South Street Seaport Museum announces the release of the next set of collections artifacts for digital visitors to browse, research, and enjoy. In March 2021, the Museum launched a Collections Online Portal, which today features over 2,000 pieces on virtual display, allowing audiences to explore New York City’s past through the archives, artifacts, and photographs of the South Street Seaport Museum. This third iteration includes over 400 newly digitized works of art and historic objects covering a variety of mediums, historical subjects, and themes relating to the growth and changing physical fabric of New York City as a world port. Now available, the digital galleries can be viewed for FREE at seaportmuseum.org/collectionsonline.
Discover history and works of art from the comfort of your home with the new online database. Featuring items from the early 19th century to the mid-20th century, the online collection is comprised of a searchable database of selected works of art and historic artifacts from the Seaport Museum’s permanent and working collections of over 28,500 objects, encapsulating the rich maritime heritage of New York City.
The four sets of new digital galleries include:
Architecture Elements The Museum’s collection of architectural elements and building components includes bricks, doors and windows, samples of wallpaper, cast iron and terracotta ornaments, structural ironworks, and more. Most of the artifacts belong to different adaptations and style iterations of Schermerhorn Row, a Federal-style counting house built between 1810-1812, and home of the Seaport Museum since the 1970s. The remaining artifacts belong to other significant Lower Manhattan buildings that are no longer extant, including but not limited to the 1849 Edgar H. Laing Stores, the 1882 Fulton Fish Market, the 1893 Rhinelander Building, and the 1905 Bush Company Building.
George P. Hall and Son Photograph Collection The large-format glass plate negatives in this collection provide detailed depictions of Manhattan from the 1880s through the 1910s including harbor activity, bridge constructions, downtown streets, early skyscrapers, and as well as views of the U.S. Navy’s new steel battleships of the 1890s. The commercial photography firm George P. Hall & Son operated in Manhattan from 1886 through 1914, working out of several studios in Lower Manhattan and the Seaport, documenting the changing face of New York City at the turn of the 20th century.
Nautical Instruments The South Street Seaport Museum’s collection of nautical instruments includes navigational instruments used by sailors to monitor their environment and their vessels, along with thousands of historic and antique tools used for shipyard and port work by workers and riggers. These artifacts are the testimony to the generations of artisans, carpenters, workers, riggers, and sailmakers used the South Street waterfront district as a place to craft, market, and export their wares.
Wood Patterns This collection of small pieces of carved wood is an example of pattern-making: a centuries-old technology used to build all kinds of fittings and parts of ships. Part of the collection of wood shipyard patterns was produced by the New York Naval Architectural firm Gibbs & Cox, while others were manufactured by the historic Ira S. Bushey Shipyard, formerly located on Gowanus Creek, Brooklyn.
Additional virtual highlights of the South Street Seaport Museum collections include the following categories on seaportmuseum.org/collections: Drawings and Watercolors, Manuscripts and Ephemera, Navigational Instruments and Shipwright Tools, Objects Around the Neighborhood, Paintings, Prints and Lithographs, Printing History, Scrimshaw, Ship Components, Ship Models, Special Collections, Tattoo Collection, Remains of the Old Hotels, Institutional Archives, and Maritime Reference.
The South Street Seaport Museum’s collections consist of more than 28,500 works of art and artifacts and over 55,000 historic records documenting the rise of New York as a port city, and its role in the development of the economy and business of the United States through social and architectural landscapes. The Museum’s collections trace the history of New York City’s Harbor and Port, from the East River piers and the waterfront areas of Manhattan, to the city’s other boroughs and the New Jersey shoreline. The Museum also documents and interprets New York international trade routes, global cultures, and seafaring, including all aspects of life, art, and work associated with them.
For a deeper dive into the collection, visit the Museum’s “Collections Chronicles” blog where the collections team takes readers behind the scenes to share some of their work, while highlighting hidden gems of history, the Seaport, and the Seaport Museum’s collection at seaportmuseum.org/blog/collections-chronicles/.