New York Historical Society: A Review

Sierra Block Gorman, ’16

The New York Historical Society houses a vast collection of artifacts from New York City’s colorful past. Nestled between Central Park and the Natural History Museum, this landmark is the perfect destination for the intelligent teen looking to brush up on local culture, American history and more.

Its current main attraction is an exhibit called “The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution.” It revisits the famous 1913 New York Armory Show, the first large exhibition of modern art in America, with 100 works from the International Exhibition of Modern Art. The Armory Show ushered in an age of artistic freedom for American artists, introducing Fauvism, Cubism and Futurism to the larger public. The Historical Society’s exhibit has pieces from the 1913 show, and artifacts from the making of the show and how it came to be. Other exhibits include “New York & the Nation,” an archeological historical record of New York City, “Beauty’s Legacy: Gilded Age Portraits in America,” which focuses on the realistic portraits in America from around 1860 to 1920, and one just devoted to the United States 1933 Double Eagle.

The United States 1933 Double Eagle is the world’s most valuable coin, the only coin of its kind that can be legally owned by an individual. Only a few were minted before the U.S. Mint banned the private possession of gold coins. Most were melted down, but a few were stolen by a worker at the Mint, and sold illegally. After many years were spent tracking down the coins, this one was sold at an auction for $7.59 million, the highest price anyone has ever paid for a coin.

The museum also features the Luce Center, a collection of over 40,000 objects, where visitors can receive a free audio tour. If you are looking for a more kid friendly experience, check out the DiMenna Children’s History Museum on the lower floor, a fun, interactive experience that makes exploring history interesting to children (and those with short attention spans). 

For teens, the historical society offers several free programs: the Student Historian Internship program, Saturday Academy and Sunday Scholars. The Student Historian Internship program is for high school students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades, and offers vocational, public speaking and art history training. The Sunday Scholars program is for 9th through 12th graders, and is based on researching objects at the society and creating a project that tells their stories. The Saturday Academy program offers various American studies classes such as “Battleground New York: Protests, Revolutions, and Riots,” “’I’m with them!’: Social Psychology and American History,” and “Funny Papers, Serious Subjects: A Comic Book History.” All the classes come with a free SAT prep course.

The instructor of the comic book history course, Paul Swarts, when asked about what makes the New York Historical Society so great for teens, replied that it “spotlights stories that don’t get enough attention in the standard academic setting.” He went on to say that he knew of BHSEC and, from what he had heard, we barely suffer from this problem since we have such an in-depth curriculum.  However, many schools do not offer the same chance to really explore history. Many students come to the museum to bolster their knowledge and explore what New York’s history has to offer.

The New York Historical Society is open every day except Monday, from 10 to 6, 11 to 5 on Sundays. It costs $18 for adults, $14 for educators and senior citizens, $12 for students and $6 for kids 5-13 years old. For more information, visit their website at http://www.nyhistory.org/.

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