Founded in 1804, the New-York Historical Society is home today to a research library and history museum considered to be the oldest of its kind in the city. The permanent collection of the New-York Historical Society Museum numbers approximately 1.6 million objects. Many of these powerful artifacts are presented to the public throughout the facility’s multiple ongoing exhibitions. The New-York Historical Society is also the site of the DiMenna Children’s History Museum and the Center for Women’s History. It regularly presents educational programming, host film screenings, and conducts guided tours.
History of the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society was founded in 1804 by 11 of New York City’s most wealthy and influential citizens, including then-Mayor DeWitt Clinton and the merchant John Pintard. Many of these men had lived through the Revolutionary War and, aware of the massive changes that struggle had entailed for New York City, their goal was to preserve important documents and artworks of their day and age for posterity. Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century the Society would slowly but surely build its collection while occupying many different addresses all across town.
In the fall of 1902 plans were drawn up for the New-York Historical Society’s permanent home to constructed on Central Park West. Designed by the architectural firm of York and Sawyer—best known for their series of Beaux Arts banks—this building was completed in 1908. It has been expanded and renovated over the course of the intervening years, but the New-York Historical Society still calls it home today.
The New-York Historical Society Museum presents numerous ongoing exhibitions that shed fascinating light on the rich past of this remarkable city. The Gallery of Tiffany Lamps brings together 100 of these iconic objects in one single gallery space. Turn Every Page: Inside the Robert A. Caro Archive presents guests with unprecedented access to the archives of the legendary biographer of Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert Moses. Objects Tell Stories presents highlights from the museum’s permanent collection that range from a copper globe used by Giovanni da Verrazzano in the sixteenth century to art created as tributes to health-care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The museum organizes plenty of special exhibitions, too. Because these special exhibitions are presented for only a limited amount of time, what’s on display will depend on when you visit the New-York Historical Society. Having said that, popular recent special exhibitions here have included Title IX: Activism On and Off the Field, PEN America at 100: A Century of Defending the Written Word, and The Art of Winold Reiss: An Immigrant Modernist.
There are two food-and-drink options available at the New-York Historical Society. For those visitors interested in the quick and casual, Parliament Espresso and Coffee Bar has breakfast, pastries, snacks, grab-and-go meals, and of course, coffee. For a sit-down lunch or dinner, there’s Storico, an Italian-centric restaurant whose menu features steaks, salads, pastas, tiramisus, and more.
The NYHistory Store is the New-York Historical Society’s official gift shop, with proceeds from sales here going to support the mission of the museum and library. The store sells a curated selection of jewelry, paper products, toys, accessories, books, and home décor. Visitors may purchase striking reproductions of New-York Historical Society art prints, as well as souvenirs related to specific exhibitions showing at the attraction.
Tips for Visiting
- Admission to the New-York Historical Society Museum is via timed entry. While walk-up tickets are available, it is recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance in order to secure the time slot that works best for you. Walk-up tickets may be subject to wait times for a variety of reasons.
- Complimentary guided tours of the museum are provided every day at 1:00pm and 2:30pm. If you’re interested in making this free perk of your New-York Historical Society experience, you don’t need to do anything except arrive early to secure your spot as part of this outing.
- Located on the lower level of the New-York Historical Society, the DiMenna Children’s History Museum is a must-see for families visiting with children between the ages of 8 and 13. Entry to this portion of the attraction is included in your general admission ticket, so consider carving out some time for this unique destination, too.
- If you have some flexibility in your schedule, consider visiting the New-York Historical Society Museum on Friday night between the hours of 6:00pm and 8:00pm. During this time period, admission to the museum is via a pay-as-you-wish policy.
- The New-York Historical Society’s location makes it perfect as part of a full-day, Upper West Side-centric itinerary. The New-York Historical Society is located one block south of the beloved American Museum of Natural History, and just across the street from Central Park—specifically, a short walk from favorite Central Park haunts like the Shakespeare Garden, Belvedere Castle, Delacorte Theater, and The Ramble. The museum is about one half-mile north of the American Folk Art Museum—and, if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, it’s almost directly across Central Park from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.