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Children’s History Museum Fact Sheet

The DiMenna Children’s History Museum

Fact Sheet

Overview

The DiMenna Children’s History Museum will be a new interactive museum at the New-York Historical Society that will bring American History to life for children through the lives of other children from the past. Featuring both permanent and special exhibits that incorporate historical artifacts and replicas, objects and illustrations, three-dimensional pavilions and interactive elements, it is designed to immerse visitors in American history by encouraging them to become History Detectives and explore different historical periods, enact key historical moments and make their own historical discoveries.

The museum is named for a $5 million donation from Joseph and Diana DiMenna.

Architect 

Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, New York

Dimensions 

4,000 square feet

Features 

A major component of the Dimenna Children’s History Museum will be a series of biography-based pavilions and interactive elements. These stories of young New Yorkers from different historical periods offer a way for today’s children to make a compelling connection to the past and develop an understanding of the history of New York City and the nation. It will introduce them to:

  • Cornelia van Varick (ca. 1692 – 1733), daughter of Margrieta van Varick, textile merchant in 17th century New York

  • Alexander Hamilton (1755 – 1804), the orphaned and penniless immigrant from the West Indies who helped make America “modern,” first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and founding member of the New York Manumission Society

  • James McCune Smith (1813 – 1865), the son of an enslaved woman, a brilliant student in the New York African Free School and the country’s first university-trained African American physician

  • Esteban Bellán (1850 – 1932), a Cuban youngster who became the first Latino to play professional baseball in the United States

  • Orphan Train Children (late 19th century), orphaned children transported by the Children’s Aid Society via train to new homes across the country

  • New York Newsies (late 19th and early 20th centuries), children working  to survive in the streets of New York

  • and You Are An American Dreamer, Too, which will give visitors a voice within the exhibit and place them in a context of important New Yorkers throughout history

The DiMenna Children’s History Museum will be filled with objects to touch, as well as interactive games that will challenge children’s thinking and increase their knowledge, including:

  • Cast Your Vote: The “Cast Your Vote” pavilion will help children discover the history of voting in this country— who was eligible to vote and whether they would have been allowed to vote if they were born at different periods in our history. Children will also be given the opportunity to vote for or against a candidate, or a bill that is current and relevant to their lives, and to see exit polls and results.

  • The First President: This kiosk is a representation of Federal Hall on Wall Street, where George Washington took the oath of office. Visitors will learn about the role of New York City as the nation’s first capital, and will be able to stand in Washington’s place behind the balustrade on the second floor and deliver a presidential address—either Washington’s or their own.

  • Historical Viewfinder: Here visitors will be able to develop an understanding of what different New York City locations looked like in different time periods, and learn about historical change in the city around them.

  • “Beyond” Mural: This piece explores the ever-westward shift of the American frontier through a short video program on the concept and meaning of “wilderness” and through landscape paintings and photographs in New-York Historical’s collection.

The DiMenna Children’s History Museum will be serious fun. Our young visitors will learn that not all children went to school and that many had to work long hours at a very young age. They will examine the stuff of history, learning to think like historians, analyzing an urban archaeological dig, decoding handwritten documents and examining artifacts.

The Children’s History Museum will invite children to dig deeply into the layers of time and uncover what came before us in order to understand how we got to where we are today.

Barbara K. Lipman Children’s History Library

Within the DiMenna Children’s History Museum, the Barbara K. Lipman Children’s History Library will feature a seating area where visitors can read children’s books and explore rare books, manuscripts and maps from New-York Historical’s collection.  Surrounding these interactive elements will be artifacts that relate to the volumes on display.

Design Team

Lee H. Skolnick, Lead Design Principal

Design Partners

Jo Ann Secor, Principal, Director of Museum Services; Peter Hyde, Associate, Project Manager and Senior Exhibit Designer; Miguel Cardenas, Senior Design Associate; Christina Lyons, Director of Graphic Design; Matt Grasso, Senior Exhibit Designer; Dan Marwit, Interpretive Specialist; Christina Fewerda, Interpretive Specialist; James Silva, Senior Graphic Designer; James Hollingsworth, Senior Exhibit Designer

Creative: Tronvig Group