparatory model for Alison Saar’s imposing statue Swing Low: Harriet Tubman Memorial; a Venetian blind retrieved from St. Paul’s Churchyard in the days after September 11, 2001; stained glass dating back to 1650 from the time of New Amsterdam; and a draft wheel used in the lottery that sparked the Draft Riots in Civil War-torn New York in July 1863, one of the worst urban riots in American history.

SPECIAL INSTALLATION

The Waldorf Astoria Lobby Clock
Ongoing
Meet us at the clock! The great Waldorf Astoria clock is a legendary part of New York City lore and a meeting spot for generations of New Yorkers. Originally made for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, it was crafted in London and features relief portraits of American presidents and Queen Victoria of England. For decades, the towering clock graced the Waldorf Astoria—both at its first location on Fifth Avenue and 34th Street and in the lobby of the hotel’s longtime address at Park Avenue and 50th Street. This time-keeping treasure recently underwent a meticulous restoration and is on view in the Smith Gallery during the hotel’s renovation.

DIGITAL PROGRAMS AND PRESENTATIONS

Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution Virtual Presentation
Live Online | Tuesday, January 5, 2021 | 4–5:15 pm ET | $10 ($5 for Members)

Dive into the life and times of Bill Graham, the legendary music impresario behind the biggest names in rock & roll—including the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and the Rolling Stones. This interactive presentation on Zoom tells the thrilling story of how a child refugee from Nazi Germany became one of the most influential concert promoters of all time. Explore psychedelic posters, oral history audio clips, and rare backstage photographs with a Museum docent.

The Last Million: Europe’s Displaced Persons from World Warto Cold War with David Nasaw and Judith Shulevitz 
Live Online | Tuesday, January 5, 2021 | 6 pm ET | $20 (Members, $10)

The surrender of Germany to the Allied powers in May 1945 was only the beginning for the millions of people left displaced and homeless in Europe after the war. Exhaustive repatriation efforts settled some, but a million refugees still remained left behind in Germany. Join acclaimed historian David Nasaw live on Zoom as he illuminates the heartbreaking, and sometimes shocking, story of the Last Million as they moved forward into an unknowable future.

Nature and American Art Virtual Presentation
Live Online | Thursday, January 14, 2021 | 3–4 pm | $10 ($5 Members)
Experience the natural beauty of the United States through the eyes of artists in New-York Historical’s collection. Discover how an evolving understanding of science and the emergence of early conservation movements shaped the 19th-century work of naturalist John James Audubon and the landscape painters of the Hudson River School.

The Crooked Path to Abolition: Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Constitution with James Oakes and Manisha Sinha
Live Online | Thursday, January 14, 2021 | 6 pm ET | $20 (Members, $10)

The long and turning path to the abolition of American slavery has often been attributed to the ambiguities and inconsistencies of antislavery leaders, including Abraham Lincoln. Live on Zoom, scholars James Oakes and Manisha Sinha uncover Lincoln’s antislavery strategies beginning long before his presidency, ultimately revealing a striking consistency and commitment extending over many years, all centered on the Constitution.

Meet the Presidents: A Look at the American Presidency Virtual Presentation
Live Online | Tuesday, January 19, 2021 | 4–5:15 pm ET | $10 ($5 for Members)

Discover the evolution of the presidency and executive branch and the ways presidents have interpreted and fulfilled their leadership role with exhibition highlights from Meet the Presidents. Notable objects include the actual Bible used during George Washington’s inauguration in 1789 and a student scrapbook from 1962 chronicling John F. Kennedy’s decisions during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman with Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Eric Foner 
Live Online | Tuesday, January 19, 2021 | 6 pm ET | $20 (Members, $10)

Harriet Tubman inspired generations of civil rights activists with her heroic work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. However her extraordinary accomplishments encompass even more. Erica Armstrong Dunbar discusses Harriet Tubman’s full biography, including her advocacy for women’s suffrage, her service in the Union Army during the Civil War, and her experiences as an entrepreneur, nurse, mother, fundraiser, philanthropist, and wife.

The Economy and the President with James Grant and Byron R. Wien 
Live Online | Tuesday, January 26, 2021 | 6 pm ET | $20 (Members, $10)

The coronavirus pandemic has shaken economic foundations across the globe. Following the presidential inauguration, longtime financial observers examine the economic successes and actions of the past few years, explore how the economy influenced the 2020 election, and forecast how the Biden administration’s policies could impact the national economic climate.

Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All with Martha S. Jones and Eric Foner
Live Online | Thursday, January 28, 2021 | 6 pm ET | $20 (Members, $10)

For many, the suffrage crusade began in Seneca Falls in 1848 and ended with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. But this overwhelmingly white women’s movement did not win the vote for most Black women. Acclaimed historian Martha S. Jones, in conversation with Eric Foner, recounts how Black women defied both racism and sexism to fight for the ballot from the earliest days of the republic through the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and beyond, and how they wielded political power to secure the equality and dignity of all persons.

PUBLIC PROGRAMS ON-DEMAND

The New-York Historical Society is presenting a rich library of program recordings available to stream on demand. Produced exclusively for New-York Historical, the offerings feature notable speakers. Programs include Julian Fellowes in conversation with Catherine Grace Katz, author of The Daughters of Yalta: The Churchills, Roosevelts, and Harrimans: A Story of Love and War; scholars Akhil Reed Amar and Cristina M. Rodríguez discussing presidential power and immigration law; and a conversation on the life and legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

EDUCATION PROGRAMS FOR STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND GREEN CARD HOLDERS

History @ Home: Online Learning for Students
Join New-York Historical educators online as they lead live, weekly, interactive U.S. history classes. Lessons are content-based, inquiry-driven, and thematically and developmentally appropriate for each grade served. Students study images, artifacts, and historical documents, and learn to think critically about the history of our nation. All lessons are free. All you need is internet access and a device with the ability to connect to a Zoom meeting. 

Professional Development Workshops for Teachers
Free, one-hour interactive professional workshops take place every Wednesday at 5 pm ET while on Thursdays at 6 pm ET conversations between teachers and a guest scholar are held in an informal setting. 

Citizenship Project: Free Online Citizenship Classes for Green Card Holders
The New-York Historical Society offers free online citizenship classes for green card holders preparing for the naturalization interview. The interactive online naturalization preparation course covers all questions from the USCIS Civics Test. Participants learn about American history and government using objects, paintings, and documents from New-York Historical’s collections through videoconferencing. Online citizenship classes are taught in English and are accessible to English Language Learners. We also offer an online Spanish citizenship class for people who qualify for the English language exemption. New classes begin in January.

ONLINE FAMILY PROGRAMS

The DiMenna Children’s History Museum presents a wide range of digital, interactive family programs for all ages. To learn more about story time and crafts for little ones, conversations with historical interpreters, our Reading into History Family Book Club, and more, visit the Family Programs Calendar. And when visiting the Museum, families can explore the displays with an array of digital family guides

Admission: Adults: $22; Seniors/Educators/Active Military: $17; Students: $13; Children (5–13): $6; Children (4 and under): Free. Pay-as-you-wish Fridays from 6 pm – 8 pm

New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (at 77th Street), New York, NY 10024, www.nyhistory.org, 212-873-3400

See: Many Pathways to Mark Centennial of Women’s Suffrage

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‘Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’ Exhibit Coming to New-York Historical Society, Fall 2021

The New-York Historical Society will honor the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG)—the trailblazing Supreme Court justice and cultural icon—with a special exhibition, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on view October 1, 2021 – January 23, 2022 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEW YORK, NY – September 25, 2020 – The New-York Historical Society will honor the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG)—the trailblazing Supreme Court justice and cultural icon—with a special exhibition next year. 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.

“We were deeply saddened by the recent passing of 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 the New-York Historical Society. “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, one of many that we are honored to host annually. The exhibition we had planned as a celebration of Justice Ginsburg’s life will now be our 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 listening stations where visitors can hear RBG’s delivery of oral arguments, majority opinions, and forceful dissents in landmark Supreme Court cases.

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.

New-York Historical will announce additional exhibition details and related programming next year.

After debuting at the Skirball Cultural Center in 2018, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has toured the country and is currently on view at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, Skokie, IL (February 9, 2020–January 31, 2021) and will travel to the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Cleveland (February 21–June 20, 2021). After its New York run, the exhibition will travel to the Holocaust Museum Houston in Houston (January 2022); and the Capital Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C. (summer/fall 2022).

The New-York Historical Society presentation of Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is sponsored by Northern Trust. 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, 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. We welcome people of all communities and generations to participate in cultural experiences that celebrate discovery and hope, foster human connections, and call upon us to help build a more just society. 

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 ten 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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