The Brooklyn Museum was founded in 1898 as a division of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, intended to educate tradespeople, and was planned to be the largest art museum in the world. The museum was conceived as an institution focused on a broad public. The museum initially struggled to maintain its building and collection, but it was revitalized in the late 20th century following major renovations.
The Brooklyn Museum's origins date to 1823, when Augustus Graham founded the Brooklyn Apprentices' Library in Brooklyn Heights; the cornerstone of the library's first building was laid in 1825 on Henry and Cranberry Street. The Library moved into the Brooklyn Lyceum building on Washington Street in 1841. The two institutions merged into the Brooklyn Institute in 1843; the institute offered exhibitions of painting and sculpture and lectures on diverse subjects. The Washington Street building was destroyed in a fire in 1891.
Brooklyn mayor Charles A. Schieren agreed in January 1895 to issue $300,000 per year in bonds for the Brooklyn Institute museum's construction. Initially, only a single wing and pavilion on the western portion of the museum's site, measuring 210 by 50 feet (64 by 15 m) across, was to be built. Engineers began surveying the site that May and found that the bedrock under the site was several hundred feet deep, making it impossible to build the foundations on solid rock. Nonetheless, the engineers had determined that the gravel fill under the site was strong enough to support a building. Construction on the Brooklyn Museum of Arts and Sciences' west wing officially began on September 14, 1895. A groundbreaking ceremony for the museum was hosted on December 14 of the same year. Two of the museum's three stories had been completed by April 1896.
The Brooklyn Institute museum's building was completed in March 1897 after a sidewalk was built between the museum's entrance and Eastern Parkway. The museum's first exhibit was a collection of almost 600 paintings, which had opened to the public on June 1, 1897, several months before the formal opening of the museum. The Brooklyn Institute's museum formally opened on October 2, 1897, and was one of the last major structures built in the city of Brooklyn before the formation of the City of Greater New York in 1898.
1900s and 1910s
The Brooklyn Institute approved the construction of the central entrance pavilion in May 1899, and Hooper requested $600,000 for this addition the next month. The four-story structure was to measure 140 by 122 feet (43 by 37 m). The central pavilion was to include a 1,250-seat lecture hall in the basement (actually at ground level), as well as a hall of sculpture on the first floor, which would serve as the museum's main lobby. The second story was to contain natural-history exhibits, while the third story was to include paintings. The New York State Legislature needed to authorize $300,000 in bonds for the pavilion, but they had not done so by the end of 1899. Work on the central wing started in June 1900. The museum's central section was nearly completed by January 1903, but work proceeded slowly due to labor disputes.
New York City mayor Seth Low signed a bill in August 1902, approving $150,000 for the construction of the Brooklyn Institute's eastern wing and pavilion. The eastern wing cost $344,000 to construct, and it officially opened on December 14, 1907. With the opening of the eastern wing, the museum building had reached one-eighth of its total planned size. Although the museum's collections continued to grow, the New York City government was only willing to give the museum as little funding as necessary for essential maintenance. Several of the institute's donors proposed in 1905 to give $25,000 for the upkeep of an "astronomical observatory" at the Brooklyn Museum. City officials endorsed the creation of the observatory in 1907.
The Brooklyn Institute awarded a construction contract for wings F and G, extending south of the central pavilion, to Benedetto & Egan in May 1911. Extending 120 feet (37 m) south and measuring 200 feet (61 m) wide, this addition was to contain a central court with a glass roof. That July, McKim, Mead & White filed plans for wings F and G. The Brooklyn Institute converted the last remaining storage rooms in the eastern wing into galleries in October 1911. The next month, a temporary access road was built from Flatbush Avenue to the rear of the building. Wills & Martin, one of the firms that had been hired to erect the new wings, declared bankruptcy in November 1913. Work stopped completely in November 1914, and the incomplete structures started to deteriorate. Because of the lack of space in the building, the lobby and auditorium were being used to exhibit artwork. The Brooklyn Institute had been forced to decline some donations of artwork, as the works could not be displayed, while other works of art had to be placed in storage.
1920s to 1950s
By 1920, the New York City Subway's Institute Park station had opened outside the Brooklyn Museum, greatly improving access to the once-isolated museum from Manhattan and the other boroughs. In April 1922, governor Nathan L. Miller signed legislation authorizing the New York City government to issue bonds to fund wings F and G of the Brooklyn Museum. The New York City Board of Estimate refused to approve the Brooklyn Institute trustees' request for $875,000, and mayor John Francis Hylan also blocked the funding. Hylan changed his mind after visiting the museum, and the Board of Estimate appropriated $1.05 million for the new wings. McKim, Mead & White drew up new plans for wings F and G; by that September, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) was about to award contracts for the wings. A picture gallery opened at the museum in November 1925. The next month, museum officials dedicated the Ethnological Gallery, which was nicknamed "Rainbow House"; the gallery was designed by curator Stewart Culin. A Japanese art gallery opened at the museum in April 1927, and the museum's Swiss Gothic, German, and Venetian galleries opened that May.
Construction of the Brooklyn Museum stalled in 1928 after years of attempts to complete it. At the time, only 28 of the 80 proposed statues atop the building's facade had been installed, and the main north–south corridor was not complete. Nineteen American period rooms opened at the museum at the end of 1929. In May 1934, NYC Parks approved plans for the removal of the main entrance steps, which would be replaced by five large ground level doors. The project also included the construction of two galleries next to the lobby. This work was carried out by Public Works Administration laborers. A gallery dedicated to living artists' work opened in February 1935, and a Persian art gallery opened two months later. The remodeled entrance was officially dedicated on October 5, 1935. That December, the museum's medieval art gallery opened. A gallery for industrial art was proposed behind the western wing the same year but was not built. By early 1938, museum officials sought more than $300,000 for repairs to the museum building.
The Brooklyn Museum Art School, formerly a part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, was moved to the Brooklyn Museum in 1941. An art distribution center sponsored by the Works Progress Administration opened on the museum's sixth floor the same year. The department store chain Abraham & Straus donated $50,000 in 1948 for the establishment of a "laboratory of industrial design" at the Brooklyn Museum. By the following year, Brooklyn Institute officials sought to expand the museum as part of a "vast cultural program". The plans involved an annex with a 2,500-seat auditorium behind the west wing, which was planned to cost $500,000, as well as a general renovation of existing facilities, which was to cost $1.5 million. A new 400-seat lecture hall opened at the museum that September, within space formerly occupied by two Egyptian galleries. To attract visitors, the museum expanded its educational programs greatly in the late 1940s.
1950s to early 1980s
Brooklyn Institute officials announced plans in 1951 to repair the Brooklyn Museum as part of the institute's long-term plan to convert the museum into a cultural center. The museum's Egyptian galleries began undergoing renovations the same year. The renovation of the Egyptian galleries, the first phase of the museum's $3.5 million overhaul, was finished in November 1953. Brown, Lawford & Forbes designed a rear annex for the museum in 1955. The museum's furniture, sculpture, and watercolor galleries reopened in 1957 following the second stage of the renovation. The rear annex contained a new stairway, which led to new galleries on the fourth through sixth stories of the center section. By the late 1950s, the museum was running low on funds, with director Edgar C. Schenck blaming the museum's fiscal woes on Manhattan residents' unwillingness to cross the East River to visit Brooklyn. Due to a shortage of security guards, the museum was forced to close some galleries part-time. Another Egyptian gallery opened in April 1959, and a "pattern library" for teaching opened that July.
A continued shortage of security guards forced the Brooklyn Museum to close two days a week at the beginning of 1961; the museum went back to seven-day operations in June 1961 after the city provided money for additional guards. To attract visitors, the museum began providing a larger variety of programs and adding interactive exhibits and programming. The Brooklyn Museum announced in 1964 that it would build a special-exhibit gallery on the first floor and an open study/storage gallery on the fifth floor. The Hall of the Americas opened on the museum's first floor the following May. A sculpture garden, consisting of architectural details salvaged from demolished buildings across New York City, opened at the museum in April 1966. The Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art began coordinating joint programs and exhibitions in 1967. The Brooklyn Museum's Community Gallery, exhibiting Black New Yorkers' art, opened in October 1968 following advocacy from Federated Institutes of Cultural Enrichment (FICE), a coalition of Brooklyn-based arts organizations.
By the late 1960s, the museum was again facing a funding shortage; several galleries had been temporarily closed due to a lack of money, and its director Thomas Buechner was considering closing the museum two days a week. Brooklyn Museum officials also wanted to hire additional security guards to deter crime. Due to budget cuts, the Brooklyn Museum eliminated its Middle Eastern art division in 1979. The Brooklyn Museum also began renovating 21 American period rooms in 1976. Two of the period rooms, themed to 18th- and 19th-century New England and Southern states, reopened in 1980. The last period rooms were not completed until 1984. The unprofitable Brooklyn Museum Art School was closed the same year, and the museum obtained $14 million in city funding to upgrade the climate-control systems. To attract visitors, the museum started running television advertisements in 1985.
Mid-1980s and 1990s
The Brooklyn Museum announced a master plan in March 1986. The plan involved doubling the amount of exhibition space in the building from 450,000 to 830,000 square feet (42,000 to 77,000 m2); at the time, the museum could only exhibit about five percent of its collection simultaneously due to the lack of space. In addition, the museum would expand its storage, classroom, and conservation facilities and add an auditorium. The museum also planned a new entrance from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which had twice as many annual visitors as the museum did; the Botanic Garden entrance had been planned by McKim, Mead & White but never executed. The project was expected to cost $50 million to $100 million. Museum officials held an architectural design competition to redesign the west wing. That October, they hired Arata Isozaki of James Stewart Polshek Partners to design a renovation of the museum building. Isozaki's design included a "great hall" and trapezoidal courtyards but retained much of McKim, Mead & White's original plan. Iris and B. Gerald Cantor donated $3.5 million for the museum's auditorium in 1989.
The Brooklyn Museum announced in 1990 that it would begin the first phase of renovation, which was to cost $31 million. This involved converting the offices in the west wing to about 64,000 square feet (5,900 m2) of gallery space for its Egyptian collection, as well as building storage space and an auditorium. The same year, budget cuts prompted museum officials to lay off employees and close its doors on Mondays. The auditorium opened in 1991; at the time, there had not been an auditorium at the museum for over half a century. About 33,000 square feet (3,100 m2) in the museum's west wing reopened as gallery space in November 1993. The renovation retained the original layout of the west-wing spaces.The New York Times described Isozaki and Polshek's renovation as aiming for "clean, serene spaces"; the rooms had rooms with maple floors, white walls, horizontal lighting strips, and granite baseboards. The west wing was renamed for investor Morris A. Schapiro and his brother, art historian Meyer Schapiro, in early 1994 after Morris Schapiro donated $5 million.
The Brooklyn Museum changed its name to Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1997. According to acting director Linda S. Ferber, the renaming was necessary because "there was more confusion about the museum's identity than we supposed"; for instance, many visitors still believed the museum had natural-history exhibits, which had not been the case since 1934.
Brooklyn Museum officials hired architect James Polshek in 2000 to design a new glass-clad entrance for the building at a cost of $55 million. Polshek described the front entrance as a "wasteland" at the time, and he said he wanted to build "Brooklyn's new front stoop". The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission approved Polshek's design, despite opposition from preservationists. The renovation cost $63 million and also added air conditioning throughout the museum building. The Henry Luce Foundation gave the museum a $10 million grant in 2001, which funded the construction of the Luce Center for American Art on the fifth floor. The museum's renovation was completed in April 2004. At the same time, the museum announced that it would revert to its previous name, Brooklyn Museum. By then, the Brooklyn Museum was focusing on attracting Brooklyn residents, rather than visitors from other boroughs. The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art opened on the museum's fourth floor in March 2007.
The museum extensively renovated its Great Hall, which reopened in early 2011, and it relocated and reopened its African art gallery on the first floor the same year. A 4,150-square-foot (386 m2) museum shop opened at the Brooklyn Museum in early 2012, followed later that year by a new cafe. The upscale restaurant Saul opened within the Brooklyn Museum in October 2013, changing its name to The Norm in 2016. By the mid-2010s, the museum was facing financial difficulties, and half of the 465,000 annual patrons did not pay admission because of the museum's suggested admission policy. The Brooklyn Museum's Chinese-art gallery reopened in 2019.
The museum was temporarily closed from March to October 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. The Brooklyn Museum received $50 million from the New York City government in 2021, the largest such gift in the museum's history. The money was to be used to renovate 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) into gallery space, and the museum hired Brigham Keener to design the new galleries. The museum's South Asian and Islamic galleries reopened in 2022, completing a 12-year renovation of the Asian galleries.
Franklin Hooper was the Brooklyn Institute's first director, serving for 25 years until his death in 1914. Hooper was succeeded by William Henry Fox, who served from 1914 to his retirement in 1934. Fox was followed by Philip Newell Youtz from 1934 to 1938. Laurance Page Roberts was director from 1938 to 1942, when his wife Isabel Spaulding Roberts became interim director on his behalf; L. P. Roberts formally resigned in 1946. His immediate successor, Charles Nagel Jr., served for nine years until he resigned in 1955. Edgar Craig Schenck, who was appointed director shortly afterward, served until his death in 1959.
Thomas S. Buechner became the museum's director in 1960, making him one of the youngest directors in the country. During Buechner's tenure, Donelson Hoopes was hired as Curator of Paintings and Sculptures from 1965 to 1969. Duncan F. Cameron assumed the directorship in 1971 and resigned in 1973. He was succeeded by Michael Botwinick, who was appointed in 1974 and stepped down in 1982. Robert T. Buck became director in 1983 and served until he resigned in 1996, upon which Linda S. Ferber became acting director. From 1992 to 1995, Stephanie Stebich was Buck's assistant director.
Arnold L. Lehman was named as the museum's director in April 1997, and Lehman announced in September 2014 that he would retire the next year. In May 2015, Creative Time president and artistic director Anne Pasternak was named the museum's next director; she assumed the position on September 1, 2015. Since 2014, the director's position has formally been known as the Shelby White and Leon Levy Director of the Brooklyn Museum, after Leon Levy Foundation cofounder Shelby White donated $5 million to the directorship's endowment.
The original design for the Brooklyn Museum proposed a structure four times as large as what was built from 1893 through 1927, when construction ended. As designed, the three-story museum building was supposed to have several wings, centered around a memorial hall and clustered around four light courts. After Brooklyn became part of greater New York City in 1898, support for the project diminished. Only the wings on the northern end, as well as the northeastern light court (known as the Auditorium Court), were built; the resulting "L"-shaped building covers a site of about 4.5 acres (1.8 ha).: 2–3 Although additional wings were built behind the original east wing over the years (creating the current light court), nothing was built behind the west wing.: 2 This led the New York Daily News to liken the museum building to a movie set.
The primary elevation of the facade, facing north along Eastern Parkway, is 510 feet (160 m) wide and consists of the west and east wings, which flank a projecting pavilion with a portico. Additional pavilions project from the facade at either end. The center portico contains six Ionic columns that support a pediment with sculptures in its tympanum.: 2 The portico was originally accessed by a staircase that was removed in 1936–1937.: 3 Daniel Chester French was responsible for the pediment sculptures. French also designed the two allegorical figures Brooklyn and Manhattan flanking the museum's entrance; they were created in 1916 for the Brooklyn approach to the Manhattan Bridge and relocated to the museum in 1963.: 3  Above the pediment is a copper cresting with anthemia, as well as a low saucer dome.: 2  The modern main entrance, dating to Polshek's 2004 renovation, consists of a glass pavilion with four metal pylons, as well as a semicircular plaza just outside. A set of brick piers, which had supported the original entrance staircase, was repurposed into a brick arch in 2004.
The pavilions at either end of the Eastern Parkway facade protrude only slightly from the facade and contain engaged columns in the Ionic order. The west and east wings are divided vertically by pilasters; between each set of pilasters are windows with architraves. The entablature above the pilasters contains a frieze with inscribed names of figures who represent knowledge.: 2
The Eastern Parkway facade is topped by 20 monolithic figures on the cornice: one above each pilaster on the west and east wings, and four above the pavilions.: 2 An additional ten figures, five each on the western and eastern elevations of the outermost pavilions, were sculpted. The sculptures were carved by the Piccirilli Brothers, who sculpted a total of 30 figures on the museum's facade. Fourteen sculptors were hired to design the sculptures, which each measure 12 feet (3.7 m) high. Had the full building been completed, there would have been 80 sculptures in total, with 20 each depicting classical subjects, medieval and Renaissance subjects, modern European and American subjects, and Asian subjects. The 30 extant sculptures consist of the 20 classical sculptures (10 Greek and 10 Roman) on the northern elevation, as well as five Persian and five Chinese sculptures on the side elevations.
The eastern elevation of the facade faces Washington Avenue, where only the pavilion at the northern end was built. The rest of the eastern elevation is similar to that on Eastern Parkway, with pilasters dividing it vertically into seven bays. Unlike on Eastern Parkway, the pilasters are topped by shorter pilasters rather than sculptures.: 2 The southern elevation faces a parking lot and contains a masonry facade and some windows.: 3 There is also an annex to the south, designed by Brown, Lawford & Forbes, which contains a secondary entrance and a stairway.: 3
The oldest portion of the building measured 193 by 71 feet (59 by 22 m) and comprised only about three percent of what was originally planned. The center of the first floor would have contained a memorial hall, while a "great hall of sculpture" would have extended to the north and south of the memorial hall. To the west of the memorial hall would have been gallery space for artwork on loan, while to the east would have been a multi-story auditorium. The remaining corners of the first floor would have included several additional galleries for the museum's permanent collections, and the light courts would have exhibited large objects. The second floor would have housed more collections and lecture rooms, while the third floor would have had the library, music room, and galleries for images, domestic art, and science. An additional story, above the central part of the building, would have housed more departments of the museum.
The main lobby, originally occupied by the ground-level auditorium, was built during the mid-20th century as a modern-style space. Although then-director Philip Newell Youtz was the architect of record, the lobby's design may have been influenced by William Lescaze, who was Youtz's friend. The lobby, containing black-glass panels and indirect lighting, was described in the 1939 WPA Guide to New York City as "an example of the best in modern architecture... devoid of the elaborate decoration which so often clutters up the entrances of public building." Following a 2011 renovation, the lobby was redesigned as a double-height central gallery surrounded by 25-foot-tall (7.6 m) columns.
The Brooklyn Museum, along with numerous other New York institutions, is part of the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG), a group of institutions that occupy land or buildings owned by the City of New York and derive part of their yearly funding from the city. The Brooklyn Museum also supplements its earned income with funding from Federal and State governments, as well as with donations by individuals and organizations.
The Brooklyn Museum's collection contains around 500,000 objects. In the twentieth century, Brooklyn Museum exhibitions sought to present an encyclopedic view of art and culture, with a focus on educating a broad public.
In 1923, the museum was one of the first U.S. institutions to exhibit African cast-metal and other objects as art, rather than as ethnological artifacts. The museum's acquisitions during this time also included such varied objects as the interior of a Swiss house, a stained glass window, and a pipe organ. The museum's first period room installation was opened in 1929. The Brooklyn Museum departed from other institutions' emphasis on elite decorative arts by centering middle class and non-elite period rooms. The 17th-century Jans Martense Schenck house became part of the Brooklyn Museum's collection in the 1950s, as did the interior of a room in John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s Midtown Manhattan home.
In 1967 the Federated Institutes of Cultural Enrichment (FICE), a coalition of Brooklyn-based arts organizations, demanded that the Brooklyn Museum exhibit more works by artists from the borough, especially African American artists. The museum then hired Black curator Henri Ghent to direct a new "Community Gallery", supported at first by the New York State Council on the Arts. Ghent's first exhibition, Contemporary Afro-American Arts (1968), included artists Joe Overstreet, Kay Brown, Frank Smith, and Otto Neals.
In 2008, curator Edna Russman announced that she believes 10 out of 30 works of Coptic art held in the museum's collection—second-largest in North America are fake. The artworks were exhibited starting in 2009. Costumes from The Crown and The Queen's Gambit television series were put on display as part of its virtual exhibition "The Queen and the Crown" in November 2020. From June through September 2023, coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of Pablo Picasso's death, the museum hosted It's Pablo-matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gadsby, curated by Hannah Gadsby.
Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Near Eastern Art
The Brooklyn Museum has been building a collection of Egyptian artifacts since the beginning of the twentieth century, incorporating both collections purchased from others, such as that of American EgyptologistCharles Edwin Wilbour, whose heirs also donated his library to become the museum's Wilbour Library of Egyptology, and objects obtained during museum-sponsored archeological excavations. The Egyptian collection includes objects ranging from statuary, such as the well-known "Bird Lady" terra cotta figure, to papyrus documents (among others the Brooklyn Papyrus).
The Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Near Eastern collections are housed in a series of galleries in the museum. Egyptian artifacts can be found in the long-term exhibit, Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity, as well as in the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Galleries. Near Eastern artifacts are located in the Hagop Kevorkian Gallery.
Selections from the Egyptian collection
The "Bird Lady" sculpture, Predynastic female figurine
Book of the Dead of the Goldworker of Amun, Sobekmose, 31.1777e
Brooklyn Papyrus, 664–332 BCE
Painting of Lady Tjepu, New Kingdom Dynasty 18, Reign of Amunhotep III, c. 1390–1352 BCE, from tomb no. 181 at Thebes, 65.197
Pair statue of husband and wife Nebsen and Nebet-ta. New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII, reign of Thutmose IV or Amenhotep III, c. 1400–1352 BCE.
Francis Guy's Winter Scene in Brooklyn (c. 1820) was the first object in the museum's collection of American art, bequeathed in 1846. In 1855, the museum officially designated a collection of American Art, with the first work commissioned for the collection being a landscape painting by Asher B. Durand. Items in the American Art collection include portraits, pastels, sculptures, and prints; all items in the collection date to between c. 1720 and c. 1945.
Works from the American art collection can be found in various areas of the museum, including in the Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden and in the exhibit, American Identities: A New Look, which is contained within the museum's Visible Storage ▪ Study Center. In total, there are approximately 2,000 American Art objects held in storage.
In 2019, the museum reopened its Japanese and Chinese exhibits, after reinstalling its Korean section in 2017. The Chinese section offers pieces from more than 5,000 years of Chinese art and shows contemporary pieces on a regular schedule. The Japanese gallery, with its 7,000 pieces, is the largest of the museum's Asian collection and is known for its works from the Ainu people. The museum is also home to works from Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and southeast Asia.
Arts of Africa
The oldest acquisitions in the African art collection were collected by the museum in 1900, shortly after the museum's founding. The collection was expanded in 1922 with items originating largely in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The next year, the museum hosted one of the first exhibitions of African art in the United States.
With more than 5,000 items in its collection, the Brooklyn Museum boasts one of the largest collections of African art in any American art museum. Although the title of the collection suggests that it includes art from all of the African continent, works from Africa are sub-categorized among a number of collections. Sub-Saharan art from West and Central Africa are collected under the banner of African Art, while North African and Egyptian art works are grouped with the Islamic and Egyptian art collections, respectively.
The African art collection covers 2,500 years of human history and includes sculpture, jewellery, masks, and religious artifacts from more than 100 African cultures. Noteworthy items in this collection include a carved ndop figure of a Kuba king, believed to be among the oldest extant ndop carvings, and a Lulua mother-and-child figure.
In 2018, the museum drew criticism from groups including Decolonize This Place for its hiring of a white woman as Consulting Curator of African Arts.
Golden rider of the Ashanti region culture in Ghana
Arts of the Pacific Islands
The museum's collection of Pacific Islands art began in 1900 with the acquisition of 100 wooden figures and shadow puppets from New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia); since that base, the collection has grown to encompass close to 5,000 works. Art in this collection is sourced to numerous Pacific and Indian Ocean islands including Hawaii and New Zealand, as well as less-populous islands such as Rapa Nui and Vanuatu. Many of the Marquesan items in the collection were acquired by the museum from famed Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl.
Art objects in this collection are crafted from a wide variety of materials. The museum lists "coconut fiber, feathers, shells, clay, bone, human hair, wood, moss, and spider webs" as among the materials used to make artworks that include masks, tapa cloths, sculpture, and jewellery.
Arts of the Islamic world
The museum also has art objects and historical texts produced by Muslim artists or about Muslim figures and cultures.
The museum's center for feminist art opened in 2007. Spanning 8,300 square feet (770 m2), it is dedicated to preserving the history of the movement since the late 20th century, as well as raising awareness of feminist contributions to art, and informing the future of this area of artistic dialogue. Along with an exhibition space and library, the center features a gallery housing a masterwork by Judy Chicago, a large installation called The Dinner Party (1974-1979).
The Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives hold approximately 300,000 volumes and over 3,200-foot (980 m) of archives. The collection began in 1823 and is housed in facilities that underwent renovations in 1965, 1984 and 2014.
The first Saturday of each month, the Brooklyn Museum stays open until 11pm, and general admission is waived after 5pm, although some ticketed exhibitions may require an entrance fee. Regular first Saturday activities include educational family-oriented activities such as collection-based art workshops, gallery tours, lectures, live performances dance parties. The museum started hosting First Saturdays in October 1998, and the event had attracted 1.5 million total visitors as of 2023[update].
As part of the Museum Apprentice Program, the museum hires teenage high schoolers to give tours in the museum's galleries during the summer, assist with the museum's weekend family programs throughout the year, participate in talks with museum curators, serve as a teen advisory board to the museum, and help plan teen events. The museum also runs the Museum Education Fellowship Program, a ten-month position where fellows lead school group visits with a focus on various topics from the collection. School Youth and Family Fellows teach Gallery Studio Programs and School Partnerships while Adult and Public Programs Fellows curate and organize Thursday night as well as First Saturday Programming.
The museum has posted many pieces to a digital collection that allows the public to tag and curate sets of objects online, as well as solicit additional scholarship contributions. The museum's ASK App allows visitors to talk with staff and educators about works in the collection.
Prior to World War II, the museum offered free admission and regularly attracted over a million annual visitors. For example, in 1934, the museum reported 940,000 annual visitors, while its library had 40,000 visitors. Patronage declined along with Brooklyn's economy in the mid-20th century; there were about 470,000 visitors per year by the early 1950s. During the mid-1980s, the museum had 300,000 visitors per year, much less than the Museum of Modern Art or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. Annual attendance at the museum, which had stagnated at 250,000 in the mid-1990s, had nearly doubled by 1999 after the museum held several popular exhibits, peaking at 585,000 in 1998. The museum only had 326,000 visitors by 2009, but attendance had increased to 465,000 by 2017.
The New York Times attributed the drop in attendance partially to the policies instituted by then-current director Arnold Lehman, who has chosen to focus the museum's energy on "populism", with exhibits on topics such as "Star Wars movies and hip-hop music" rather than on more classical art topics. Lehman had also brought more controversial exhibits, such as a 1999 show that included Chris Ofili's infamous dung-decorated The Holy Virgin Mary, to the museum. According to the Times:
The quality of their exhibitions has lessened", said Robert Storr, the dean of the Yale University School of Art and a Brooklynite. "'Star Wars' shows the worst kind of populism. I don't think they really understand where they are. The middle of the art world is now in Brooklyn; it's an increasingly sophisticated audience and always was one.
On the other hand, Lehman says that the demographics of museum attendees are showing a new level of diversity. According to The New York Times, "the average age [of museum attendees in a 2008 survey] was 35, a large portion of the visitors (40 percent) came from Brooklyn, and more than 40 percent identified themselves as people of color." Lehman states that the museum's interest is in being welcoming and attractive to all potential museum attendees, rather than simply amassing large numbers of them.
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^"Brooklyn Museum Seeks $301,500 for Repairs: $287,138 Sought to Begin New Children's Building". New York Herald Tribune. January 14, 1938. p. 15. ISSN1941-0646. ProQuest1243640786.
^"W.P.A. Art Unit Opens Branch For Brooklyn: Institutions To Be Enabled to Acquire Paintings by Paying Cost of Materials Trustees of New Brooklyn Library Take Oath of Office". New York Herald Tribune. February 15, 1941. p. 9A. ISSN1941-0646. ProQuest1320074766.
^"A & S Gives Brooklyn Museum $50,000 for Design Project: Part 1: Work Starts Next Month on Edward C. Blum Laboratory, With Formal Opening Scheduled for Oct. 5". Women's Wear Daily. Vol. 76, no. 65. April 2, 1948. p. 38. ProQuest1564926735.
^"Youtz Resigns From Brooklyn Museum Post: Director Says His Program Is Complete and He Will Become a Consultant at Golden Gate Exposition". New York Herald Tribune. April 14, 1938. p. 21. ISSN1941-0646. ProQuest1242893420.
^"Brooklyn Museum Gift Is Swiss House Interior: Mrs. W. H. Childs Is Donor of Early 16th Century Specimen, Now Very Rare". New York Herald Tribune. March 31, 1926. p. 13. ISSN1941-0646. ProQuest1112749912.