Publication Date

December 1, 1996

In any season, New York City dazzles visitors and residents alike with its abundant array of museums, artistic centers, and cultural institutions. This January, as the city prepares to celebrate its own centennial in 1998, members attending the AHA annual meeting will have the opportunity to choose from among a wide variety of activities, tours, and museum exhibits, several of which are being prepared especially to welcome AHA historians and their families to the "Big Apple."

Members planning to combine their attendance at the 1997 meeting with research may wish to visit the New York Public Library's Center for the Humanities (5th Ave. and 42nd St.) and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (515 Lenox/Malcolm X Ave., at 135th St.). Housed in a landmark Beaux-Arts building dating to 1911, the library is one of the most important open research facilities ill the world, containing a collection of over 10 million books and microfilms, as well as scores of unique research materials, including rare books, maps, prints, and manuscripts. During the month of January, the library will be offering an exhibition of printed English bibles associated with the career of the English Protestant reformer William Tyndale. A special tour currently being designed for AHA members will introduce visiting historians to the library’s architecture and special research facilities; interested members should leave a message for Elizabeth Diefendorf, chief of the general research division, at (212) 930-0770. Located in the heart of Manhattan’s historic Harlem neighborhood, the Schomburg Center is one of the nation’s most important research facilities for the study of international black history and culture, with important primary collections of manuscripts, rare books, art, and artifacts. In January, the center will be hosting an exhibition entitled Vernacular Black Art, a show of works by contemporary southern African American artists.

Chief among an array of other research institutions prepared to welcome visiting AHA members is the New York Historical Society (78th St. and Central Park West, across from the Museum of Natural History). On Saturday, January 4, staff at the society will be pleased to guide AHA members through a tour that will include an introduction to the society’s research resources and visits to The Joy of Dressing Up, a retrospective of work by the dress designer Arnold Scaasi; an exhibition tracing the career of the 19th-century radical activist Victoria Woodhull; and the society’s planned exhibition of Tiffany lamps. A slide lecture on the history of New York City tenements, entitled Hard Times and Morning Glories, presented by Steve Long, director of the New York Tenement Museum, will also be offered. Interested members should call Grady Turner at (212) 501-9233.

Members are also invited to view the World of Coins, a permanent exhibition on the history of money at the American Numismatic Society, which is located, along with the Hispanic Society of America, on the site of the former John J. Audubon estate at Audubon Terrace (Broadway and 155th St.). Members may also want to visit the society’s vast library and photo collection. With more, than 60,000 radio and television programs in its archive, the Museum of Television and Radio (25 W. 52nd St.) is a resource for specialists in the history of modern communication and popular culture. On Friday, January 3, at 5 P.M., the museum will offer a special screening for AHA members of Great Moments in Television, a 100-minute documentary tracing the role of television as the mirror of a changing America over the last three decades. No reservation is necessary to attend this event.

Those with an appetite to sample New York's rich assortment of museums and art treasures may wish to begin with the Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53rd 51., between 5th Ave. and Ave. of the Americas), just blocks away from the conference’s location. In addition to the important permanent collection of late 19th- and 20th-century masterpieces, the museum will be featuring a retrospective of works by the renowned “pop” artist Jasper Johns, a selection of late prints and drawings by Antonin Artaud, and a film series of recent German cinema. (For a schedule of the films, visitors may call (212) 708-9480.) Free gallery talks are given throughout the museum at 1 and 3 P.M. on weekdays. On Thursdays and Fridays from 5.30 P.M. to 8.30 P.M., the museum admits visitors for a voluntary “pay-what-you-wish” donation.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (5th Ave. at 82 51.) houses one of the world’s finest collections of art. During January 1997, the museum will be offering several special exhibitions: a collection of paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot; selected works of 20th-century American art from the collection of Milton and Edith Lowenthal; portrait miniatures from the royal collection of Queen Elizabeth IT; and a special exhibition entitled Queen Nefertiti: Images of Beauty from Ancient Times to the Present. The Metropolitan also maintains an annex collection of European medieval painting, sculpture, and tapestry at the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park. Joint visits to both museums may be arranged in advance by calling Alli Givens at (212) 650-2280.

The Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Pkwy. in Brooklyn) is also the home of an important assembly of world art, including one of the most comprehensive collections of ancient Egyptian art and artifacts outside of Cairo. Reinstallations of the Brooklyn Museum’s permanent collections of Chinese and Pacific art, as well as its collections of European and 19th-century American painting and Islamic textile will have reopened to the public by January. The museum will also be offering several additional exhibitions this winter. Photography in Latin America: A Spiritual Journey, will display 80 works by major Latin American photographers from the museum’s permanent collection. In theLight of Italy: Corot and Early Open-Air Painting, a complement to the Metropolitan’s Corot exhibition, will examine, in 130 works by 39 European artists, the landscape painting tradition, the late-18th and early-19th centuries, which Corot was perhaps the best-known exponent. In addition, the museum will be featuring works on paper by the African American artist Glenn Cigon, and Mine, an installation by the contemporary performance artist Rona Pondick.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (88th St. and 5th Ave.), a landmark building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is home to another important collection of 19th- and 20th-century masterpieces. January, the museum will be offering a special retrospective exhibition of works by Ellsworth Kelly.

In addition to its permanent collection of 20th-century American art, the Whitney Museum of American Art (945 Madison Ave. and 75th St.), will be featuring a show of works by the photographer Nan Golden, entitled I'll Be Your Mirror; an exhibition titled Views from Abroad: European Perspectives on American Art; and a retrospective, No-Wave Cinema, produced between the years 1978 and 1987. (For a schedule of films, interested members may call the museum at (212) 570-3676.) The nearby Frick Collection (1 E. 70th St.) houses 14th- through 19th-century European art in the elegant New York home of steel magnate Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919).

Members interested in the history of American decorative arts may wish to view Vernacular Architecture in American Folk Art: Pride of Place, the featured exhibition for the month of January at the Museum of American Folk Art (65th St. and Columbus Ave.). The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (2 E. 91st St. at the corner of 5th Ave.) will be offering two major exhibitions this January: a retrospective of the career of the industrial designer Henry Dreyfus, and Mixing Messages: Graphic Design and Contemporary Culture, an exploration of the role of graphic art in shaping popular media images. On January 3, at 3.30 P.M., a member of the museum’s staff will be available to introduce visiting members to the Cooper-Hewitt’s resources as a research facility in the area of architectural history.

America's vital mix of cultures is amply represented among a spectrum of special collections and exhibitions that will be open to the public this winter. Members may wish to begin at the American Museum of Immigration at Ellis Island, which will be mounting an extensive exhibition this January to honor the centennial of Swedish immigration. A special tour being prepared for AHA members, scheduled to take place at 2 P.M. on Friday, January 3, will include an introduction to this exhibit, a film program, a visit to the museum’s library, and a look at the museum “behind the scenes.” Interested members should request a reservation from the museum’s library staff at (212) 363-6307.

Collaborating with the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadow Park, Queens, the Asia Society (725 Park Ave. at 70th St.) will be mounting an exciting show ( works by contemporary artists from Korea, the Philippines, India, Thailand, and Indonesia, entitled Contemporary Art in Asia: Traditions/Tensions. Buses will be running between the two sections of the exhibit on Saturdays and Sundays. Interested members should contact Nancy Blume at (212) 288-6400.

The George Gustav Heye Center of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, housed in the historic Beaux-Arts Alexander Hamilton United States Custom House (1 Bowling Green between State and Whitehall Sts. in Manhattan), will be offering three major explorations of Native American culture featuring tribal artifacts and the autobiographical meditations of their contributors: Creation's Journey: Master Works of Native American Identity and Belief; All Roads Are Good: Native Voices on Life and Culture; and This Path We Travel: Celebrations of Contemporary Native American Creativity.

In addition to the variety of paintings, artifacts, and Jewish religious objects dating from the 2nd to the 18th centuries permanent display at the Jewish Museum (1109 5th Ave. at 92nd St.) special exhibition, From Court Jews to the Rothschilds: Art, Patronage, and Power1600-1800, will trace the history of court Jews in early modern Europe through nearly 300 works. Those interested in Jewish history may also wish to visit the Yeshiva University Museum (2520 Amsterdam Ave. at 185th St.), which will generously be extending the run of four cultural and artistic exhibits through early January out of courtesy to AHA members. The Jews of Piedmont will survey the history of Jews in northern Italy since the 15th century; Portraits of Mekubalim will explore the complex history of Jewish mysticism; while two additional exhibits will feature sculpture by Harold Cahn and works on paper by Arthur Yanoff.

Famous works by Spanish masters, including Goya and El Greco, are on permanent display at the Hispanic Society of America (Audubon Terr. at Broadway and 155th St.), which also maintains a library open to interested members. El Museo del Barrio (1230 5th Ave. at 105th St.) will be offering an exhibition of 265 Puerto Rican prints and posters in Tile Liberated Print: Tile Portfolio in Puerto Rican Graphics, along with selections from its permanent collection of South and Central American religious art and artifacts commemorating All Saints Day and the Nativity in Santos: Sculptures Between Heaven and Earth and Nativity Scene.

The Museum for African Art (593 Broadway in SoHo) will be offering Art of the Baga: A Drama of Cultural Invention, an exhibition of masks, instruments, and other artifacts created by the Baga peoples of Guinea, West Africa, through centuries of political and cultural struggle. Members interested’ in a special guided tour, scheduled for Friday, January 3 at 3:30 P.M., may leave a reservation with Margery Renson at (212) 966-1313, ext. 118. Members interested in African American culture may also wish to visit the Studio Museum in Harlem (144 W. 125th St.), which will be hosting a retrospective exhibition of prints, drawings, sculpture, and public art by the sculptor Richard Hunt.

For those interested in maritime history, the South Street Seaport Museum (207 Front St. in Manhattan) boasts one of the world’s largest fleets of historic ships, with tours available on a daily basis. The museum will also be featuring an exhibition of paintings and artifacts from the world of 18th-century pirates, entitled Under the Black Flag: Atlantic Piracy in Fact and Fiction.

Finally, for members interested in the history of architecture, public space, and the performing arts, a special historical tour and luncheon has been created by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (66th St. and Broadway) for the Friday, January 3, break between 11:30 A.M. ·and 1:30 P.M. Members will be greeted first by an architectural historian who will speak briefly about the importance of the Lincoln Center complex in the history of architectural design, then shown through Lincoln Center’s celebrated artistic institutions. The tour will conclude with a luncheon lecture at the Klavierhaus, where a specialist will discuss the history of the piano and techniques of instrument restoration. There is a minimum and a maximum of 40 participants required. Cost per participant is $60.00. Interested members may reserve spaces by leaving a message at the Lincoln Center office of Alina Bloomgarden: (212) 875-5371).

For members attending the conference with their families, the American Museum of Natural History (79th St. and Central Park West) is a permanent home to exhibitions addressing all manner of animals, living and extinct, including a splendidly presented display of reconstructed dinosaur skeletons. The museum will also be featuring a photographic exhibition entitled Oknvango: Africa's Last Eden. The Museum of the City of New York (5th Ave. and 103rd St.) will be featuring an exhibition children may enjoy entitled New York Toy Story, a history of playtime artifacts. The Children's Museum of Manhattan, located in the Tisch Building (212 West 83rd St.), features an exuberant assembly of hands-on exhibits and programs for young people; for a schedule of January events, members should call (212) 721-1223.

The branch libraries of the Manhattan Public Library, particularly at Jefferson Market (425th Ave. of the Americas in Greenwich Village) and the Donnell Branch Library (53rd St. between 5th Ave. and the Ave. of the Americas, across the street from the Museum of Modern Art will be offering weekday and weekend programs between January 3 and 5 open to the children of visiting AHA members; interested parents may inquire for further details upon their arrival in New York. In addition, special weekend activity programs for youngsters will be available for the price of museum admission at the Brooklyn Museum (Saturday a: Sunday, January 4 and 5, for children ages 4-7, at 11.30 A.M. and 2.30 P.M.), the Museum of American Folk Art (Sunday, January 5, from 2 P.M. to 4 P.M.), and South Street Seaport Museum (Saturday and Sunday, January 4 and 5). The South Street Seaport Muse also houses a children’s center with interactive exhibits for children under 17.

With resources and entertainments to delight every taste and interest, New York City is a cultural feast. Enjoy your visit.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.