Back to Conference Participants Abstract: The Effect of the Consolidation of Greater New York on the Brooklyn Institute of Art and Sciences (BIAS) and its constituent parts: the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn Museum, Botanic Gardens, and Childrenıs Museum.  




The Brooklyn Institute of Art and Sciences was founded in 1889 in the belief "that Brooklyn should have an Institute of Arts and Sciences worthy of her wealth, her position, her culture and her peopleŠ" Brooklyn's civic elites, like those of other late nineteenth century cities, placed great importance upon building vibrant cultural institutions to enhance their city's image and to educate a rapidly expanding and increasingly diverse population.
Brooklyn suffered a different fate then New York, Boston and Philadelphia, the cities it sought to emulate through BIAS. The creation of Greater New York in 1898 ended Brooklynıs independence and placed its cultural institutions in an anomalous position. The Brooklyn Museum, had it been fully completed, would have been the largest museum in the world in the center of a great city. After 1898, the Brooklyn Museum was no longer in the center, but on the periphery of the metropolis. My paper will examine how BIAS's leadership adapted to the changes wrought by consolidation and how it affected BIAS and Brooklyn. Original sources for this topic will include archives at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, Children's Museum, and Botanic Gardens, personal papers of the Board of Trustees of BIAS, newspapers, and the Municipal Archives.
Brooklyn's separate identity as a borough has continued despite its incorporation into New York a hundred years ago. A history of BIAS will explore the issue of Brooklyn's identity as a city/borough, and the effect of Progressive era centralization of power on local identities and institutions. Greater New York was a double-edged sword for the City of Churches. Consolidation facilitated the increased transportation access to Manhattan desired by Brooklynites through the construction of bridges and subways. It also meant that they could travel more easily to New York's museums, concert halls and theaters. Brooklyn philanthropists maintained their commitments to their borough's institutions, but they could not compete with the larger and better funded ones across the East River. Consolidation entailed not only a concentration of political power, it was also a concentration of cultural resources.