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On the Collections homepage, you can choose to view a selection of objects illustrating particular themes, aspects of the collection, highlights of a particular time period or curators' choices. You can name these groupings in order to indicate clearly the type of works or themes that the collection illustrates. The groupings are listed as a series of links under "Collections" in the main navigation bar to the left.

Many of the New-York Historical Society's founders and nineteenth-century members had deep roots in New York, a significant number of them descended from families who immigrated in the seventeenth century. These early members were also deeply committed to exploration, and, as such, they collected and donated to the Society many artifacts that help tell the story of the Age of Exploration, and its trajectory, which led to the Dutch founding and settling of New York.

Most of the objects illustrated here are rarely-seen, early treasures from the Society's collections, including its 1542 Ulpius globe, which documents Verrazano's North American discoveries, an exceptional early-eighteenth century hand-painted Indian wall hanging, seventeenth-century maps and renderings of New Amsterdam and New York, and the only known portrait of Peter Stuyvesant painted during his lifetime.
The games that entertained Americans from the 1840s to the 1920s offer a fascinating window on the values, beliefs, and aspirations of a nation undergoing tremendous change. During this period the American home, no longer the heart of economic production, became the center of education, entertainment, and moral enlightenment. Middle-class families—with expanded leisure time as well as rising income levels—embraced leisure pursuits in the home and encouraged their children to play games that would develop skills and provide moral instruction. During the same period, advances in chromolithography made possible bold, richly colored games at affordable prices. New York City emerged as the leading center of American chromolithography and the hub of the nation’s vigorous board game industry. These games are among the more than 500 examples donated to the New-York Historical Society by Ellen Liman in 2000.
In 1863 Lucy Bakewell Audubon, the widow of John James Audubon, sold to The New-York Historical Society her husband’s preparatory watercolors for his seminal work The Birds of America (published serially in London between 1827 and 1838). The Society owns all 435 known preparatory watercolors for its 435 plates. In addition, the N-YHS holds a rare, double-elephant edition of The Birds of America, as well as the octavo edition and Audubon's Ornithological Biography, letters, ephemera, etc. In aggregate, these collections in the museum and library form the largest single repository of Auduboniana in the world.
Bella C. Landauer (1874-1960) was an insatiable collector of objects made for business and advertising purposes. In 1926, she gave a large portion of her collection to the New-York Historical Society. These collections - more than 375,000 pieces of ephemera and 4,500 three-dimensional objects - are an essential resource for scholars of American history.
Highlights from the New-York Historical Society Museum, showcasing the different facets of the museum collection.
The N-YHS holds one of the oldest and most comprehensive collections of landscape painting by artists of the Hudson River School, the first school of truly American art to garner worldwide recognition and fame. Artists, poets and writers forged the first self-consciously “American” landscape vision and literary voice, grounded in the exploration of the natural world as a source of spiritual renewal and as an expression of national identity, first expressed through the scenery of the Hudson River Valley.
The nearly 300 watercolor-on-ivory miniatures in the Peter Marié collection of the “Beauties of New York Society” depict leading New Yorkers at the turn of the twentieth century. The collection as a whole documents Victorian ideals of beauty, social hierarchies among elite New Yorkers, and the revival of the art of miniature painting, which had been threatened with extinction by the advent of photography.

New York bachelor Peter Marié (1825-1903) was a social leader with a reputation for hosting elegant dinners and intimate salons. A noted art collector, he was also a connoisseur of feminine beauty. In 1889, he set about collecting images of women whom he believed epitomized female beauty (although social status was clearly a necessary qualification). Marié’s endorsement was critical to the social success of some young women: Eleanor Roosevelt, whose mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt, was among the chosen, remarked that such approval “stamped young girls and young matrons a success.” Marié commissioned French miniaturist Fernand Paillet (1850-1918) to paint his first miniatures, and later turned to local artists including Katherine Arthur Behenna (d. 1924) and Carl A. Weidner (1865-1906). Some of the portraits were painted from life, although many relied on photographs—a medium whose artistic validity was still hotly debated at the time.

Marié’s collection was well known during his lifetime. The miniatures were prominently displayed in his home at 6 E. 37th Street and in 1894 were included in a major exhibition at the National Academy of Design. The Sun illustrated 44 of the miniatures, noting that “no part of the portrait show at the Academy of Design has been looked upon with more genuine curiosity than Mr. Peter Marié’s collection of miniatures of Gotham’s most beautiful matrons and maidens.” After his death, the portraits continued to attract attention and generate controversy: the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s director, Luigi Palma di Cesnola, turned down Marié’s bequest of the beauties collection, claiming that, because many were copied from photographs, they did not qualify as art. He also challenged Marie’s premise that his subjects represented the most beautiful women in the city. After Cesnola’s public rejection, the New-York Historical Society accepted the gift eagerly, recognizing the collection as an invaluable document of New York society at the turn of the century.
Photo: Colin Cooke
The New-York Historical Society's entire collection of 132 Tiffany lamps and three windows came as the gift of a single collector, Dr. Egon Neustadt, in 1984. Dr. Neustadt, an Austrian immigrant, New York City orthodontist, and successful real estate developer, began collecting Tiffany lamps in 1935, when he and his wife Hildegard purchased their first lamp in a Greenwich Village antique shop. Over the course of five decades, Dr. Neustadt amassed one of the most important and most comprehensive Tiffany collections in the world.
The avant-garde sculptor Elie Nadelman (1882-1946) is widely recognized for his elegant and spare modernist sculpture. Less well-known is Nadelman's role as a pioneer in collecting folk art in this country and his impressive material legacy acquired by the Historical Society in 1937. Nadelman's acquisitions spanned a variety of media, including furniture, sculpture, paintings, ceramics, glass, iron, pewter, drawings and watercolors, and household tools. The N-YHS holds more than 1,600 objects collected by Nadelman, more than any other single repository.
The Sketchbooks of Asher B. Durand in the New-York Historical Society

Asher B. Durand (1796–1886), a central artist of the Hudson River School, spent nearly twenty-four years as a successful commercial engraver. His talent as an engraver was based on his drawing skills, explaining his insistence on the importance of outline, the precise renderings in his sketchbooks and drawings, and his devotion to sketching with graphite outdoors. The artist’s empiricism and dedication to Nature is evident in the ten sketchbooks (two fragmentary from sketchbooks now disassembled), 310 drawings, and 79 paintings held by the Historical Society, where they are joined by an extensive trove of objects, documents, and prints that make it the largest single Durand collection extant. This rich repository is largely due to the generosity of his descendants: his son John; his daughter Lucy Maria Durand Woodman, an artist in her own right; and his granddaughter Nora Durand Woodman. The vast majority of his drawings are studies of trees rendered with solid realism and a poetic depth. Although Durand’s drawings, including those in the sketchbooks, were primarily for personal study, they played a central role in Durand’s aesthetic process.

For additional information on Durand’s sketchbooks, see Roberta J.M. Olson, “‘A Magnificent Obsession’: Durand’s Trees as Spiritual Sentinels of Nature,” in The American Landscapes of Asher B. Durand (1796–1886), ed. by Linda S. Ferber, exh. cat., Madrid: Fundación Juan March, 2010, pp. 148–191; Roberta J.M. Olson, “The Sketchbooks of Asher B. Durand in the New-York Historical Society,” Master Drawings, vol. 54, no. 4 (Winter 2016), pp. 433-476.

The Underground Railroad Collection is a sampling of objects and paintings from the New-York Historical Society Museum that tells the story of resistance to slavery, the movement of fugitives, and the experiences and achievements of the enslaved and the free African American community of the North. It includes artifacts from the abolitionist movement, portraits of notable antislavery people, narrative art such as figure groups by John Rogers, and commemorative items such as a silver pitcher commissioned to mark the end of slavery in New York in 1827. These holdings have been studied and interpreted with support from the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural Program.