New-York Historical Society

New York

Alexander Hamilton’s duelling pistols — on view at the New-York Historical Society



Founded in 1804 as New York’s first museum, the New-York Historical Society is both a museum and a library — with extensive collections in American painting, sculpture, books, manuscripts, decorative arts, architectural drawings, photographs, and prints. It houses an outstanding collection of items from the American Revolution and the early republic, but as the collective memory of New York, it covers the full range of New York City’s history as well.

  • The Patricia D. Klingenstein Library contains more than three million items, including books, pamphlets, maps, atlases, newspapers, broadsides, music sheets, manuscripts, prints, photographs and architectural drawings.
  • The Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture displays nearly 40,000 museum objects. This publicly accessible storage space gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at a working museum collection. Highlights include Washington’s camp bed from Valley Forge, the desk at which Clement Clarke Moore wrote A Visit from Saint Nicholas, and one of the world’s largest collections of Tiffany lamps and glasswork.
  • The DiMenna Children’s History Museum encourages families to explore 350 years of American history through permanent installations geared to children ages 8 to 13.
  • The Gilder Lehrman Collection is a nationally renowned archive of more than 60,000 manuscripts, documents, diaries, maps, books, photographs, and iconography documenting four centuries of American history.
  • The Robert H. Smith Auditorium provides a space for the Historical Society’s many public programs, including its Distinguished Speaker Series. Showing throughout the day is New York Story, a multimedia presentation of the history of New York City — from a remote Dutch trading post to the present day.

A three-year, $70 million renovation was completed in November 2011. The landmark building includes a restaurant and gift shop.

Visitors to Monticello often wonder at its practical accessories. Jefferson labored a month to save a minute. His home was impractical from the start — by reason of its very site (on a mountain), by the height given the first version of the building (later disguised in a way that left useless spaces in and around its dome), by the perpetual course of its dismantling and reassembly. To make the house more convenient, he made his daughter and her children live for years in a chaos of artistic second thoughts, sometimes sheltered only by canvas as the roof rose, fell, and assumed new shapes in his mind.

Garry Wills
Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (1978)