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New York City: Special Collections

This guide provides resources for researching New York City

The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research, presenting history and art exhibitions, and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical is the oldest museum in New York City. New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered political, cultural and social history of New York City and State and the nation, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.

Founded in 1968 as a not-for-profit organization, the Queens Historical Society (QHS) is the largest and most active society in the borough and the only one with a borough-wide scope and impact.  It promotes and provides assistance for research into social, political, and economic aspects of Queens history and documents the constant changes that continue to shape the borough.  It maintains an archive and library of primary and secondary sources of historical information for students, historians and the public.

 

Brooklyn Historical Society connects the past to the present and makes the vibrant history of Brooklyn tangible, relevant, and meaningful for today's diverse communities, and for generations to come.  Founded in 1863, Brooklyn Historical Society is a nationally recognized urban history center dedicated to preserving and encouraging the study of Brooklyn's extraordinary 400-year history.  Located in Brooklyn Heights and housed in a magnificent landmark building designed by George Post and opened in 1881, today's BHS is a cultural hub for civic dialogue, thoughtful engagement and community outreach.  

Founded in 1950, the Municipal Archives preserves and makes available the historical records of New York City municipal government. Dating from the early seventeenth century to the present, the Municipal Archives holdings total approximately 221,000 cubic feet. Accessioned from more than one hundred city agencies, the collections comprise office records, manuscript material, still and moving images, ledger volumes, vital records, maps, blueprints, and sound recordings.

Brooklyn College Archives and Special Collections

The Archives and Special Collections division of the Brooklyn College Library is committed to acquiring, preserving, and providing access to the records of enduring value that document the Brooklyn College community and the Borough of Brooklyn, as well as the papers and memorabilia of individuals who have national and social importance.  Other major areas of collection include Brooklyniana, the Historic Manuscript Collection, the Rare Book Collection, the Robert L. Hess Collection on Ethiopia & the Horn of Africa, and the Stuart Schaar Collection on the Middle East and North Africa.

     

The Museum of the City of New York celebrates and interprets the city, educating the public about its distinctive character, especially its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation. Founded in 1923 as a private, nonprofit corporation, the Museum connects the  past, present, and future of New York City. It serves the people of New York and visitors from  around the world through exhibitions, school and public programs, publications, and collections.

The Bronx is the microcosm of the story of America. The only one of New York City's five boroughs that is actually part of the mainland, The Bronx is home to 1.4 million people with a rich diversity of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Since colonial days, The Bronx has stood at the crossroads of American History.  The Bronx County Historical Society was founded in 1955 to preserve the heritage of this thriving community. The Society administers the colonial era Valentine-Varian House, which serves as the Museum of Bronx History; The Bronx County Archives; an extensive Research Library; and Poe Cottage, the final home of America's great 19th century poet and author, Edgar Allan Poe. Both historic houses are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Historic Richmond Town was founded as the Staten Island Historical Society in 1856.  The institution still uses both names but is more popularly known as Historic Richmond Town.  As Staten Island's largest and oldest cultural institution, Historic Richmond Town possesses some of the most celebrated and storied historical items of American history. There are more than 130,000 artifacts, photographs, and archival collections dating back to the 17th century. The total number of individual objects or bits and pieces of history in our care is close to a million! At the center of our collections are original historic structures dating back as far as the 1660s.

Founded in 1895, New York Public Library is the nation’s largest public library system, featuring a unique combination of 88 neighborhood branches and four scholarly research centers, bringing together an extraordinary richness of resources and opportunities available to all.  NYPL’s historical collections hold such treasures as Columbus’s 1493 letter announcing his discovery of the New World, George Washington’s original Farewell Address, and John Coltrane’s handwritten score of “Lover Man.”  For almost a century, students and scholars have come to the Library’s landmark building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street (today known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) for firsthand access to materials from all eras. For certain subjects, like the history of New York City, riches can be found in many different mediums, maps – for example, John Bachmann’s stunning view of Central Park – and photographs, like the Wurts Brothers’ iconic view of the Chrysler Building.  

The Queens Library serves 2.3 million people from 62 locations plus seven Adult Learning Centers and two Family Literacy Centers. It circulates among the highest numbers of books and other library materials in the country.  The Archives, housed in the Central Library, exists to preserve, organize, and manage the use of materials which deal with the geography and the natural, cultural, social, economic and political history, both past and present, of the four counties of Long Island. Printed monographs, serials, pamphlets and broadsides, manuscripts, photographs, prints, drawings, maps and plans are collected to the comprehensive level. 

The Brooklyn Collection is Brooklyn Public Library's local history division, providing a range of information and services about anything and everything Brooklyn. Our rich assortment of research materials and archival documents includes maps, historic Brooklyn photographs, ephemera, prints and the full run of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.