In the transformed Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture on the fourth floor, treasures from our vast permanent collection tell the story of New York and American history. Themed displays in the North Gallery present a variety of topics—such as slavery, war, infrastructure, childhood, recreation, and 9/11—offering unexpected and surprising perspectives on collection highlights. Touchscreens and interactive kiosks allow visitors to explore American history and engage with objects like never before.
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; a portrait of Seneca Chief Sagoyewatha; the massive painting Return of the 69th (Irish) Regiment, N.Y.S.M. from the Seat of War, 1862; a woman’s safety bicycle, constructed in 1900 which made riding easier in long skirts; and the only full-size model of Lincoln’s head, designed by Daniel Chester French for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The center of the North Gallery features 10 emblematic historical artifacts that chart key moments in history, including a copper globe (1542) detailing Giovanni da Verrazzano’s exploration of the New York area; 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; and a silver subway controller handle used by Mayor George McClellan to drive the first subway car on its maiden voyage from City Hall in 1904.
Exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.