Friday, August 19, 2011

Brooklyn Historical Society: Pierrepont St and Clinton St

If you have an interest in classic movies set in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Dodgers, American Revolutionary history, or Civil War history, the Brooklyn Historical Society is the place for you. 

As you might imagine, there are loads of T.V. series and movies that are based in Brooklyn, but I hadn't really thought about it until this visit to the society.  From Spike Lee movies, Cher's "Moonstruck" and John Travolta's "Saturday Night Fever" to Jackie Gleason's iconic "Honeymooners," the star power of Brooklyn as a is undeniable.  Brooklyn's coolness, ethnicity, raw edge, and earthy beauty is almost like another character in these shows and films.  The posters, memorabilia and looped video remind visitors of Brooklyn's major role in media.

They took down Ebbets Field in the 1960s, but the society has one-of-a-kind nostalgic artifacts--from pennants of their World Championship year (see above), original wooden bench seats, and uniforms (see Roy Campanella's wool shirt, card, and autographed ball at right). The historic papers, score keeping cards, video testimonials and fan yearbooks all provide a picture of the incredible tie that Brooklynites had with the Dodgers before they moved to Los Angeles after city officials (including Robert Moses) failed to step up and provide the larger stadium the team needed.  With a little time, this unique collection can give visitors a glimpse into the heartfelt connection Brooklynites had to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Finally, if you have an interest in early Brooklyn or American history, the society's collection of American Revolutionary artillery (see rifle and sword at left), Civil War memorabilia, and WWI and WWII posters (the society's building was once the Red Cross NY Headquarters during the WWII) deserves a look. 

Overall, I'd give the Brooklyn Historical Society a 6 out of 10.  Why so low?  Well, the society has a lot of wasted space.  Between empty halls for events, a whole floor dedicated to offices, another floor set aside for class rooms for small groups, the small collections on display are unfortunately pretty weak.  However, what they do have, particularly if you are interested in baseball history, is great.  If you happen to be in the neighborhood, I'd recommend it, but I wouldn't plan to spend much time there.

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