Location: 128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn
Founded in 1863, the Brooklyn Historical Society, BHS, is a nationally renowned urban history center dedicated to the exploration and preservation of documents, artwork and artifacts representative of Brooklyn‘s diverse cultures past and present.
BHS provides access to its unparalleled collection through extensive educational programs, exhibits, neighborhood history guides, community outreach and its distinctive Brooklyn Walks and Talks series. BHS‘s board and staff are dedicated to creating programming that helps Brooklynites young and old develop pride in their own cultural traditions while fostering an appreciation for their neighbors‘ differences and similarities.
BHS Museum Collection
Some 9,000 treasured objects in The Brooklyn Historical Society‘s collection date from Brooklyn‘s earliest history to the present. Native American tools, drawings from the 17th century, Colonial furnishings, slave deeds, and an 18th century milestone from Kings Highway share space with 19th century love letters, a cable-carrier wheel from the Brooklyn Bridge, oil paintings, and a world-renowned collection of 3,000 Brooklyn-related prints. Dodgers and Coney Island memorabilia, tool boxes, pushcarts, West-Indian carnival costumes, a giglio, a piragua cart and many other artifacts from our industrial and recreational past and present are preserved in the BHS museum. These collections remind us that our community is continually being enriched by old and new cultures as people live, work, and make history in Brooklyn.
The Donald F. And Mildred Topp Othmer Library
Operating since 1863, the library was one of only a handful of cultural organizations in Brooklyn in the mid-19th century. Since its founding, the library has assembled the premier collection of research materials on the history of Brooklyn. The collection includes 155,000 bound volumes, 100,000 graphic images, 2,000 linear feet of manuscripts, and over 2,000 maps and atlases. The library also holds genealogies, rare books, newspapers, periodicals, serials, journals, personal papers, institutional records, and oral histories that document Brooklyn‘s many different ethnic groups and neighborhoods. The collection was designated a major resource library by the Department of Education and has been used by countless students, teachers, researchers and scholars.
Highlights of the collection include an original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation; the papers of the famous abolitionist minister Henry Ward Beecher (PDF or SGML format); the Pierrepont Papers (PDF or SGML format); an important collection of pamphlets dealing with slavery and abolition; and a major collection of Brooklyn and Long Island newspapers.
Donald and Mildred Othmer were avid collectors of rare books and historic maps and had great affection for the Society‘s library. Donald Othmer was a BHS board member for more than ten years and gave $500,000 for the preservation and rehabilitation of the library. His generous gift enabled planning to begin for a much needed renovation of the building. In recognition of the Othmer‘s gift, the library was named in their honor in 1992.
BHS Image Collection
Over 33,000 Brooklyn-related photographs, works of art on paper and paintings from the BHS collection have been digitized and catalogued. The images are accessible through a computer database that can be searched by subject, medium, date, artist/photographer and object number. A recent collaboration with the Brooklyn Prospect Park Alliance has enabled more than 1,000 high-resolution scans to be made of the Society‘s 19th century photographs of Prospect Park.