New York Divided is drawn principally from the New-York Historical Society's vast collection and features precious historical artifacts, many never displayed before, including American art, newspapers, pamphlets, and other material documenting the history of the United States and New York. Among the notable items on display are one of the only surviving lottery wheels that "started" the draft riots; newspaper, addresses, and pamphlets of the Anti-Slavery Society; photographs of the Colored Orphan Asylum; and a rich assortment of prints, posters, and cartoons illustrating the coverage of important events during the great print revolution of the nineteenth century.
"This is not the American history that our grandparents learned in school. Exciting new discoveries and new questions asked by recent generations of scholars have upended our understanding of the national past, including that of New York City and State," says James O. Horton, the chief historian of the exhibition. "With New York Divided, we seek to bring this information to a general public still under the impression that the historical scholarship of the 1960s is the standard. We hope that they, too, will experience the excitement that has been generated by this most recent research."
"The New-York Historical Society has an extraordinary array of resources to tell this story," says Richard Rabinowitz, president of American History Workshop and curator of New York Divided. "For 202 years, this material has been assiduously collected and preserved. Our challenge is making this history come alive for modern audiences using innovative platforms; getting people to consider these historical documents by giving visitors the tools to get behind the history; creating the feeling of what these documents were like when the ink was still wet."
This honest, engaging look at history will bring visitors face to face with disturbing racial attitudes and comments. The New-York Historical Society does not endorse these views, but without them, it would be difficult to fully appreciate the charged racial environment of nineteenth-century New York. Offensive materials should be viewed in the context of their time period, and as part of the important effort to confront the hard realities of our own past.