Saturday, October 15, 2016

Manhattan Museum: Preserving NY History

The recent opening of the Nan A. Rothschild Research Center by the Landmarks Preservation commission marks the first ever municipal archive that is exclusively focused on an archaeological collection of a city. 

Much of the history of New York – that until now has been buried quite deep – has now been cataloged and digitized.  This includes a “cone-shaped mold used in sugar refining to an oversize oyster, a 7,000-year-old spear tip to a 19th-century Transferware teapot and a bone from a passenger pigeon.”

Many of these archived objects are fantastic ways of learning about the history and uncover so much more than the actual original object, such as a glass seal which identified a wine bottle that was waiting its refilling at a local tavern. There are currently 1,500 boxes of artifacts that come from 31 sites excavated throughout the five boroughs, including: Stadt Huys (that was New York’s first major historical dig built to assist William Kieft so that he didn’t have to entertain guests at his home). It was Nan A. Rothschild herself, a Barnard College Anthropology Professor Emeritus and Columbia University faculty member who excavated that.  Hence the repository was named to honor the contributions she had made to the field.

As well, the archives have been contributed to by the Fund for the City of New York, the Iron Mountain and the Museum of the City of New York.