One of my favorite things to do the day after Thanksgiving is visit a museum. Being that the New-York Historical Society opened earlier this month after a two year renovation, this year’s choice was a no-brainer. I have been a habitué of the N-YHS since moving to New York over a decade ago. If you are a serious student of American history and have never been to this institution, you simply must visit. An added bonus is that it is directly across the street from Central Park and a few blocks north of the Dakota apartment building. I always go out of my way to see the Dakota when I am in the area and it fills me with sadness every time. Earlier this week I finished this.
When I exited the train station on 72nd street this morning the bleachers from yesterday’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade were still standing.
The New-York Historical Society’s institutional memory is unsurpassed. The Society opened its doors in 1804, the year Vice-President Aaron Burr mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton in a duel on the cliffs of Weehawken, New Jersey overlooking Manhattan. Thomas Jefferson was the sitting president and George Washington had died just five years earlier. Here are a few photos, all taken on my cell phone camera.
The scale is difficult to make out but these slave shackles were intended for small–very small–children. This was from the first floor permanent exhibit.
No, this is not a ghost. There were living historians at the Society today.
These Revolutionary War-era musket balls,
and buttons worn by British troops, are from archaeological digs in upper Manhattan.
The introductory film did an excellent job tracing the evolution of New York City from the time of the Lenape Indians, through the Dutch and Colonial eras, the Civil War, the Gilded and Jazz Ages, 9/11 and today.
I loved this contemporary figurine on the third floor’s visible storage area.
The ribbons are from Civil War reunions. The first is from a UCV gathering in South Carolina in 1898; the second is from 1904. It is often lost on people how far into the twentieth century Civil War veterans lived.
A tribute to General Michael Corcoran of the 69th New York. Several months ago I wrote of the restoration of The Return of the 69th (Irish) Regiment, N.Y.S.M. from the Seat of War. I saw it today for the first time and can attest to its power. I have always loved the confluence of art and history. I cannot wait until January when the New American Wing Galleries reopen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It has been almost three years. I already have MLK Jr. Day marked on my calendar for a Holiday Monday visit.
It is hard to make out (again, cellphone camera), but this is a paper toy soldier of an African American doughboy. The Centennial of the Great War is a little over two years away.
It is not all militaria. The Society collects and interprets artifacts from all aspects of New York and American life. This baseball sculpture was made in 1868.
Death masks are compelling because they remind us that historical figures were living people, not just names in a history book. This is General Sherman. My gosh, look at the detail in the beard. They have the Lincoln Volk mask at the Society as well.
Frederick Douglass. The statue is new.
All-in-all not a bad way to spend Black Friday. No lines, no crazy customers, and a lot cheaper than the department store.