Historical Society to Open Free Outdoor Exhibit in August, Plans to Open Inside in September


Photo by Ajay Suresh.

With other cultural institutions still in wait-and-see mode or announcing longer-term cancellations, one Upper West Side museum just announced a brand-new exhibition starting this summer.

The New-York Historical Society on 77th and Central Park West has announced plans to reopen August 14th — pending state and local approval — with a free, outdoor exhibition called Hope Wanted, documenting the experiences of New Yorkers across the five boroughs during the height of the pandemic. The format will be as follows, according to the museum:

Hope Wanted will take place outdoors in New-York Historical’s rear courtyard (located at West 76th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue), providing an open-air environment for visitors to view the exhibition and contemplate the impact of COVID-19 on New York City. Admission is free; access will be limited and face coverings will be required for entry, with social distancing enforced through timed-entry tickets and on-site safety measures.

The exhibit will feature 50 photographs and 12 audio interviews with the photographs’ subjects, conducted by a writer and a photographer during (an) intensive two-day odyssey across the city on April 8–9, 2020; the audio will be accessible to visitors through their cell phones.

The exhibition also includes a quiet seating area, surrounded by plantings and conducive to reflection, where visitors can record their own experiences of the pandemic in an open-sided story booth. These oral histories will be archived by New-York Historical.

The museum plans to open indoor exhibits on September 11, with new safety rules for staff and visitors. It’s been closed since March 13.

NEWS | 12 comments | permalink
    1. Wijmlet says:

      interesting! I’d go

    2. Kayson212 says:

      Yay!! Kudos to NYHS for inventive staging and timely subject matter. Can’t wait to go.

    3. Mary Lou says:

      Once again the New York Historical Society leads The way! BRAVO!

    4. Lydia says:

      I’ve been counting the days til the museums and libraries reopen. I’d happily go to this. Interesting idea, NYHS!

    5. Ashley P says:

      Why do I need to go see something I’m currently living. All for them documenting but no need to see an exhibit. I feel like an exhibit would be better down the road once we have long term learnings and aren’t living this daily

      • Martha Hess says:

        I agree with you 100%.

      • Lydia says:

        People can can contribute an oral history to their archives while it’s still fresh in their minds. I’m sure they’ll have other exhibitions on this crisis down the line – they did really interesting ones on cholera, smallpox, and AIDS in NY – but it makes sense to solicit first hand impressions and experiences now.
        Some people have been holding their breath (figuratively) since lockdown began and may welcome this approach to beginning to take stock of what’s happened.

        • I understand why folks feel like it’s too soon/close for comfort, but I think you’re making a key-point here: the public can share their own experiences, which will create an important archive, but is also known to be healing. We are doing something digital for now, with @Stoop.Stories on Insta if you want to check it out.

    6. Native Upper West Sider says:

      The outdoor exhibition is a great idea, but the central theme needs to be re-evaluated. Maybe this would be a great exhibition in 10 years, but to do this as we’re currently living it and as people are still dying everyday in this city feels out of touch. If they are insistent on doing a pandemic focused exhibition, they could do one on the Spanish Flu in 1918 in NYC. Use reproductions instead of original photos & NYHS could still create a digital exhibition accessible on i-phones. The pandemic of 2020 is too close to home and not yet a historical event. We’re still in the midst of it.

    7. R.L. says:

      I am excited to see that the NYHS will be putting on an outdoor exhibit, but disappointed at the chosen subject. A summer outdoor exhibit is a creative solution to keeping the public engaged while it remains dangerous to spend extended amounts of time in enclosed spaces. But this is the best exhibit the NYHS could put together? Why not reproduce old photos and oral histories/video interviews of the 1918 and 1957 pandemics and the AIDS pandemic? Why not an exhibit on the history of public health in New York? There is so much history there, from stories of Peter Stuyvesant implementing regulations on garbage and livestock in the streets to the implementation of building and health codes and the creation of modern public health in the late 19th/early 20th century, and there is no shortage of relevant institutions in the city.

    8. Kismet W says:

      I have to echo some of the comments here.
      I’ve been looking forward to the day all the Museums reopen, but am disappointed in the Historical Societies choice of first exhibit.
      We don’t need the Museums to engage us in what we have been seeing on the news for the past three months,not to mention living through the misery of this pandemic.
      How about a exhibit that will take our minds off of our present situation.

    9. John says:

      As long as the history only goes back to 1980 it will be non-offensive.