The South Street Seaport Museum opens 'South Street and the Rise of New York'

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The South Street Seaport Museum opens 'South Street and the Rise of New York'
Lightship Ambrose as originally built in 1908. Model by Col. Walter R. Bruyere III (1916–2004), 1988. Gift of the maker, South Street Seaport Museum 1988.7

NEW YORK, NY.- The South Street Seaport Museum announced the opening of a new introductory gallery “South Street and the Rise of New York” on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 5pm, at 12 Fulton Street.

“South Street and the Rise of New York” explores the critical role played by the Seaport and South Street in securing New York’s place as America’s largest city and its rise to become the world’s busiest port by the start of the 20th century. The exhibition showcases the Seaport Museum’s vast collection of works or art and artifacts via large reproduction and selected artifacts on display related to the 19th century history of the Port of New York.

The exhibition starts with a contemporary aerial photograph depicting New York Harbor, one of the best natural harbors in the world, and enlarged images from the Museum’s collections illustrating the meaning and effects of ports, seaports and hubs.

“Ports are places of exchange where people, goods, and ideas shift from one mode of transport to another. Throughout history, the places where ships could safely load and unload developed into energetic commercial centers and lively cultural crossroads, concentrating people and economic activity. In every port, commercial ecosystems grow to support shipping, trade, and communication. The great city of New York is perhaps the world’s most stunning example of a cosmopolitan metropolis rising from port roots,” said guest curator Michael H. Harrison.

The exhibition includes nodes of interpretation related to Schermerhorn Row, the block of warehouses and offices that stand on man-made land reclaimed from the East River between about 1797 and 1807; the Museum’s fleet of historic ships, which assist tell the story of New York as a great port city thanks to their history related to world commerce, coastal deliveries, and working harbor; and Bowne & Co., a contemporary re-interpretation of one of the many printing offices that flourished in lower Manhattan over the 19th and 20th centuries.

Additional stories and images related to finance, manufacturing, and printing corroborate the concept that Wall Street exists today as the financial capital of the world because of the trade that began at South Street. As early as 1825, commentators called New York “the great commercial emporium of America,” but prosperity, thanks to cotton and sugar trading, tied the city to the enslavement of Black men and women throughout the Americas. Until the Civil War, the port of New York, centered on South Street, received more than 4,000 vessels from foreign ports alone in 1860. After the Civil War, New York grew to become the busiest harbor in the world.

“South Street and the Rise of New York” was curated by Michael H. Harrison, the Obed Macy Research Chair at the Nantucket Historical Association, with the assistance of Martina Caruso, Director of Collections at the Seaport Museum. Exhibition design and art direction by Helen Riegle of HER Design and Christine Picone of Bowne & Co., the Museum’s historic letterpress shop.

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