The Center for Brooklyn History

Welcome to the Center for Brooklyn History (CBH). CBH is a research library and community hub dedicated to public history.

Formerly known as the Brooklyn Historical Society, CBH became part of Brooklyn Public Library in 2020 and is now free and accessible to all for research, education, culture and more. Our freshly renovated landmark building—home to the Othmer Library's magnificent reading room—is a trove of special collections, archives, ephemera, art exhibits and programs that bring our borough's rich history to Brooklynites of all ages.

 

Brooklyn Is exhibition image
Brooklyn Is ...

The Center for Brooklyn History reopened on September 14th with an exhibition that celebrates the people and neighborhoods of our diverse, richly textured borough. What captures Brooklyn for you?

Learn more


Img Alt goes here
NYC History Day 2024

New York City History Day (NYCHD) is a program where students in grades 6-12 create projects based on original historical research and analysis.

Learn more

Img Alt goes here
Upcoming Public Programs

CBH hosts a wide range of free weekly programs to delight and engage our many audiences. See what's happening next, both virtual and in person. 

See what's on

Img Alt goes here
Visit the Othmer Library

Located on CBH’s second floor, the Othmer Library and its reading room are home to special collections and archives for public use. Researchers are encouraged to make appointments in advance. 

Visit us

Img Alt goes here
Brooklyn Connections

Brooklyn Connections is BPL’s standards-based local history education program for 4th through 12th grade educators in Brooklyn-based schools. Apply now for our 2023-2024 program!

Apply now

Img Alt goes here
Brooklynology

Fascinating Brooklyn stories from our local history archivists, featuring our popular Photo of the Week posts.

Read the blog

Img Alt goes here
Search our collections

The Center for Brooklyn History makes its collections available to all researchers. Browse our books, photographs, oral histories, maps collections and more.

Search our collections


Our History

The story of the Center for Brooklyn History began in 1863 with the founding of the Long Island Historical Society (LIHS) during a time of tumultuous change. In only a few decades, Brooklyn had grown from a tiny agricultural backwater to the third largest city in the country. Civic pride was at an all-time high. Many of Brooklyn’s citizens believed they needed to commemorate their city’s rural past before it quickly faded from memory. Founders also envisioned the LIHS as a center for dialogue about history. In the nineteenth century, the society’s roster of speakers included newspaper editor and reformer Horace Greeley, writer Arthur Conan Doyle and abolitionist and women’s rights activist Julia Ward Howe. 

Over the next century, the fortune of LIHS mirrored that of Brooklyn: it navigated the consolidation into the City of Greater New York, played a part in historic conflicts such as its use as a Red Cross headquarters during World War I, and faced its own struggles as the city grappled with deindustrialization, economic decline and social change.

Read more


 

Upcoming Events

CBH Talk | Frank Barry and Morgan Pehme Discuss “Back Roads and Better Angels.” Special Musical Guest Xavier Cardriche.

Thu, Jun 20 6:30pm
Center for Brooklyn History

author talks book discussion BPL Presents

In his new book, Back Roads and Better Angels: A Journey into the Heart of American Democracy, Frank Barry gives a captivating, unvarnished, and deeply thoughtful account of his road trip across America, sharing his on the ground, first hand observations about the tensions that pull…

Brooklyn Is... Exhibition Tour

Fri, Jun 21 3:00pm
Center for Brooklyn History

brooklyn history Center for Brooklyn History exhibitions

Come for a free guided tour of the exhibition Brooklyn Is...!

Visitors will get an interactive look at the photographs, maps, and community reflections that make up the heart of this exhibition, as well as a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the process of putting together this exhibition…

Memories Matter: Mapping

Sat, Jun 22 11:00am
New Lots Library

arts and crafts brooklyn history Center for Brooklyn History

Join East New York Community Land Trust (ENYCLT) and the Center for Brooklyn History (CBH) at the New Lots Library for the second part of our Memories Matter workshop series. We are sharing our East New York pride, and celebrating the history and character of the neighborhood through a…

Brooklyn Zine-In: Make Zines, Make History

Sat, Jun 22 1:00pm
Center for Brooklyn History

all ages arts and crafts Bklyn Incubator

Whatcha mean, What's a ZINE? A zine is a self-created and self-published work. Typically made using Do-It-Yourself methods of collage, drawing, stamping, and using found materials. Zines can be about anything and can be made by anyone!

Join us in partnership with Booklyn, Inc. for a…

CBH Talk | Voices of Venezuela: Art, Politics, and Survival in the Heart of Crisis

Tue, Jun 25 6:30pm
Center for Brooklyn History

artist talks author talks BPL Presents

Once a beacon of prosperity in South America, Venezuela's rich tapestry has dramatically shifted. Today, it faces one of the largest displacement crises in the world. Join us for a compelling evening as we delve into the stories behind over 7 million Venezuelans who have left their…

Pride Month, Music and a Movie!

Thu, Jun 27 6:30pm
Center for Brooklyn History

BPL Presents Center for Brooklyn History film

 CBH celebrates Pride Month and Brooklyn with this cabaret-style performance and screening!  

 

Join the incomparable Brooklyn-based drag artist Ella Fartzgerald, followed by the 2014 documentary “We Came to Sweat: The Legend of Starlite” for an…

Brooklyn Is... Exhibition Tour

Fri, Jun 28 3:00pm
Center for Brooklyn History

brooklyn history Center for Brooklyn History exhibitions

Come for a free guided tour of the exhibition Brooklyn Is...!

Visitors will get an interactive look at the photographs, maps, and community reflections that make up the heart of this exhibition, as well as a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the process of putting together this exhibition…

CBH Talk | Dana Mattioli and Emily Glazer Discuss “The Everything War”

Wed, Jul 10 6:30pm
Center for Brooklyn History

BPL Presents Center for Brooklyn History conversations

 

The Everything War: Amazon’s Ruthless Quest to Own the World and Remake Corporate Power is the shocking exposé of Amazon’s endless strategic greed and pursuit of total domination​. 

In this business thriller and inside story, Wall Street Journal reporter Dana Mattioli…

Get Social with CBH

Instagram Facebook TwitterYouTube

 

 Subscribe to Our Emails

Sign up to start getting our weekly programming updates, plus our popular Photo of the Week series.

Subscribe

 

Become a CBH Supporter

Whether through membership or a one-time gift, your support helps connect the past to the present and makes Brooklyn's vibrant history tangible, relevant, and meaningful for today's diverse communities—and generations to come.

Support Us

 

Contact Us

For general inquiries regarding the Center for Brooklyn History, you can call or email us, or submit a research request.

718.222.4111

 Email Us

 Submit a Research Request