Hablemos de la Historia y del Arte: New York Through the Photography of Bill Cunningham

Sat, 03/15/2014 - 14:00 to 15:30
Sat, March 15th, 2014 | 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm

The New-York Historical Society invites you to participate in educational activities for families in Spanish. Come with your children ages four to ten to our educational programs about the history and art of New York. In the galleries we will chat about different themes, and children will have the opportunity to learn and enjoy themselves making drawings with watercolors and pastels, collages, and sculptures. Classes include art materials.

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Trompe l’oeil and Modernity

Judith Barter
Thu, 12/05/2013 - 18:30
Thu, December 5th, 2013 | 6:30 pm

Note: This event has reached capacity.



During the 1870s, American trompe l’oeil painting enjoyed a rebirth. Usually seen as trickery, deception, or humor, Dr. Judith Barter’s lecture addresses trompe l’oeil as a type of painting that contained modern ideas. These contain narratives that reflect a new consumer culture, standardization and professionalism, memory and reality, and the very nature of painting itself.

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Bill Cunningham: Facades

March 14, 2014
June 15, 2014

In 1968, photographer Bill Cunningham embarked on an eight-year project to document the architectural riches and fashion history of New York City. Scouring the city’s thrift stores, auction houses, and street fairs for vintage clothing, and scouting sites on his bicycle, Cunningham generated a photographic essay entitled Facades, which paired models—in particular his muse, fellow photographer Editta Sherman—in period costumes with historic settings.  

Unknown artist. Bill Cunningham Photographing Models, New York County Court House, ca.1975. Gelatin silver photograph 11x14 in. Gift of Bill Cunningham, New-York Historical Society Library

Although by turns whimsical and bold, Cunningham’s project also was part of the larger cultural zeitgeist in New York City, during an era in which issues surrounding both the preservation and the problems of the urban landscape loomed large. The photographer donated 88 silver gelatin prints from the series to the New-York Historical Society in 1976, and now, almost four decades later, Cunningham’s work will be reconsidered in a show that will highlight the historical perspective the photographs suggest—not just of the distant past, but of the particular time in which they were created.

The Black Fives

March 14, 2014
July 20, 2014

This exhibition covers the pioneering history of the African-American basketball teams that existed in New York City and elsewhere from the early 1900s through 1950, the year the National Basketball Association became racially integrated. Just after the game of basketball was invented in 1891, teams were often called “fives” in reference to their five starting players. Teams made up entirely of African-American players were referred to as “colored fives,” “Negro fives,” or black fives—the period became known as the Black Fives Era. 

Charles “Tarzan” Cooper (1907-1980) was a star center with the Philadelphia Panthers, New York Rens, Grumman Hellcats, and Washington Bears, winning two World Pro Basketball Tournament championships – with the Rens (1939) and the Bears (1943). The Rens won 1,303 out of 1,505 games with Cooper, who is considered one of the greatest centers of his time and was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977. Photograph courtesy the Black Fives Foundation.

Dozens of all-black teams emerged during the Black Fives Era, in New York City, Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlantic City, Cleveland, and other cities where a substantial African-American population lived. The Black Fives Era came to an end in the late 1940s with the growth in stature of black college basketball programs combined with the gradual racial integration of previously whites-only collegiate basketball conferences and professional basketball leagues. The overarching significance of the Black Fives Era is that it is as much about the forward progress of black culture as a whole as it is about the history of basketball. This history is relevant today not only as a realization of our collective basketball roots but also as a search for identity.

The exhibition will be a collaboration and partnership between the New-York Historical Society and Claude Johnson, a historian and author who is the founder and executive director of the Black Fives Foundation, whose mission is to research, preserve, exhibit, and promote the inspiring pre-1950 history of African-American basketball teams in order to help teach life lessons, while honoring its pioneers and their descendants. Among its activities, the organization maintains a collection of artifacts, ephemera, memorabilia, objects, photographs, images, and other material relating to the period.

Children With AIDS: Spirit and Memory. Photographs by Claire Yaffa

June 07, 2013
September 01, 2013

To accompany AIDS in New York: The First Five Years, the New-York Historical Society will curate a visual arts exhibition and gallery show, featuring twenty breathtaking black and white photographs by noted photographer and social realist Claire Yaffa from her collection “The Changing Face of Children with AIDS.”

Claire Yaffa, Anthony, ca. 1990-1992Gelatin silver print. New-York Historical Society, Gift of the photographer

Claire Yaffa, whose work has been featured in The New York Times and several other major publications, has worked for years to document an intensely intimate, behind-the-scenes look at medical institutions and their youngest patients, giving agency and voice to thousands of
individuals—particularly children—struggling with life-threatening illnesses. Among the institutions that Yaffa has worked with during her long artistic career, the Incarnation Children’s Center in the Bronx—an organization that was one of the first to care for orphaned infants born with HIV—provided some of Yaffa’s most visceral subject matter, offering a stirring tribute to those affected by HIV/AIDS. Beginning in 1990, Yaffa visited Incarnation Children’s Center and was permitted to document the lives of these afflicted children and adolescents over a period of ten years, creating haunting portraits that capture the pathos and beauty of dozens of HIV’s youngest victims—most of whom did not survive to adulthood—and documenting the extraordinary devotion of the children’s caretakers.

The exhibition will have a special focus on two or three individual children’s stories and will featuring several of Yaffa’s emotionally moving, mid- to large-format, black and white photographs, and revealing with clarity and humility the often heartbreaking tales of children afflicted with HIV and AIDS.

The Dream Continues: Photographs of Martin Luther King Murals by Vergara

January 18, 2013
May 05, 2013

Since the 1970s Camilo Vergara has been traveling across the United States photographing and thus documenting hand-painted murals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they appeared on the walls of establishments such as car repair shops, barbershops, and fast food restaurants in city streets and alley ways. The folk art portraits have expressed how the inner-city residents saw the slain civil rights leader—at times a statesman, a hero, a visionary, or a martyr. Vergara also discovered that these images were often based on iconic photographs of Dr. King but that, depending upon the neighborhood where they were created, the portraits could take on the likeness of Latinos, Native Americans, or Asians.

Camilo José Vergara , Untitled, 2009, Frederick Douglass at West 154 th Street, Harlem, New York.  Digital c-print. Collection of the artist.

Vergara remarked about his work that “most murals and street portraits of Dr. King are ephemeral. Paint fades, businesses change hands and neighborhood demographics shift. Gradually, images reflecting the culture and values of poor communities are lost….Often, my photographs are the only lasting record of these public works of art.” This exhibition offers the opportunity to study the manner in which Martin Luther King, Jr. has reached into the hearts of artists from New York to Los Angeles, Chicago to Detroit, and how the artists’s images have depicted the soul of the great civil rights leader in a manner that reaches out to communities nation-wide.

Camilo Vergara will donate all of the works in The Dream Continues: Photographs of Martin Luther King Murals by Vergara to the New-York Historical Society after the close of the exhibition. For more information on Camilo Vergara, visit his website.

The Family Album

Alan Balicki
Jo Beth Ravitz
Mon, 01/16/2012 - 11:30
Mon, January 16th, 2012 | 11:30 am

Event Details

We all have precious photographs and documents that we wish to preserve and treasure. But how to do it? Meet Alan Balicki, our Senior Conservator, who will share the tools and materials he uses to preserve the past here at New York City's oldest museum. Then work with a talented teaching artist to create a lovely, simple and sturdy family album to take home and get you started. Parents and children will work together to create an album that will showcase and preserve the images, documents and objects they value the most.

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N-YHS Institutional Archive


The institutional archive includes records relating to the history of the New-York Historical Society from its beginnings in 1804 up until the present day. The materials include minutes, correspondence, architectural plans, photographs, and exhibition records. Many photographs from the New-York Historical Society have been digitized and can be located here.


From Abyssinian To Zion: Photographs Of Manhattan's Houses Of Worship By David Dunlap

June 22, 2004
October 24, 2004

This exhibition is based on David Dunlap's eponymous guide to 1,079 houses of worship, (Columbia University Press, 2004). From Abyssinian to Zion features sanctuaries off the beaten path that would count as major attractions in any other city or setting: St. Aloysius Church, a bristling work of Lombard architecture on West 132nd Street; All Saints Church, a virtual cathedral known with good reason as the St. Patrick's of Harlem (it is arguably a more inventive work of Gothic design); the Church of the Crucifixion, a powerful work of modern concrete sculpture on West 149th Street that evokes Le Corbusier; the elegantly neo-Classical Mount Olivet Baptist Church on Malcolm X Boulevard, built as Temple Israel, which used it as a synagogue for only 13 years; St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral, under whose onion domes on East 97th Street bitter and sometimes violent battles have been waged for the soul of the Russian church since the Revolution; the abandoned Pike Street shul where the Young Israel movement was born, now serving as the Sung Tak Buddhist temple; St. Augustine's Church on Henry Street, which has what it says is the only remaining slave gallery of any church on the island; and the greatest single house of worship built in Manhattan in the last 60 years: the mosque of the Islamic Cultural Center.

The exhibition will also highlight images from the Historical Society's own collection, especially the marvelous and little-known portfolio of 889 photographs taken from 1966 to 1973 by Herman N. Liberman Jr., a member of the New York Stock Exchange, who walked 502 miles in a serpentine pattern along every street in Manhattan, from river to river, recording every single house of worship then in existence, including the most modest storefront and parlorfront churches and synagogues.p>

David Dunlap, a senior writer at The New York Times, is the photographer and co-author with Joseph J. Vecchione of Glory in Gotham (City & Company, 2001), the photographer and author of On Broadway: A Journey Uptown Over Time (Rizzoli International, 1990) and the photographer of The City Observed: New York by Paul Goldberger (Random House, 1979).

Tunnel Vision: New York Subway Construction Photographs, 1900–1908

November 23, 2004
February 20, 2005

On October 27, 1904, New York City's subway system officially opened, but talks to build an underground rail system began soon after London opened its subway in 1863. It wasn't until 1894 that a referendum was put on the ballot to generate financial support from the city and create the Rapid Transit Board, which was in charge of planning the route. The Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) was awarded the contract to build the first subway line. The Rapid Transit Board planned one original route, stretching from City Hall to 96th Street, which then split into two more routes from Broadway to 242nd Street and another that ran under the Harlem River into the Bronx. Bids were then solicited and construction began in 1900.

The New-York Historical Society's exhibit Tunnel Vision: New York Subway Construction Photographs, 19001908, explores the logistical challenges and remarkable effort that went into what at the time, was the largest construction project in the city's history. The exhibition showcases 80 photographs, culled from more than 5,000 from 19001908 in the Historical Society's Subway Construction Photograph Collection, all of which were a gift from the New York City Board of Transportation in 1950. Made primarily for insurance purposes, the overall collection contains nearly 60,000 photos showcasing buildings and streetscapes before, during and after construction of the of the entire subway system from 1900 until the last line was finished in 1947.

"These photographs capture the incredible human spirit behind this massive project and reveal the pride and willpower that laborers used in lieu of modern technology to make the subway a reality. This was truly a feat in modern engineering for the city to accomplish this task and Tunnel Vision will provide visitors with a snapshot into this extraordinary period of growth for New York," said New York Historical Society President & CEO Dr. Louise Mirrer.

The photographs and text panels document in vivid detail the "cut-and-cover" technique that the project's chief engineer, William Barclay Parsons developed. The process, in which crews dug a shallow excavation below the street surface and built a concrete and steel subsurface for trains to run through. The method was a painstaking process that required the relocation of thousands of sewer, gas and water mains and reinforcing buildings along the route. However, some of the exhibit photos clearly show how that many of the buildings did not survive and had to be demolished. While the IRT construction was marred by significant property damage, business disruptions and fatal accidents, it did succeed in addressing the city's basic objective: a cheap, reliable urban transit system. The five cent fare that remained in place until 1947 allowed an explosive growth of home construction throughout Upper Manhattan and the Bronx.

Most of the photographs from the early construction (1900–1908) are printed on platinum paper, which has proven to hold the images intact over the last century. The 65 prints in this exhibit are grouped geographically to show the transformation of key sites in New York City that were dramatically altered during the construction phase and then re-assembled afterward. Unfortunately, many historic structures did not survive the construction phase, or were re-rebuilt in a poor fashion to prevent them from living on today. "Tunnel Vision teaches a valuable lesson about the delicate nature of New York City's infrastructure and the challenges that lie ahead for any further expansion of the subway system," said Dr. Mirrer.


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