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New Exhibit Explores Rich History of Brooklyn’s Waterfront

BROOKLYN, New York — The Brooklyn Historical Society opened a new exhibit in January that uses a multimedia experience to tell the history of Brooklyn’s waterfront.

“Waterfront” combines cutting-edge digital interactives with storytelling in 12 concept areas to immerse visitors in the natural and human histories of the waterfront.

The innovative activities and displays include allowing visitors to interact with historical figures and objects in historic paintings; a large-scale 1879 image of Brooklyn’s coastline that immerses visitors in the sights, sounds and smells of Brooklyn’s 19th-century warehousing district; artifacts and oral histories of female Navy Yard workers during World War II; and a 10-foot illustrated landscape on which visitors can create their own waterfront with magnets of buildings, bridges, animals and landmarks.

There are even objects displayed in the museum’s restrooms that highlight some of the iconic products made along Brooklyn’s coastline, including Chiclets Gum, Domino Sugar and Benjamin Moore Paint.

“Waterfront” is in the museum’s satellite space inside Empire Stores, a renovated 19th-century warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park that was reopened in 2017 as a revitalized public space featuring restaurants, retail stores and offices.

At the entrance, visitors encounter a floor-to-ceiling sculptural installation of more than 80 archaeological artifacts and fragments excavated from the ground beneath Empire Stores in the 1970s.

“We want visitors to leave Waterfront looking at their surroundings with a richer sense of the history of the site, of Brooklyn, and of Brooklyn’s place in a broader global economy and culture,” said Brooklyn Historical Society President Deborah Schwartz.