Objects Tell Stories


Experience unexpected and surprising perspectives on collection highlights in the North Gallery on a variety of topics, including slavery, war, infrastructure, childhood, recreation, 9/11, and the COVID-19 pandemic


4th floor, North Gallery

In the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture on the 4th 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, 9/11, and the COVID-19 pandemic—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.

Our newest section showcases our History Responds collecting initiative and focuses on objects and art collected during the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented crisis during which New York artists found original ways to express their appreciation for health care workers; businesses stepped in to produce much-needed sanitizer; and restaurants hurried to feed frontline essential workers.


Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Evelyn & Seymour Neuman Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.

  • NYC Cultural Affairs
  • NY Council on the Arts

Media sponsor:

  • WNET New York Public Media