New-York Historical Society expansion includes a home for the American L.G.B.T.Q.+ Museum
View along West 76th Street looking northeast. Rendering by Alden Studios for Robert A.M. Stern Architects, courtesy of the New-York Historical Society and NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The New-York Historical Society, the oldest museum in the city, recently unveiled to the Landmarks Preservation Commission plans to expand by more than 70,000 square feet with a five-story extension at the rear of its Upper West Side lot. The $140 million expansion will be designed by architect Robert A.M. Stern and include additional classrooms and gallery space, as well as a permanent home for the American L.G.B.T.Q.+ Museum, the city’s first museum dedicated to L.G.B.T.Q. history and culture, as the New York Times first reported.
View from Central Park West looking northwest. Rendering by Alden Studios for Robert A.M. Stern Architects, courtesy of the New-York Historical Society and NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.
On January 5, 2017, the American Museum of LGBT History & Culture Task Force convened for the first time, bringing together activists who informally talked about such a museum for decades. The following year, the New York City Council pledged its support for the museum and the Fund for the City of New York became its first fiscal sponsor. In 2019, the museum began its partnership with the New-York Historical Society and also completed a year-long study that engaged over 3,200 LGBTQ+ people nationwide. The study found widespread excitement and support for the museum, with a focus on diversity, equity, access, and inclusion, as well as community involvement.
“Suddenly we’ve reached this moment, a tipping point where more and more people are saying, ‘We better record this history, integrate it and celebrate it before we lose it,'” said the museum’s board chair Richard Burns to the Times. He noted that the museum won’t be about pop-culture names like Ellen DeGeneres or Will & Grace. “We need a museum that tells the untold stories of regular lived lives, activists’ lives, lives that were lost in queer New York and queer America.”
Rendering by Alden Studios for Robert A.M. Stern Architects, courtesy of the New-York Historical Society and NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The museum will be located on the top floor of the expansion. According to a press release, it will include two galleries, access to a new roof garden, and areas for offices and storage.
The addition will be built behind the current structure on West 76th Street and Central Park West. The empty lot was actually purchased by the Historical Society’s board back in 1937 as a place where they could eventually expand (the society was founded in 1804 and began assembling and constructing its current home in 1908). It will also provide room for galleries to host graduate students from the Society’s Master of Arts in Museum Studies program, storage space for the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, and classrooms for the Academy for American Democracy program.
The expansion design was unanimously approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and last week, the New-York Historical Society received a $35 million commitment for the expansion from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, which allows the project to be complete by 2024. Construction is expected to commence next summer, focusing on the below-grade library stacks. A second phase will construct galleries, classrooms, and other spaces once target funding is achieved. While the work is underway, the Society and the American L.G.B.T.Q.+ Museum will partner on programming in the current building.