Brooklyn Historical Society to Merge With Brooklyn Public Library, in Surprising Move

Brooklyn Historical Society's landmarked headquarters in Brooklyn Heights. Photo by Susan De Vries

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    The venerable and private Brooklyn Historical Society, more than 150 years old, plans to merge with the Brooklyn Public Library. The sweeping historic Brooklyn collections of both will be combined at BHS’ treasured 1881 Brooklyn Heights headquarters, a landmark inside and out, but otherwise the two institutions plan no significant changes to their missions, they announced today.

    “Bringing together both archives in one place will be great for researchers,” a Brownstoner reader familiar with both told us. “Both are trying to digitize, and together they may be able to do it.” As well, the move could boost the financial stability of Brooklyn Historical, and enhance the public programming of the library. “Maybe their hours will increase,” the reader added, referring to Brooklyn Historical.

    public library

    Brooklyn Public Library’s headquarters in Prospect Heights. Photo by Susan De Vries

    Admission to Brooklyn Historical’s exhibitions and collections will be free to the public. “Brooklyn Historical Society and Brooklyn Public Library are both education institutions dedicated to helping individuals build a sense of self, a sense of place, and a sense of community,” Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda Johnson said in a prepared statement.

    “Together our institutions hold important collections of material, manuscripts, and artifacts, vital to our shared history that we are committed to making accessible to everyone. I’m thrilled this partnership will provide a new level of care and interpretation of our own collections, and that we will greatly expand access to this combined archive through our far reaching networks and library branches,” she continued.

    Brooklyn Historical Society Real Estate Roundtable August 2

    An event in Brooklyn Historical Society’s library. Photo by Alix Porun via the Brooklyn Historical Society

    Brooklyn Historical Society President Deborah Schwartz concurred. “By combining with Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Historical Society immediately extends our reach to every neighborhood in the borough, creating myriad opportunities to educate people of all ages about Brooklyn’s important history and its relevance to each of them,” she said in a prepared statement. “This partnership also provides BHS with financial stability, professional resources, and through our combined programming, an enhancement and expansion of everything we do. This includes the ongoing building of our collections in ways that foster inclusion and reflect the diversity of the borough.”

    A timeline was not given for the merger. “BPL and BHS are currently in discussions with the City of New York regarding funding necessary for combining the institutions,” said the press release.

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