New York City looks to create a museum of nightlife

June 11, 2021

Although nightlife has long been an integral part of New York City’s culture, there is no organization dedicated to memorializing it. That could soon change. As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, city officials are calling for a new museum that celebrates the history of New York’s late-night culture and the movements born from it.

The city’s Office of Nightlife (ONL), which was created in 2018 as part of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), released a report this week detailing three years of efforts, the response to the pandemic, and two dozen recommendations for the future.

One of the recommendations from the agency includes an “archival cultural institution or museum for New York nightlife memorabilia,” according to the report.

The 162-page report describes the possible museum as a place to “explore nightlife’s diverse histories of celebration, self-discovery and radical expression, and longstanding fights for freedom and social justice.”

The institution could offer both a visual and written history of nightlife in the city, from its rise in the early 1900s, through the Prohibition era and the equal rights movements of the 1960s and 70s, to the present day, with events dedicated to the iconic venues that have shuttered over the years. The space could also act as a community center and performing arts space, according to ONL.

The agency was established by Mayor Bill de Blasio as a way to reframe nightlife as an economic engine of the city and a major creator of culture, instead of a nuisance.

“Historically, it has been seen more as a liability than as an asset,” Ariel Palitz, the Senior Executive Director of ONL, told the Wall Street Journal.

According to a 2019 report by ONL, New York City’s nightlife industry included over 25,000 venues and approximately 300,000 jobs, producing roughly “$20 billion in economic impact” each year.

Nightlife office officials told the WSJ it is “too early” to discuss their museum recommendation in more detail, but said it could help highlight the nightlife industry as one of the city’s cultural drivers, especially as the recovery from the pandemic continues.

“From keeping the industry safe and informed during the height of COVID-19, to resolving community disputes, to providing a trusted voice in City government for one of this city’s most iconic economic engines, the Office of Nightlife has made a powerful impact in its first three years,” de Blasio said in a press release.

“As we build a recovery for all of us, I know this office will continue its innovative work to bring back the nightlife that makes New York City the most vibrant city in the world.”

[Via Wall Street Journal]

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