New exhibit on Upper East Side shows the remarkable and the everyday in the city’s history

CC Train New York 1985 by Richard Sandler
CC Train, New York, 1985, by Richard Sandler. (Images courtesy Museum of the City of New York)

A new exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York highlights recent additions to its collection in photographs and objects, which present snapshots of the city’s history from centuries ago up the present day.

“Collecting New York’s Stories: Stuyvesant to Sid Vicious,” opened on Wednesday and includes selected highlights from hundreds of the museum’s acquisition in the last few years. One section includes various media and objects from the city’s history, including a map from 1800 showing Lower Manhattan land owned by Petrus Stuyvesant, the last Dutch Director General of New Netherland, which was donated by his descendants.

Map of Governor Petrus Stuyvesant’s Property, 1800.


There is also a hat designed by the legendary Bill Cunningham, in his days before becoming a photographer. There are posters from the 2017 Women’s March, post-it notes from the “Subway Therapy” project by artist Levee Chavez after the 2016 election, and artifacts from the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2011.

Woman’s bun hat, 1952, William J. Millinery (Bill Cunningham)


“There’s definitely things that stuck in my mind as particularly unique when we brought them in,” said Lindsay Turley, the museum’s Vice President of Collections, who curated the objects portion of the exhibition. She said the focus was, “What are the stories that they tell on their own before the museum uses them for another thematic story.”

Turley pointed out two other notable pieces in that section, one being items from an automat in the early to mid-1900s, which were early versions of fast food. The items on display, a large ladle, coffee dispenser and coffee urn, along with an automat sign, were collected by Donald J. Fowley, who started at age 16 at Horn & Hardart, the most prominent automat chain, and worked himself up to vice president for marketing.

There is also a cosmetology tool case and supplies from around 1940, which belonged to Sylvia Green Greenseid, a daughter of Hungarian immigrants. She graduated from Manhattan Evening Trade School in 1936, in one of the trades where a woman could support herself during the Depression years, the exhibit notes.

“It’s great to start representing the stories of especially working women,” said Turley. “It was great to bring these artifacts from her career and her education.”

The other section of the exhibition features dozens of photos of the city, spanning all kinds of scenes from different decades. There are also some snaps of famous people, including Run-DMC, Billie Holliday and Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Eric B. and Rakim, and Sid Vicious.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono in front of the Dakota, New York, Nov. 21, 1980, by Allan Tannenbaum.
“RUN DMC with Posse,” Hollis, Queens, 1984, by Janette Beckman.
Marx Brothers, 1948, Yousef Karsh.
Sid Vicious Under Arrest for the Murder of Girlfriend Nancy Spungen, New York, 1978, by Allan Tannenbaum.


Other photos depict everyday scenes, including playing outside, walking through city streets, and riding the graffiti-filled subways.

Hopscotch, 105th Street, New York, 1952, by Walter Rosenblum.
Subway, 1980, by Bruce Davidson.
Lower East Side [Boy Jumping from Fire Escape], 1978, by Martha Cooper.
Boys with Boom Box, 14th Street, 1983, by Morris Engle.
An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator is arrested on Broadway and Wall Street on the “International Day of Action,” Nov. 17, 2011, by Ashley Gilbertson.


“New York City’s diversity and dynamism is beautifully reflected in the variety of artists, collectors, and ordinary New Yorkers represented in our collection,” said Whitney Donhauser, President and Director of the Museum, in a statement before the exhibition opened. Donhauser added that the items in the exhibit allowed “visitors to delve deeper into the many faces, places, and touch points of our beloved city.”

The exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave. at 103rd Street, runs through Dec. 31, 2020.