The Brooklyn Navy Yard, nestled on the waterfront between the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges, is one of the most interesting places to visit in New York. It is also one of the best “hidden treasures.”
A few weeks ago, I was invited by a lovely friend and photographer to join a small group of fellow archivist for a visit to the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92 museum and a tour of the archive. I jumped on this opportunity because a few years ago, as the Yard was going through a renewal process, I used to ride past it in a car and I always wondered what was behind the gates. This was my opportunity to find out.
The Navy Yard was originally a site where merchant ships were built. In 1801, the site was purchased by federal authorities and in 1806, it became an active US Navy shipyard. Throughout its history, the Yard built and repaired damaged ships, housed navy personnel in the barracks, and had housed a hospital with its very own infectious disease ward. In 1966, the Navy decommissioned the yard. Shortly after this, a commercial shipping company leased the yard and continued to use the yard to build seafaring vessels. After this company discontinued the use of the yard, three of the yard’s dry docks continued to be in use by a commercial company for the repair and conversion of US Navy vessels until it closed in 1987. The Brooklyn Navy Yard is currently home to over 200 private manufacturing and commercial firms, a 2.5 acre organic urban rooftop farm, one of the largest production studios outside of Los Angeles, many artists who lease space under an associated called Brooklyn Navy Yard Arts and home to a museum dedicated to the yard’s history.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92 (Museum)
Bldg 92 is the museum dedicated to the history of the Navy Yard. The day of this visit was one of the coldest days this winter. The leftover snow from the many snowstorms this season did not distract for this beautifully designed building and public space. The metal facade was built by a company who is located at the Navy Yard.
Interactive History Display
This was one of the most fascinating parts of this visit. This animated map was designed to be a timeline of the history of the space occupied by the Navy Yard from the time of the first settlers thru its current history. As time periods float by, you can click on certain images to read expanded information about how that image played a role in the history of the Navy Yard.
As a technology-user geek, this was just the coolest thing ever! I want to revisit this just so I can click on each image and learn more about the workings of the Yard through its history.
The Exhibit Space & Collection
The layout of the exhibit space makes it very easy to navigate and browse. The collection includes artifacts from maritime history and scale models of ships.
If you get the opportunity, I would also suggest taking a stroll around the grounds of the Navy Yard. Here is where you will see some of the old mixed with the restored and the new. You can find hidden gems, like beautiful murals and gorgeous architectural details, by exploring the yard on foot.
To me visiting an archive is like a child visiting Disneyland; it’s my “happiest” place on Earth. This Archive did not disappoint. The collection contains a large number of blueprints (hand drawn) and few enduring items displaying the maritime history of the Navy Yard.
I loved knowing and seeing that the scrolled blueprints opened up to these wonderfully hand-drawn images of the items contained within the Navy Yard at some point in its history. For me, it was bewitching.
What’s Behind Door #2: SOME OF THE MOST AWESOME THINGS EVER!!!!
And then, there was door #2. This room contained some really interesting artifacts from maritime history, including helmets, two cannons, an artillery round, a couple of flags (not shown) and a bunch of other really cool items.
Being able to join this group of ladies on this guided tour of BLDG 92 and the archives by the archivist at the Brooklyn Navy Yard made it a dream come true.
If you are visiting New York and are interested in touring the grounds of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, you can sign up for a tour at Turnstile Tours. This company provides a few different tours within the Navy Yard. I highly recommend making this “hidden gem” a “must see” stop during your stay in New York City.