Current & Upcoming Exhibitions 

On View at BHS DUMBO


WaterfrontWaterfront is an exhibition and multimedia experience for all ages that brings to life the vibrant history of Brooklyn’s coastline through stories of workers, artists, industries, activists, families, neighborhoods, and ecosystems. Waterfront traces a personal, local history of the borough’s waterfront while also revealing the coastline's global significance. The exhibition engages with important debates about the shoreline’s future by taking on the waterfront’s most pressing contemporary topics including sea level rise and gentrification. Learn more about this exhibition and BHS DUMBO here.

On View at 128 Pierrepont St.

On the (Queer) Waterfront
March 6, 2019 - August 4, 2019
BHS Pierrepont
On the (Queer) Waterfront

On the (Queer) Waterfront
is the first exhibition ever to focus explicitly on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer history of Brooklyn. Since at least 1855, when Walt Whitman published his epic poem Leaves of Grass at a print shop in Brooklyn Heights, there has been a significant – if often overlooked – LGBTQ presence in the borough, much of it clustered along the waterfront, where industrial jobs, cheap housing, and urban anonymity life provided unique opportunities for queer people to explore their own desires and discover one another.

By profiling the many queer individuals who have lived in or passed through Brooklyn in the last 150 years, On the (Queer) Waterfront shows both the changes and continuities in our ideas and experiences of sexuality in Brooklyn. In particular, the exhibit examines five types of work that proved specifically welcoming of or interesting to LGBTQ people: artist, entertainer, sex worker, sailor, and factory worker. The exhibition features evocative photographs, ephemera, and artifacts, while a reading and discussion area offers visitors a space to view relevant books and discuss with one another. 

Thank you to the following donors and institutions that made this exhibition possible: Cezanne Studio, Jonathan Arnold & Stephen B. Soba, John Caldwell & Zane Blaney, Daphne Philipson, Kathleen Behrens, V. Hansmann, Ken Lustbader, Lori Metcalf, John P. Ryan, Louis Wiley, Jr., Roy E. Eddey & Joel E. Hershey, Lizanne Fontaine and Bob Buckholz, Marj and Bill Coleman, Michael Gillespie and Lauren Glant, Chris Kelley and Stuart Post, Jane Melnick and Eileen Willenborg, Ward Mintz and Floyd Lattin, Audra and Robin Ottaway, Susan and William Rifkin, and Lucien Zayan.

Brooklyn: A New Home, a New Life
May 31, 2018 - Spring 2019
BHS PierrepontBrooklyn: A New Home, a New Life

As they watched the Trump administration’s Muslim ban and subsequent restraining orders move closer to the Supreme Court, outgoing Teen Council Members identified immigration as the timely and broad topic for 2018. In responding to their mandate, 2018 Council Members analyzed how concepts of “us” and “them” lead to stereotypes of immigrants and considered how race and immigration have intersected differently across eras. They sought to strike a delicate balance between the range of immigrant experiences across time, culture, and individual life trajectories. Council members grappled with ongoing, unifying themes related to living away from the land of one’s birth— language, cultural fluidity, code switching, and American immigration law and policing. The resultant exhibition, Brooklyn: A New Home, a New Life, features stories about historical Brooklynites: Harriet Judson, John Roebling, Nathan Handwerker, and Shirley Chisholm, as well as Ravi Ragbir, a contemporary immigration activist. The people featured are not all immigrants, but each represent a different lens into the story of American immigrants, and show, without a doubt, how Brooklyn has been shaped by the many international ties within its vibrant and varied communities.
BHS Teen Council 2018
2018 Brooklyn Historical Society Teen Council
Teen Council Supporters

The Teen Council is convened through the generous support of Astoria Bank, The Bay and Paul Foundations, Con Edison, the Ferriday Fund Charitable Trust, the Leon Levy Foundation, and the Michael Tuch Foundation. BHS programs are also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State legislature; and supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Brooklyn Abolitionists / In Pursuit of FreedomBrooklyn Abolitionists/In Pursuit of Freedom

January 15, 2014 - March 24, 2019
BHS Pierrepont

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.

Brooklyn Abolitionists Website

The Emancipation Proclamation 
Emancipation Proclamation
October 16, 2013 - March 24, 2019 BHS Pierrepont

View a replica of 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.

Permanent Collection Installations

Chronicling Brooklyn's Landscapes

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

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.