The City Reliquary is a not-for-profit community museum and civic organization located in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn. Its mission is to illustrate the history of the five boroughs of New York City through cultural ephemera ranging from the everyday to the extraordinary. Visitors are invited to connect with previous generations of New Yorkers through the objects they left behind. History The beginnings of The City Reliquary date to 2002, when founder Dave Herman painted directions to neighborhood landmarks and subway lines on the façade of his ground-floor apartment on the corner of Havemeyer Street and Grand Street. The positive feedback from the community encouraged him to seek additional means of engagement. Herman decided to display his collection of found objects in his apartment windows. Passersby were drawn to the quirky array of local artifacts, and Herman received object donations and loans from people who wanted to share their own “relics” with the greater New York community. Over time, the collection grew and required a dedicated space of its own The City Reliquary relocated to its current Metropolitan Avenue location in 2006. The Grand Opening occurred on April 1 with a ribbon cutting and Proclamation reading by Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President from 2002 to 2013. The Collection The permanent collection of The City Reliquary encompasses a wide range of items illustrating the lived experiences of New Yorkers past and present. Highlights include a shrine to Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers; memorabilia from both New York World’s Fairs (1939 & 1964); a set of antique dentures washed ashore at Dead Horse Bay; and an interactive display relating the career of Little Egypt, a 19th-century burlesque dancer. Dave Herman’s collection of Statue of Liberty figures, which formed the original core collection, is also on view. Also on display is the rope that held the mourning drape on the City Hall balcony following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The City Reliquary is currently curating a collection of neon signs from beloved nightlife spots such as the Subway Inn on the Upper East Side and Yaffa Café in the East Village. The original 2nd Avenue Deli neon sign entered the museum collection in 2006, when the business relocated from East 10th Street to East 33rd Street. City Reliquary workers rescued the sign from a dumpster. In addition to the permanent collection, The City Reliquary features temporary exhibitions with film series, workshops, and curator talks that complement the theme of each exhibit. The City Reliquary also features displays curated by members of the community. Exhibitions (not comprehensive): The Pizza Box Chronicles (April – Sept. 2015): the story of New York City pizza history as told through iconic pizza boxes. Complemented by the Reel Slice film series Mazel Tough: Jewish Gangsters of New York, 1900-1945 (Nov. 2014 – Feb. 2015): illustrates the history of Brooklyn’s Jewish gangsters through a series of portraits by artist Pat Hamou and related ephemera. The Dick Power Story: A Dark Day in Sunnyside (June – Aug. 2014): a tribute to bicycle builder Dick Power, with a display of many bicycles of his design from the collection of Edward H. Albert, former road racer and bicycle collector. Drawing Perspective: The Cartoon Genius of Burris Jenkins Jr. (March – May 2014): Considers the work of master cartoonist Burris Jenkins Jr. and its impact on the public agenda of mid-20th-century New York. Keep Your Eye Upon the Donut (Dec. 2013 – March 2014): explores the history of donut shops in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and the role of New York City in popularizing the donut. Strong Backs, Weak Minds: The Saga of the Coney Island Velodrome (June – Aug. 2013): explores the role of the Coney Island Velodrome in American escapism and optimism in the years leading to the Great Depression and World War II. Display included bikes that were raced on the track, as well as photos, programs, tickets and other ephemera. Greetings From The City of New York (Feb. 2013): picture postcards from the turn of the 20th century, from the collection of Lon Black. Embee Sunshade Co: An Iconic Legacy, Locally Made (Aug. – Oct. 2012): celebrated Embee Shades, whose umbrellas for hot dog carts, lifeguard stands, and NYC Parks Department kiosks are a part of New York City’s iconic landscape. New York City Above and Below: Works by Plein Air Artist Enrico Miguel Thomas (Jan. – Feb. 2012): a series of drawings by the “Monet of the MTA” that capture the energy and vibrancy of New York subway travel. All works were created on subway platforms or in subway cars or stations. Slice Harvester (March – May 2011): an exhibition of the pizza photography of Colin Atrophy Hagendorf, aka Slice Harvester, who ate a cheese slice from every NYC pizzeria over the course of two years. Forgotten City Lights: A Photographic Archive of NYC’s Street Lamposts (July – Sept. 2010): featured photographs taken over 30 years by Bob Mulero, an employee of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) of New York City and an avid toy collector. The Vanishing Icons of Metropolitan Avenue: A History of Williamsburg’s Handmade Shop Signs from the 1980s (April – mid-June 2010): Photos from the NYC Municipal Archives chronicling the 1980s Williamsburgh streetscape. Accompanied by a display of original signs created by Stanley Wisniewolski. Over Spilt Milk: The Fight for Fair Price and Fair Profit in Depression-Era New York (Jan. – May 2009): organized by the NY Food Museum. Featured pamphlets and broadsides, vintage milk cartons, and miniature dioramas concerning the Consumer-Farmer Milk Cooperative, an immigrant-founded organization instrumental in democratizing the milk distribution market. 76 Kisses (Feb. – March 2008): Snapshots presenting an intimate and compelling look at the kiss. From the collection of Lori Baker and David E. Brown. The Bicycle Paintings (May – July 2007): works by Taliah Lempert. City Stories (March – May 2007): NYC photographs by Judah S. Harris. Turning Point: A Celebration of Cycling and Art (May – July 2006): featuring the photography of Amy Bolger. Community Collections Displays (not comprehensive): Souvenir buildings (June – Aug. 2015): organized by Joseph Kopitz Playbill collection (April – June 2015): organized by Anne and Phil Fidanza Vintage troll dolls (Dec. – March 2014): organized by Ronda J. Smith “Which Came First?”: The Chicken Museum (Sept. – Nov. 2014): organized by Harley Spiller and his 6-year-old son Hiro. The display included Omelet King Rudolph Stanish’s custom pan and recipe book, and photographs of hand-painted roast chicken signs from Roosevelt Avenue The Bicycle Builders’ Collection (May 2007): organized by David Perry and Johnny Coast Vintage Flashlight Collection (Feb. – March 2007): organized by Chris Millstein 1939-40 NY World’s Fair Memorabilia (Dec. 2006 – Jan. 2007): organized by Kyle Supley, now on long-term loan Vintage thermoses (Oct. – Nov. 2006): organized by Fionnuala Ross Dipsticks (Aug. – Sept. 2006): organized by Steve Gerberich Argyle socks (June – July 2006): organized by Tom Krueger President's Day Celebration featuring Christy Gast: “Lady Presidential Candidates Commemorative Plates” and Pedro Genao Rodriguez: Life-size Abraham Lincoln felted wool sculpture (March – May 2006). Included a ceremony honoring first African-American female candidate, Charlene Mitchell Bobble-Heads (Aug. – Sept. 2005): organized by Ervin Mendez Vintage meat recipe booklets (July 2005): organized by Paul Lukas Collection of pens and promotional material (May 2005): organized by the Zucker Family. With accompanying writing contest for kids Items collected from Midwest flea markets (March 2005): by West Virginia/New York-based art collective “Poo Syndicate” Drummer’s collection of solo drumsticks (Jan. 2005): organized by Heather Wagner A mosaic created from over 2,000 pennies (Dec. 2004): organized by Brian Bibbo Mr. T memorabilia (Oct. 2004): organized by Harley Spiller Pez dispensers (May 2004): organized by George Ferrandi ET figurines and vintage glass vases (April 2004): organized by Bill Scanga Objects from NASA experiments (March 2004): organized by Jesse James Arnold Collection of drawings for a new World Trade Center (Jan. 2004): organized by Jabiel Jimenez Special Events and Community Engagement The City Reliquary holds numerous special events throughout the year including block parties, film screenings, and musical performances. Major annual events include: Bike Fetish Day, which reflects the strong relationship between the Reliquary and the bicycle enthusiast community. Booze and Schmooze, a night of storytelling with food and drink provided by Brooklyn breweries, distilleries, restaurants, and confectioneries. Collector’s Night, where collectors introduce their objects through performances, presentations, and stories. Previous Collector’s Nights have been hosted at Brooklyn Brewery, Union Pool, the Knitting Factory, and the Brooklyn Historical Society. Sugar Sweets Festival, a celebration of New York’s bakers. The day includes an apron fashion show, blue-ribbon baking competitions, and live entertainment. The central event is the Civic Bake Sale, which features a wide selection of donated baked goods, from homemade items to concoctions from landmark New York bakeries. The “Panorama Challenge,” held at the famous Queens Museum Panorama of the City of New York. Using the museum panorama, contestants compete to successfully identify locations of NYC landmarks, bridges, neighborhoods, parks, and more. Tribute to Our City, 2001-2005 From 2001 until 2005, The City Reliquary held the annual “Tribute to Our City” in September to honor the strength and unity of New Yorkers in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Dave Herman is himself a former New York City firefighter. This day-long community event included a neighborhood-wide potluck, live local bands, and a display of objects collected by members of the community. External Links The City Reliquary web site "Visit NYC Memorabilia at The City Reliquary," News12 Brooklyn, Aug. 2, 2013 (Video) "A New York Institution Steps Into The Sun." The New York Times, Aug. 10, 2012 Interview with City Reliquary Founder, Dave Herman. Gothamist, Aug. 23, 2011 2007 interview with founder Dave Herman. Huffington Post, Aug. 24, 2011 (Video) Diantha Parker, "City Reliquary: Collecting the Lost Artifacts and Ephemera of NYC." NPR Special Series: You Are Here, Oct. 1, 2006 (Audio) Kevin Walsh, "COLLECTING NEW YORK: Williamsburg’s City Reliquary," Forgotten New York, Feb. 14, 2004; revised 2012.
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