New York’s oldest museum expands


New York’s oldest museum gets a facelift.

The New-York Historical Society will add more than 70,000 square feet to its building, including space for the American LGBTQ + Museum, the city’s first museum dedicated to LGBTQ history and culture. (The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in SoHo, which moved to Wooster Street in 2016, focuses solely on art and artists.)

For decades, local activists have spoken about the need for a museum to document the history of the queer movement, said Richard Burns, chairman of the museum’s board.

“Suddenly we’ve hit that moment, a tipping point where more and more people are saying, ‘We better save this story, fit in and celebrate it before we lose it,'” Burns said. . “And so, in 2017, in January, a group of us got together in a living room and started having this conversation.”

A group of LGBTQ leaders – they will eventually become the museum’s board of directors – have started raising funds for the institution. In 2018, they surveyed eight museum planning companies. A year later, they obtained their museum charter from the New York State Board of Regents.

Together, the museum and external companies organized discussion groups in English and Spanish in the five districts. They also interviewed around 40,000 LGBTQ people living across the country.

We don’t need museums on “Will & Grace” and Ellen DeGeneres, Burns said. “These stories are told in popular culture. We need a museum that tells the untold stories of everyday lives, of activist lives, of lives lost in queer New York and queer America.

But the LGBTQ museum space – which will occupy the entire top floor of the expansion – is just one part of the five-story addition to the Historical Society. The institution, housed in a granite building on Central Park West, purchased a 10,000 square foot vacant lot to its west in 1937 for expansion. Now the time has finally come.

The move will also significantly expand the classrooms of the Academy for American Democracy program, a history and civics education initiative that, with expansion, will become available to approximately 30,000 sixth-grade public school students. city ​​year.

“We offer the program online, but we have always planned to give students the opportunity to be in a public square, a Roman forum or a Greek agora,” said Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the Company. historical. “And this new building will give us the opportunity. “

On Wednesday morning, the Historical Society learned that it would receive $ 35 million in funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with city council, setting it on track for its scheduled completion around 2024. .

When the Historical Society opens its new and improved doors, the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library documents – which include rare copies of the country’s founding documents – will become more accessible to visitors through state-of-the-art compact storage. And new galleries will welcome graduate students from the Society’s Master of Arts in Museum Studies program, designed to diversify the museum profession.

The Historical Society aims to tell history – both New York and American – in all its complexity. For Mirrer, expanding the range of stories is deeply important. “Welcoming a new audience is truly wonderful, especially for an institution founded in 1804.”

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