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Brooklyn Historical Society presents Waterfront!

The immersive exhibit at BHS's new space in DUMBO opens on January 20th

DetailsJanuary 20, 2018
Brooklyn Historical Society DUMBO

On January 20, 2018, Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) will open Waterfront, an exhibition and multimedia experience for all ages that brings to life the vibrant history of Brooklyn’s coastline through interwoven stories of workers, industries, activists, innovators, families, neighborhoods, and ecosystems.

BHS Waterfront - nyc ferry

Waterfront combines cutting-edge digital interactives with engaging storytelling to welcome visitors of a variety of ages and interests – it includes activities for children as young as two years old, along with thought-provoking history for adults. Waterfront features 12 concept areas explored through eclectic micro-histories:

  • Landfilling the Shore: At the entrance, visitors encounter a floor-to-ceiling sculptural installation of more than 80 archaeological artifacts and fragments excavated from the ground beneath Empire Stores in the 1970s.
  • At Water’s Edge: A seven-minute multimedia experience introduces visitors to the waterfront’s dynamic history through ten historical moments, leaving them exhilarated by their time travels.
  • History in Motion: This installation makes the visitor the star. Using Kinect technology, “History in Motion” drops visitors into ten historic paintings and photographs, records them interacting with historical figures and objects, and weaves their actions into a 60-second movie starring themselves that can be shared on social media.
  • Brooklyn Bivalves tells the unlikely story of oysters and sewage. The 600 pounds of oyster shells featured in this installation were donated by the Billion Oyster Project.
  • An Unfree Waterfront highlights the moving and untold stories of three enslaved Brooklynites and their struggle for freedom along the shoreline.
  • The Walled City: Centered on a large-scale 1879 image of Brooklyn’s coastline, this section immerses visitors in the sights, sounds, and smells of Brooklyn’s 19th-century warehousing district. Visitors explore hidden stories vital to understanding the culture and history of the Walled City – from Walt Whitman’s waterfront trysts to hidden graves near the present-day Brooklyn Navy Yard.

  • A Laboring Family: Visitors become historians themselves and hunt down details in documents and genealogical records to trace the story of one 19th -century Empire Stores dockworker, Michael Harkins, and his family.
  • Made in Brooklyn: This object display in the museum’s restrooms highlights some of the iconic products made along Brooklyn’s coastline, including Chiclets Gum, Domino Sugar, and Benjamin Moore Paint.
  • Factory Women honors centuries of women workers along the waterfront. Visitors explore artifacts and listen to oral histories of female Navy Yard workers during World War II; a dress-up experience lets kids don work clothing and try their hand at shipfitting.
  • After Industry: Visitors explore salvaged materials and graffiti from the once-abandoned Empire Stores building. Oral history and video installations tell of the waterfront’s midcentury economic decline and its 21st century rebirth.
  • Waterfront Neighborhoods Magnet Wall: Using magnets of buildings, bridges, animals, landmarks, and more on a ten-foot illustrated landscape, kids and adults can create their own whimsical waterfront while learning about Brooklyn’s many coastal neighborhoods.
  • Rising Waters: A touchscreen video installation features historians, business owners, politicians, scientists, and activists who explore key questions about climate change and sea level rise.