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?

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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. 

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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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Brooklynology

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.

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.

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Upcoming Events

Inspired by Brooklyn | Music and a Movie

Thu, Apr 18 6:00pm
Center for Brooklyn History

BPL Presents brooklyn history Brooklyn Is

Singer-songwriter Tsebiyah Mishael Derry performs, followed by a screening of the 1980 film Brighton Beach, introduced by filmmaker Susan Wittenberg. 

 

About "Inspired by Brooklyn"

The Brooklyn vibe is in the room at this cabaret-style series presented in connection with CBH’s…

University Open Air: Yoga Training: Seven Pranayamas for Optimum Physical and Mental Wellbeing

Fri, Apr 19 10:00am
Center for Brooklyn History

BPL Presents Center for Brooklyn History humanities and art

We will explore the intricacies of pranayama (breathing technique), including breathing mechanisms, natural breathing patterns, and some profound benefits of these ancient practices. You will learn about body posture and experience the…

University Open Air: What’s in the day to day?

Fri, Apr 19 1:00pm
Center for Brooklyn History

Center for Brooklyn History humanities and art University Open Air

*This is a two-part class--participants are welcome to attend either or both.

Part one is a conversation seen through the work of female artists and writers about all that surrounds us on our day to day. We’ll talk about our approach to the expected and predictable; our home, our work,…

University Open Air: Healing: Meditation on the Three-Syllable Mantra. A Simple Method of Healing Oneself and Others

Fri, Apr 19 1:00pm
Center for Brooklyn History

BPL Presents Center for Brooklyn History humanities and art

The power of mantra is beyond our imagination, so is visualization. The combination of mantra recitation and visualization is more powerful. For centuries the three-syllable mantra meditation practice has been one of the key practices…

University Open Air: Making Music from our Surroundings

Fri, Apr 19 3:00pm
Center for Brooklyn History

Center for Brooklyn History humanities and art music

How can we make music drawing inspiration from our daily lives? Can we translate into sound what we observe in, for instance, a tarot card or a painting? What lies behind notes and rhythm? In the past few decades, musicians have been exploring alternative ways to compose and perform…

Brooklyn Is... Exhibition Tour

Fri, Apr 19 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…

University Open Air: Tibetan Yoga: The Five Movements for Balancing the Five Elements in our Bodies

Sat, Apr 20 10:00am
Center for Brooklyn History

BPL Presents Center for Brooklyn History humanities and art

Learn five standing yoga movements that release tensions and blockages in our gross body and subtle energy channels. Physical movement, breath, and awareness are coordinated to harmonize our body, energy, and mind. These five movements especially open…

University Open Air: Mind Training: How to Deal with Destructive Emotions. Tibetan Buddhist Psychology and Methods

Sat, Apr 20 1:00pm
Center for Brooklyn History

BPL Presents Center for Brooklyn History humanities and art

Students will learn some simple and effective methods on how to deal with negative emotions, particularly useful for when we are overwhelmed by those feelings.

 

University Open Air: AI for Everyone

Sat, Apr 20 1:00pm
Center for Brooklyn History

BPL Presents Center for Brooklyn History humanities and art

The headlines are filled with news about Artificial Intelligence (AI), making it difficult to separate hype from reality. AI presents many opportunities as well as challenges for our communities. It can help us solve complex problems, but it can also displace jobs and harm our civil rights if…

University Open Air: Transform Your Life in one Week with Mystic Breathing, Meditation, and Healing Yogas

Sun, Apr 21 10:00am
Center for Brooklyn History

BPL Presents Center for Brooklyn History humanities and art

In this session, we will teach the body posture and four characteristics of mystic breathing first. Then we will learn to feel the mystic breathing. Then we will learn to feel the subtle sensations in our body…

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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.

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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

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