While in New York City I had the opportunity to visit the New York Historical Society Museum (56th and Central Park West). If you haven’t been there, it’s a gem of a museum. Terrific permanent collection and a steady rotation of intriguing new exhibits. Not to mention the life-sized statues of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas that grace the steps of the two entrances, as if the two men were on their way in.
On this visit, there was a fabulous exhibit in the museum’s lobby called the New York Gallery of American History. Small and unobtrusive, you almost miss the darned thing as you move into the museum to head toward other exhibits. On one entrance lobby wall is a salon-style display of various museum artifacts that tell the story of New York’s contribution to American history. It covers the period from the American Revolution to 1804 (when the Society was founded). What’s really intriguing is the way this exhibit is curated, with multiple entry points and levels of examination. The artifacts themselves are hung on the wall, floor to ceiling (as you can see in the photo to the right). Then, on strategically placed media columns, you can engage with touchscreens that replicate a section of the wall allowing you to interact with the artifacts – select one by touching it and you will drill down to a sub image or more information.
As an added layer, there is a downloadable app for the exhibit affords you a similar path on your handheld device with even more information and helpful connections. I really appreciated the way the app helped one to see thematic connections, across the exhibit and between individual artifacts. Very nicely done.
As you wander the length of the wall, exploring the various touchscreens, you notice small portholes in the floor. Nine of them. In each porthole is a well-lit object that was found – fittingly – in the ground under New York City by archeologists. Arrowheads, military buttons, coins, bullets, an oyster shell.
It was a completely entrancing museum exhibit. It felt like being at the center of perfectly crafted origami creation – unwrapping it as you went along. Layers intricately planned… in front of your eyes, at your fingertips, in your hand, and under your feet. Lovely.