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South Street Seaport Museum Launches Collections Online Portal with More Than 1,300 Pieces on Virtual Display

March 3, 2021 - May 31, 2021

South Street Seaport Museum launches a Collections Online Portal featuring over 1,300 pieces on virtual display available now at seaportmuseum.org/collectionsonline, with more to be added on an on-going basis, allowing audiences to explore New York City’s past through the archives, artifacts, and photographs of the South Street Seaport Museum.

“The Seaport Museum is a collecting institution; for decades we have gathered objects that reflect New York through the lens of its origins as a port city. The artifacts in the Museum’s collection are a broad array of metaphorical jewels, illustrating the rise of New York through its myriad connections with the rest of the world, connections made possible by ships and the sea. Our city is a city on the sea; the collection, a small percentage of which is now available online is a magnificent illustration of that,” said Captain Jonathan Boulware, President and CEO, South Street Seaport Museum. 
Discover history and works of art from the comfort of your home with the new online database. Featuring items from the early 19th century to the mid-20th century, the online collection is comprised of a searchable database of selected works of art and historic artifacts from the Seaport Museum’s permanent and working collections of over 28,500 objects, encapsulating the rich maritime heritage of New York City. 

The eight sets of collections featured in this initial release of the online portal include:
Clipper Ship Card Collection
Clipper cards, sometimes called clipper ship sailing cards, are a unique type of advertising ephemera dated ca. 1850s-1880s. They were printed as announcements that a particular ship, often a clipper ship, was about to sail. The Seaport Museum’s collection includes 450 of this type of rare, printed cards. 

Conza Howell Silhouettes
Artist Conza Howell (1902-1987) created hundreds of silhouettes of seamen in New York City during World War II. In 1943, Howell was invited by the Program Director of the United Seamen’s Service (USS) to provide “entertainment of a quiet nature” for seamen during their New York port stays. One night a week she would make silhouettes of the men at The Wilshire Hotel, located at 134 W. 58th Street, so that they could send them home to their loved ones. 

Fairchild Aerial Surveys Inc. Collection
Recently acquired, this collection includes almost 300 black and white aerial photographs taken by Fairchild Aerial Surveys in the first half of the 20th century, stretching from 1925 through 1960. These images celebrate the greatness of the New York natural harbor and the development of the Port of New York as primary commercial and passenger gate to America. The bulk of the collection covers ships in and around New York Harbor, including barges, lightships, tankers, ferries, tugboats, floating drydocks, magnificent ocean liners, and Hudson River excursion vessels. 

Illustrations from D.T. Valentine’s Manual
These illustrations pull back the curtain on mid-19th century life in New York with images of stores, restaurants, ferries, and street scenes. They were published in D.T. Valentine’s Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York as a companionship to the directory, from 1841 to 1870.

Ocean Liner Ephemera Highlights
Largely related to ocean liners dated ca. 1860s-1960s, these items were everyday paper-based objects such as menus, programs, tickets, luggage tags, and advertisements illustrating and aiding passengers of transatlantic steamships during their travel. The ephemera collection augments and complements other elements of the Museum’s collections.

Printing Presses
The 14 printing presses highlighted in the Collection Online Portal are the working fleet of Bowne & Co. These artifacts preserve the tradition of small batch job printing in the 19th century, while keeping an open and active dialogue with contemporary practices of Printmaking and Graphic Design communities. 

Ship Model Highlights
Ship models were built by sailors to commemorate their voyages, by shipping lines to advertise their vessels, and by amateur artists seeking to model ships that captured their interest. Most of the models in this collection were made after the 18th century, which includes all kinds of New York Harbor vessels from tall ships, merchant and fishing vessels, to the working vessels of the harbor, such as tugboat and lighters, as well as ocean passenger liners. 

Thomas W. Kennedy Collection
Thomas W. Kennedy was an amateur photographer at the turn of the 20th century, who had a love of maritime subjects, especially fishing craft, which became the chief focus of his work. His photographs depict South Street, New York Harbor, and other port cities along the East Coast. The Seaport Museum holds a collection of 133 original silver gelatin dry plate negatives dated ca. 1890-1915.

The online portal features a selection of artifacts and works of art covering a variety of mediums, historical subjects, and themes relating to the growth of New York City as a world port. Additional virtual highlights of the South Street Seaport Museum collections include the following categories on seaportmuseum.org/collections:Architectural Elements, Drawings and Watercolors, Manuscripts and Ephemera, Navigational Instruments and Shipwright Tools, Objects Around the Neighborhood, Paintings, Photographs, Prints and Lithographs, Printing History, Scrimshaw, Ship Components, Ship Models, Special Collections, Tattoo Collection, Remains of the Old Hotels, Institutional Archives, and Maritime Reference.

The South Street Seaport Museum’s collections consist of more than 28,500 works of art and artifacts and over 55,000 historic records documenting the rise of New York as a port city, and its role in the development of the economy and business of the United States through social and architectural landscapes. The Museum’s collections trace the history of New York City’s Harbor and Port, from the East River piers and the waterfront areas of Manhattan, to the city’s other boroughs and the New Jersey shoreline. The Museum also documents and interprets New York international trade routes, global cultures, and seafaring, including all aspects of life, art, and work associated with them. For more information, visit the Museum’s bi-monthly blog, the Collections Chronicles at seaportmuseum.org/blog, where the collections team takes readers behind the scenes to shares some of their work, while highlighting hidden gems of history, the seaport, and the Seaport Museum’s collection.

About the South Street Seaport Museum
The South Street Seaport Museum, located in the heart of the historic seaport district in New York City, preserves and interprets the history of New York as a great port city. Founded in 1967, the Museum houses an extensive collection of works of art and artifacts, a maritime reference library, exhibition galleries and education spaces, working nineteenth century print shops, and an active fleet of historic vessels that all work to tell the story of “Where New York Begins.” www.southstreetseaportmuseum.org
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March 3, 2021
May 31, 2021