Current & Upcoming Exhibits 

Brooklyn Abolitionists/In Pursuit of Freedom

In Pursuit of Freedom
John Halpern for Brooklyn Historical Society.
January 15, 2014 – Winter 2018

This major, long-term exhibit explores the unsung heroes of Brooklyn’s anti-slavery movement -- ordinary residents, black and white -- who shaped their neighborhoods, city and nation with a revolutionary vision of freedom and equality. The exhibit is part of the groundbreaking In Pursuit of Freedom public history project that features new research on Brooklyn's abolition movement in partnership with Weeksville Heritage Center and Irondale Ensemble Project.

Learn more on the exhibition website here.

The Emancipation Proclamation 

Emancipation Proclamation
October 16, 2013 – Summer 2014

View Brooklyn Historical Society’s rare copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, and examine its dramatic and polemic impact on Americans at the height of the Civil War. The exhibit suggests ways that the document’s social and political meaning has evolved in the 150 years since it was signed, and invites visitors to reflect on its legacy in the twenty-first century.

She said, She said: Art and inspiration in the work of Nell Painter and Lucille Fornasieri Gold

She said June 26, 2014 - February 4, 2015

This exhibition juxtaposes two separate but related bodies of artwork - photographs of Brooklyn in the 1970s and 1980s, and the paintings they inspired many decades later. Lucille Fornasieri Gold documented everyday life in her multi-racial, multi-ethnic Brooklyn neighborhood. In 2008, Brooklyn Historical Society acquired her photographs, and two years later, the artist Nell Painter found them. Nell created new images by digitally manipulating fragments of Lucille's photographs and painting them into visual fiction.

Full Steam Ahead: 200 Years of Ferries in Brooklyn

Full Steam Ahead
Broadway Ferry, 1922, v1991.106.15; Morris Slotkin collection of Eugene L. Armbruster photographs of Williamsburg, v1991.106; Brooklyn Historical Society.
In 1814, Robert Fulton launched the first steam ferry between Brooklyn and Manhattan, transforming the relationship between the two places and ushering in a period of enormous growth in Brooklyn. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Fulton's ferry, BHS has mined its archives to reveal wonderful details of Brooklyn’s ferry history. Materials on display include paintings of the Union Ferry Company fleet, colorful tickets and timetables, and business records from the early days of steam ferry travel.

Sweet Industries: Refining What We Know

Sweet Industries June 10, 2014 - January 10, 2015

Sugar has fueled Brooklyn’s economic growth for over 150 years. Sweet Industries reveals stories of this delicious commodity and its associated businesses with a focus on two companies: Domino Sugar Corporation and Drake’s Bakeries. The exhibit shares the experiences of generations of Brooklynites who dedicated their working lives to satisfying America’s sweet tooth. Sweet Industries was curated by nine Brooklyn teens who participated in “Ex Lab,” BHS’s annual museum studies afterschool program.

Documenting Sandy

documenting sandyOctober 16, 2013 – Spring 2014

With the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy upon us, this exhibit of photographs taken by professionals and amateurs, on cellphones and slr’s, documents the aftermath of this devastating storm in Brooklyn and gives powerful voice to the impact and continuing recovery.

Inventing Brooklyn: People, Places, Progress

June 2011 - Summer 2014inventing brooklyn logo
Inventing Brooklyn: People, Places, Progress traces the evolution of Brooklyn into the place we know today. From Native American roots and Dutch colonial influences to icons such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Dodgers, Inventing Brooklyn examines how various people, places, and historical events have shaped the development of the borough.  Drawing on archival documents, photographs, prints, artifacts, and oral histories from the Brooklyn Historical Society collection, Inventing Brooklyn takes on 400 years of Brooklyn’s history. The exhibit includes items relating to the Battle of Brooklyn, Brooklyn's first newspapers, and Brooklyn’s diverse immigrant populations in order to capture the complexity and dynamism of the process of Inventing Brooklyn.

Inventing Brooklyn: People, Places, Progress is created by the high school students in Brooklyn Historical Society’s Exhibition Laboratory program.  Now in its fifth year, Ex Lab invites students from four local high schools to help curate and design a new BHS exhibit.  The Ex Lab students work closely with BHS staff, consulting historians, and professional exhibit designers to conduct archival research, choose objects, and write exhibit text in order to bring Inventing Brooklyn to life.

Check out Brooklyn Tech junior Neil Alacha’s blog post about Inventing Brooklyn.

Permanent Collection Installations

Historical Views of and from Brooklyn

Features paintings of Brooklyn from many eras alongside a copy of Brooklyn Historical Society's rare Ratzer Plan of New York.
2nd Floor Parlor

Portraits of Prominent New Yorkers 

Includes paintings from Brooklyn Historical Society's historic collections as well as a recent artist commission by Meredith Bergman, Historia Testis Temporis: Pinky.
2nd Floor Hall and 3rd Floor Landing

An American Family Grows in Brooklyn: The Lefferts Family Papers 

Digital Exhibit

Explore a Brooklyn family's complex legacy through BHS's archival collections.

Spanning almost four centuries, the Lefferts Family Papers reveal Brooklyn’s remarkable transformation from an agricultural frontier to a diverse urban center.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Leon Levy Foundation, Brooklyn Historical Society has been able to process, conserve, and digitize the letters, journals, books, maps, photographs, legal records, and many other documents that chronicle one of Brooklyn’s first families.

View the digital exhibit>>

Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations

Digital Exhibit

Crossing Borders, Briding Generations examines the history and experiences of mixed-heritage people and families, cultural hybridity, race, ethnicity, and identity.

Past Project: Public Perspectives Exhibition Series

The Public Perspectives Exhibition Series provides a creative forum for Brooklynites to have an active voice at the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) by presenting community-curated exhibits. Every spring, BHS issues an annual open call for exhibition proposals from Brooklyn-based individuals, school and community groups, and non-profit organizations. Each season three recipient groups are selected by a panel of cultural and community representatives. Public Perspectives enables BHS to encourage community involvement not only in the content of exhibitions, but also in the selection process. The awardees collaborate with BHS staff to develop and mount their exhibitions.
This series is made possible through the generous support of the Lily Auchincloss Foundation and FHL Bank. Additional support is provided by the Kress Foundation and HBO.

Application Process

Public Perspectives is currently on hold due to a scheduled interior renovation project and to pursue further funding. 

2009-2010 Recipients

October 1, 2009 - January 24, 2010

Brooklyn Utopias?, curated by Katherine Gressel. An invited group of artists respond to the question of Brooklyn's future by presenting their differing visions of an ideal Brooklyn.

February 4 - August 29, 2010
Tivoli: A Place We Call Home, curated by Delphine Fawundu. Multi-media exhibition of photographs, video and words documenting the tenants of Tivoli Towers in the Crown Heights neighborhood at the onset of gentrification, as the building faces the threat of removal of its affordable housing program status.

September 16, 2010 - August 24, 2011
Painting Brooklyn Stories of Immigration and Survival, curated by Nina Talbot. In collaboration with Professor Rachel Bernstein of New York University's Public History program, striking stories of Brooklyn residents are portrayed through paintings, oral histories and personal effects, lending individual insights into broader social aspects of life in Brooklyn.

2008-2009 Season
James and Karla Murray, Counter/Culture – The Disappearing Face of Brooklyn’s Storefronts. A vibrant photographic and narrative collection of Brooklyn’s rapidly vanishing neighborhood storefronts. September 10 – December 28, 2008.

Rebecca Layton, Sarah Bostwick and Karla Wozniak, Brooklyn Redrawn Three Brooklyn artists depict the visual and societal complexity of the borough’s urban built environment. January – April 2009.

Andrew Urban and David Madden, Brooklyn and the History of Chinese Immigration. Investigates how Brooklyn residents responded to Chinese immigration in the 19th century, and the 20th century development of a Chinatown in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. May – August 2009.

2007-2008 Season

Sacred Hearts: A Journey of Italian Catholics in the Borough of Churches. Curator: John L. Heyer II, in cooperation with Sacred Hearts and St. Stephen Parish and the Italian Apostolate of the Diocese of Brooklyn. September 7 – December 30, 2007.

Lost in Transition: South Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Coney Island. Curators: Rebecca Krucoff and the Urban Memory Project. January 11 – April 27, 2008.

Gowanus Transformations. Curators: Christine Mackellar, Margaret Maugenest, and Friends and Residents of the Greater Gowanus (FROGG). May 9 - August 24, 2008.

2006-2007 Inaugural Season
From Synagogue to Church: Converted Brooklyn Houses of Worship. Curators: Ellen Levitt and Howard Dankowitz

A Drum Beats in Brooklyn: A Photography Exhibition Celebrating the Drum-Based and African Influenced Traditions of Brooklyn. Curators: She Shootin’ Photography Collective - Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Nsenga Knight, Delphine Fawundu-Buford, Kerika Fields, Ava Griffiths

Up From Flames: Mapping the Recovery of Bushwick, 1977-2007. Curators: Adam J. Schwartz, Meryl Meisler, Josh Lapidus, and students from the Academy of Urban Planning.