A Century on the Brooklyn Waterfront

Presented by New York City Municipal Archives

Curated by Quinn Berkman & Cynthia Brenwall

Featuring Various or Unknown City Appointed Photographers

The NYC Municipal Archives invites you to explore a hundred-year history of the Brooklyn waterfront through photographs dating from 1870 to 1974.  Beginning with the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, through a period of intense activity as the center of the city’s maritime-based economy, these images provide us with a fascinating and conversation-provoking view of a radically-changed cityscape. Selected from the largest repository of NYC digitized images in the world, the pictures tell a story of a place now known as Brooklyn Bridge Park.  These unique prints, many produced from vintage large format glass-plate negatives, are a key element in visualizing the transition from industrial chaos to urban oasis.

The photographs have been chosen from some of our most significant collections including the Depression-era WPA Federal Writers’ and Art projects (1935-1943) and the City’s Department of Bridges (1901-1939).  Our collection of historic images simultaneously shares both NYC history and one of the most culturally impactful technological advancements in history:  the camera.  Without images, it is almost impossible to visualize the complex layers of Brooklyn and New York City as a whole.


NYC Municipal Archives Established in 1977, the Department of Records and Information Services preserves and provides public access to historical and contemporary records and information about New York City’s government.  Open to the public, the Municipal Archives preserves 200,000 cubic feet of original documents, photographs, ledgers, maps, architectural renderings, manuscripts, and moving images.  Nearly one million historical photographs are accessible online via the agency website; 10.5 million birth, death, and marriage certificates provide essential documentation for family history research; and world-class mayoral, court, and city department collections are unequaled by any other city in the nation.

The NYC Department of Records and Information Services mission is to foster civic life by protecting, preserving, and providing access to the historical and contemporary records of New York City government, to ensure that City records are properly maintained following professional archival and record management practices, and to make materials available to diverse communities both online and in person at the Municipal Library, Archives, and Visitor Center.