May 22, 2002
Dear Mayor Bloomberg:
We are a group of concerned historians who, in 1996, wrote
the attached letter to Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Schuyler
Chapin, urging a merger between the New-York
Historical Society and the Museum of the City of New York.
His efforts at that time proved unavailing, as had those of
many mediators before him. But now, we believe, the city has
a great opportunity to reorganize and revitalize its historical
resources, and we are convinced you are the Mayor who can
finally make this happen.
Our proposal is this:
We think the two institutions, so alike in their mission
and so overlapping in their collections, should combine forces,
beginning with the consolidation of their Boards of Trustees
and a legal merger of the two organizations (which once, as
you know, were one).
The new organization would occupy MCNY's slot in the Cultural
Institutions Group (thus bringing the N-YHS under the city's
The collections of the MCNY should be moved to the N-YHS
facility at Central Park West, and integrated with the Society's
We strongly support the idea of the Museo del Barrio occupying
the vacated MCNY quarters at 104th Street.
We propose that the City expedite construction of a new
building on the N-YHS adjacent property - one in keeping with
the architectural tenor and wishes of the surrounding community
- in which to permanently house the conjoined holdings. The
City could do so by authorizing the use for this purpose of
funds long allocated in the capital budget for an MCNY expansion
- pending the raising of matching funds by the Museum, which
If the Gilder-Lehrman Collection joined the new institution,
and perhaps at a later date, the Municipal Archives were moved
to the site as well, the new organization - already host to
the Luce Center - would immediately become one of the premiere
research institutions of the City.
The combined institution should then - with city, state,
federal and private assistance - build a state of the art
New York City History Center, in grand, made-to-order quarters
at Ground Zero. This would be a full bells and whistles affair,
using artifacts and museological artifice to bring the entire
sweep of Gotham's past to compelling life, for citizens, tourists,
and students alike. One entire section would be devoted to
recounting the history of Ground Zero itself. While giving
visitors an entertaining and instructive overview, the History
Center would also point them to the many other history-oriented
institutions, in all five boroughs, where they could explore
particular aspects of the city's past in greater detail. We
believe that as the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation
and others involved in the rebuilding process are urgently
seeking anchor cultural institutions down there, they would
be willing to devote considerable sums to constructing a building
precisely tailored to the needs of the History Center.
We hope you agree with us that we are confronted with a
historic opportunity, and that you will use the powers of
your office to make it happen.