Discovering the Center for Brooklyn History
History of the Center
The Center was established in 1823 as the Long Island Historical Society (LIHS), which was one of the first organizations devoted to collecting and preserving materials related to local history. In 1941, LIHS was renamed “The Brooklyn Historical Society” (BHS) and it became one of the oldest cultural institutions in Brooklyn.
It wasn’t until 2019 that BHS officially changed its name to “The Center for Brooklyn History” (CBH) in order to better reflect their mission.
Purpose of the Center
CBH is committed to creating a better understanding of how Brooklyn’s past has shaped its present and future through research, education, preservation efforts, and public programming. This institution is a significant resource for scholars studying urban studies, architecture, genealogy, immigration studies, African American history, women’s studies and many other fields.
In addition to being open for free tours on weekends, CBH also offers educational programs such as lectures by prominent historians as well as workshops focused on specific topics like family genealogy or photography skills.
Famous People Who Have Contributed To The Center
Many famous people and celebrities have contributed to the Center over the years. Some of those who have contributed significantly to CBH include:
- Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McBride;
- former Borough President Marty Markowitz;
- pioneering Black photographer James VanDerZee;
- former State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie;
- renowned artist Jacob Lawrence;
- former District Attorney Charles J. Hynes;
- civil rights activist Reverend Herbert Daughtry;
- labor leader Peter Rachleff;
- union organizer Grace Hutchins;
- historian Vincent Cannato;
- architectural historian Francis Morrone;
- preservationist Christopher Moore; and
- many others.
Resources At The Center
The Center boasts an impressive collection that includes over half a million objects related to life in Brooklyn from 1609 until today. The collection contains photographs, maps, books, manuscripts, letters, diaries, and personal papers. The collection also includes artistic creations such as film, audio recordings, oral histories, and video recordings. Additionally, the resources encompass a variety of items such as architectural drawings, prints, digital files, newspapers, magazines, postcards, etc. The resources are vast.
Additionally CBH provides researchers access to unique databases such as:
- Birth Records
- Death Records
- Immigration Records
- Tax Records
- Census Data
- Land Ownership Records
- City Directories
- School Reports
- Marriage Records
- Military Service Records
- Prisoner Lists
- Political Campaign Materials
- Newspaper Articles
- Archival Photos
- Historic Maps
- Cemetery Maps
Many of these resources are available online and on-site, making gaining access easier for people worldwide.
From its humble beginnings over two centuries ago as LIHS until now, this organization has been working hard to preserve our city’s history. The Center provides resources to support education, public programs, lectures, exhibitions, tours, etc.
With its extensive collection, archival databases, historic artifacts, famous contributors, educational opportunities, and more, there is no doubt that CBH is an invaluable asset.
It serves not only our Brooklyn locals, but everyone interested in learning more about this fantastic place we call home. Everyone can learn more about this vital part of America’s culture: our beloved borough – Brooklyn!