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.


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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?

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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.

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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. 

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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
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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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