23 Aug 2022


The History of Brooklyn Museum

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Academic level: College

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Museums serve crucial purposes in preserving and maintaining the integrity of art. After art works arrive in a museum, they are analyzed to provide meaning in a variety of ways. Through an art gallery, it becomes possible to make comparisons of various objects across varied cultures and gain new insights from the art on differences and similarities across different cultures. At times, the presentation of objects in the exhibition area demonstrates the original purpose behind the object such as illustrating the owner’s status, which is a significant feature across different societies. Moreover, museums provide the opportunity to view various objects whose very constituents mirror the ideals of the cultures that created them. Further, the significance of the worth attached to specific materials is an essential aspect of the study of objects deemed to have a luxurious connotation such as wool, gold and iron. Other than enjoying the arts, the museums offer a rich history such as that of the Brooklyn Museum. 

The stretch of the history of the Brooklyn Museum dates back to the year 1823. Given the many years past its inauguration, making a full outline of the museum is quite impossible. However, an overview is possible dating from its past to the present. In its beginning, a section of Brooklyn residents came together to organize and build the Brooklyn library for the apprentices. The building was erected in Cranberry Street in 1825 and acted as a repository for books. The first purchase of a painting was made in 1831, and it was the portrait of Robert snow, who was one of the founders of the library ( Brooklyn Museum, 2016) . By 1835, the librarian made a report on the collection of books and the library had over one thousand volumes and over one hundred and seventy two readers. Notably, the books were diverse in topics including culture and science and at present, some of the books that were present in the library of the apprentices linger in the Brooklyn Museum. 

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As the apprentices’ library progressively grew, the founders had to move it to a new location in the Washington Street. This change came around 1841 and commenced a succession of exhibitions to show case various items such as sculptures, paintings, models of machinery and other outstanding features of nature. The progress resulted in the consolidation of the Brooklyn Lyceum and the apprentices’ library with a new name being the Brooklyn Institute. The new Institute focused on arts in the various exhibitions held. Five years later, the Brooklyn Institute revealed plans towards establishing a permanent gallery showcasing fine arts ( Brooklyn Museum, 2016) . Various works of art were in the collection including those done by American and European artists. The growth of the Brooklyn institute is largely attributed to the desire to have a collection of the culture and art for the people of Brooklyn. 

In the year 1888, a committee made up of Brooklyn citizens formed plans for the construction of a new museum building to stock a distinctive combination of the sciences and arts. With the plans ready, the legislation allocated land next to the prospect park to ensure the construction of institutions of education and art. By the year 1889, the new arts department commenced on annual exhibitions of art with focus on paintings. With the onset of photography, the Brooklyn institute became the first museum in the entire North America to showcase photography as a work of art. Around year 1890, the Brooklyn Institute was restructured and renamed the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences ( Brooklyn Museum, 2001) . This institute had various departments which gave rise to the Brooklyn Museum alongside other institutions such as a music academy, a botanic garden, and a children’s museum. The various departments had sciences ranging from anthropology to zoology, and a host of gallery items on natural history as well as works of art. With continued interest in the museum, the mayor of Brooklyn in 1895 laid the foundation stone for the construction of the new museum building. This was followed by an announcement by the director of the Brooklyn Institute stating that the museum would embrace the known history of humanity in its entirety. This objective would be realized through the library collections and the vast collections of items of arts as well as science materials. 

After the abolishment of slavery in 1827, Brooklyn had a community of black citizens. However, racial discrimination made life difficult for the black population. In 1896, while visiting the construction of the Brooklyn museum, Booker T. Washington made a speech on the need to have art that speaks out the need for the strong to refrain from oppressing the weak ( Brooklyn Museum, 2016) . Being a black citizen, the museum provided a chance for him to air out the grievances of the blacks. He made a call for progress among blacks and challenged the racial segregation. Over the years, the Brooklyn museum made deliberate efforts to bring out the black history through ethnography. In the year 1953, African art was exhibited in the Brooklyn Museum where it was the first museum to use the word ‘masterpiece’ in regard to African art ( Brooklyn Museum, 2016) . The museum raised the status of African works to the status of art instead of just as ethnography. 

In the revolution of Black Radical Women in the 1965 to 1985, the Brooklyn museum made recognition of the progress made by the black society by showcasing art by black women. During the advent of the second-wave feminism, the Brooklyn museum made the link to the social, political, aesthetic and cultural priorities of black women. Actually, the Brooklyn museum became the first in making exhibitions to voice out the experiences of black women ( Brooklyn Museum, 2016) . This was distinctive from the works of other feministic movements primarily white. This step served to reorient the debate surrounding race and feminism as well as political action during the given historical period. Moreover, the works of Wiley depict the black population dressed in hoodies, sneakers and baseball caps, illustrating the onset of the hip-hop culture. 

The museum was progressively expanded to ensure that it attracted individuals from the entire world and made Brooklyn a center of interest. This was coupled with plaster casts of antique sculptures and reproductions of celebrated works of art with their installation taking place by 1901. Through world-wide expeditions, a pact was established between the Egyptian explorers and as a result, a collection of Egyptian antiquities was realized and the cultural and their social significance outlined. Between the years of 1903 to 1929, a new curator at the museum acquired more than nine thousand objects demonstrating, African, Native American and Asian culture and arts ( Brooklyn Museum, 2001 ). 

Once the Brooklyn museum attained its objective of being a center of human interest, the need to add more antique items to the collection continued with purchases and explorations progressing. By 1929, with the support of the renowned trustee, intellectual, donor, and collector, Luke Lockwood, the Museum obtained more than a few American period rooms ( Brooklyn Museum, 2016) . As the museum expanded, interested parties such as the Wilbur Fund came in to provide funds for the purchase of more objects to fill the space and add to the diversity of antiquities in the museum ( Brooklyn Museum, 2001 ). When the sciences section seemed left behind, more than six thousand books were purchased to further equip the library section. By 1930, the Museum expanded its limits and established a department of education to continue with the educational accomplishments initiated by the Brooklyn Institute. 

Due to the increase in collections, and shifting the focus to cultural history and fine arts, the galleries previously dedicated to the field of natural history had to be shifted to a few institutions with the inclusion of the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. The collection of fine-arts had to be chronologically arranged starting with the antiquities of the prehistoric period at the ground and the top floor having the Gallery of Living Artists. As of the year 2010, various changes had taken place in the museum in a bid to suit the aim of retelling history ( Brooklyn Museum, 2016) . The various modifications made were to ensure consistency in history to attract a larger audience and attain acknowledgement as one among the greatest museums of global recognition. Redesigning was done to offer more space for galleries which continues to acclimatize all the floors of the museum. Various cultural items are well placed to ensure a connection of the various cultures of the world and thus making Brooklyn a sophisticated world. 

At present, the Brooklyn Museum prudently organizes and presents the various works of art in a more understandable manner. From a traditional perspective, museums had various designs of arrangement. However, since the chronological, geographical and other categories limit the scope of comparison, the Brooklyn museum meets that challenge in a unique way. The gallery presents a different option intended to enhance other themes of organization in the Museum. Specifically, various works of art from diverse places, times and varied types from throughout the Museum’s assortments are assembled into all-encompassing themes, stressing on the links across cultures thus allowing a deeper understanding as to ways in which art reveals our common humanity ( Brooklyn Museum, 2016) . From the societies of the early Americas to the modern time, attempts to comprehend the world we live in has prompted both imagination and learning. Determination to achieve an improved understanding of the world can inspire the designing of various works of which in turn, clarify and compare the various perceptions of the world. 

In conclusion, despite the many challenges experienced in building it, the museum’s legacy remains intact and continues to grow every year. The Brooklyn museums brings an assortment of the various treasures of the world to the fascination of the public. Similar to the other numerous museums, the Brooklyn Museum assembles works of art with the aim of uplifting, inspiring, and informing the public. 


Brooklyn Museum. 2001. Guide to the Records of the Department of the Arts of Africa, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas (AAPA). 

Brooklyn Museum. 2016. Connecting cultures . Retrieved on August 9, 2017 https://www.brooklynmuseum.org 

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