New-York Historical Society Visitors Guide

New-York Historical Society
Photo © New-York Historical Society / Glenn Castellano

Founded in 1804 by John Pintard, the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library is New York City's oldest museum, predating the Metropolitan Museum of Art by 70 years. Its exhibitions explore the history of the United States as seen through the prism of New York. Changing exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society are engaging and often interactive — they raise issues about history and encourage visitors to question their preconceptions about a variety of historical issues.

Why the Hyphen in New York?

In keeping with tradition, the Historical Society retains the hyphen in New-York. This was commonly used during the 19th century and was also applied to New-Jersey and New-Hampshire.

Collections

The museum houses more than 1.6 million items. The library contains more than 3 million works, including the first documented evidence of the use of the term "United States of America.

Important works belonging to the collection include all 435 surviving watercolors in John James Audubon’s book “The Birds of America.” The museum also owns paintings and drawings by marine artist James Bard, one of the largest collections of Tiffany lamps and many materials from the Civil War.

Current Location

It has been located at its Manhattan location since 1908. In 2011, the museum reopened after a major renovation and expansion that included adding the DiMenna Children's History Museum, which is housed on the museum's lower level.

Tips for Visiting New-York Historical Society

  • Free tours are offered twice daily.
  • Audio tours and mobile apps offer visitors a chance to learn more about the exhibitions.
  • The independent research library is open to the public, though you should review the Library Guidelines when planning your research visit.
  • There are free bag and coat check.
  • Public Programs at the N-YHS offer visitors a great opportunity to learn more about current exhibitions.
  • Visitors with school-aged children will enjoy the DiMenna Children's History Museum, which features many interactive exhibits, games and even a library for children to enjoy on the museum's lower level. It's targeted at children ages 8 to 13.

    Dining at New-York Historical Society

    The acclaimed  Italian restaurant Caffè Storico serves small plates, as well as handmade pasta in a casually elegant setting. The cafe has an all-Italian wine list as well as a full bar. It's open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Parliament is the espresso and coffee bar, which features pastries and light fare. Admission to the museum is not required to dine at either.