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Brooklyn Historical Society Opens DUMBO Outpost in Brooklyn Bridge Park

By Amy Zimmer | May 18, 2017 4:25pm
 The view from the rooftop at Empire Stores. The new Brooklyn Historical Society outpost focuses on the borough's connection to its waterfront, past and present.
The view from the rooftop at Empire Stores. The new Brooklyn Historical Society outpost focuses on the borough's connection to its waterfront, past and present.
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DNAinfo/Amy Langfield

DUMBO — The Brooklyn Historical Society will celebrate its new outpost in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Empire Stores with free admission all weekend to its inaugural exhibition, an ode to its waterfront locale.

“Shifting Perspectives: Photographs of Brooklyn’s Waterfront” mines the organization’s modern and contemporary photography collection and features 65 images by 25 photographers, including Berenice Abbott, Bruce Davidson and Chester Higgins. Their work tells the stories of the shoreline from Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal to Coney Island and Jamaica Bay.

BHS DUMBO, as the organization is calling its second spot that opens Friday, is hoping to anchor its new space — which attracts tourists from around the globe to the views overlooking the East River — as a place to explore and connect with the waterfront’s significance, past and present.

“Our aim is to link visitors to the water’s edge through inspired images created by some of the world’s great photographers,” Brooklyn Historical Society President, Deborah Schwartz said in a statement about the inaugural show. “We hope and expect that when people leave the exhibition and walk out to the park, they’ll look at their surroundings differently having experienced the tantalizing images in Shifting Perspectives.”

In December, the space will retool with a long-term exhibition, “Waterfront,” exploring the multi-layered history and ecosystem of the Brooklyn waterfront, both globally and locally, through the stories of workers, artists, activists, families and neighborhoods, according to museum officials. The museum was awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help develop the show.

The building itself, a 19th century warehouse, reflects the growth of the borough from bucolic farmland to industrialized city to a hip brand known for the artisanal aesthetic now on display in much of the renovated brick, stone and wood-beamed building that opened this year after a long renovation.

The historic building was constructed in the late 1860s, as warehouses lined DUMBO down to Red Hook, filled with goods imported from around the globe, from coffee to cotton to sugar. The Empire building, however, had stood empty since the it was sold by Arbuckle Brothers Coffee in 1945, as the borough’s working waterfront experienced a significant decline, symbolizing Brooklyn’s de-industrialization.

The space is now home to tenants including West Elm and Shinola, as well as tech and media companies.

The museum will offer programs at its satellite location, as it does in its Brooklyn Heights home where it will host a couple of events related to the DUMBO show.

Related programs at its Pierrepont Street home include one on June 8 highlighting the queer history of Brooklyn’s working waterfront and one on June 21 about the many artists and writers who have taken inspiration from the water’s edge over the years, including author Jennifer Egan, whose forthcoming novel, "Manhattan Beach," was researched at the historical society’s Othmer Library.

BHS DUMBO will be open seven days a week, Monday through Friday from noon to 6 p.m. — with “summer Fridays” staying open until 9 p.m., from June 30 – Sept. 1 — and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Admission is free this weekend. Otherwise, suggested admission will be $10 for adults, $6 for seniors and teachers, free for students and children.