Explore the history of Brooklyn's WATERFRONT

the Brooklyn Historical Society DUMBO brings to life the vibrant history of Brooklyn’s coastline

Explore the history of Brooklyn's WATERFRONT

Brooklyn Heights
Beyond South Brooklyn

Beginning January 20, the Brooklyn Historical Society DUMBO brings to life the vibrant history of Brooklyn’s coastline through stories of workers, artists, industries, activists, families, neighborhoods, and ecosystems with WATERFRONT.

WATERFRONT is an exhibition and multimedia experience for all ages that traces a personal, local history of the borough’s waterfront while also revealing the coastline's global significance. The exhibition engages with important debates about the shoreline’s future by taking on the waterfront’s most pressing contemporary topics including sea level rise and gentrification.

The highlights of the show include:

  • Landfilling the Shore: Visitors explore a sculptural installation of 82 archaeological artifacts excavated from the ground beneath Empire Stores.
  • Brooklyn Bivalves tells quirky story of oysters and sewage in the early 20th century.
  • An Unfree Waterfront: the untold stories of three enslaved Brooklynites and their struggle for freedom.
  • The Walled City: the sights, sounds, and smells of Brooklyn’s 19th-century warehousing district.
  • A Laboring Family: the story of one 19th-century Empire Stores dockworker, Michael Harkins, and his family.
  • Factory Women honors centuries of women workers along the waterfront, and provides a dress-up and play opportunity for younger visitors.
  • After Industry: Salvaged artifacts and oral histories tell the story of the waterfront’s midcentury economic decline and its 21st century rebirth.
  • Rising Waters: Through a series of short videos, historians, business owners, politicians, scientists, and activists explore key questions about climate change and sea level rise.


If you read The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough, the narrow walkway first placed between the towers was an amazing trek from Brooklyn to Manhattan. This is the first image I have seen of that. I love the long coats and top hats for taking an incredibly scary walk. 


The exhibition also features two cutting-edge digital installations sure to be shared by many visitors over social media.

At Water’s Edge, an eight-minute multimedia experience, introduces visitors to the epic sweep of more than 20,000 years of Brooklyn’s waterfront history and glimpses its future. The installation transports visitors into the landscapes, sights, and sounds of ten moments in the waterfront’s past.

Using Kinect technology, History in Motion drops visitors into ten historic paintings and photographs, records them interacting with historical figures and objects, and weaves their actions into a 60-second movie starring themselves that can be shared on social media.

The exhibit space within Empire Stores is the Brooklyn Historical Society's first expansion from their Brooklyn Heights location. It is the perfect location for WATERFRONT. Situated in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Empire Stores is one of the few remaining 19th-century warehouses that once lined Brooklyn's waterfront. Erected between 1869 and 1885, Empire Stores housed countless tons of coffee, sugar, jute, animal hides, and many other commodities when Brooklyn was one of the largest commercial waterfronts in the world. Redeveloped and reopened in 2017, Empire Stores is now a hub of food, culture, and tech with BHS DUMBO as the sole cultural institution in the complex.


Fulton Ferry in WATERFRONT


BHS DUMBO, 55 Water Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201