Inside Building 92, the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s New Historical Museum

11/15/2011 9:46 AM |

63 Flushing Avenue, or Building 92, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center.

  • 63 Flushing Avenue, or Building 92, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center.

On Friday, as promised, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at Building 92 opened its gates and doors, marking one of the biggest—but hardly the only or even the most ambitious—projects to open and transform the former shipbuilding center and enduring manufacturing hub. Appropriately, mixed in with the excellent historical displays in the new Navy Yard Center are many vitrines, objects and videos touting the yard’s role as a pioneer of green manufacturing. Like the building itself, the exhibits are a very rich mixture of past, present and futuristic.

Building 92’s ground floor houses a timeline of the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s entire history, from a replica of the deed which attests to the purchase of Wallabout Bay by a Dutch family from Native Americans up to the present. Also on the ground floor is a room full of objects, images and videos reflecting the huge variety of activities that take place at the yard today, from prop-building, fashion and furniture design, to sinister military-grade bulletproof gear. On the ground floor of Building 92’s new wing is the Space for Art and Industry, an expansive contemporary art and technology gallery that will have new exhibits every six weeks or so. Its current show, Klaus Schafler‘s Climate Manipulation Station (through December 18), includes synthetic CO2 processing trees currently being developed by Columbia University scientists. The Space for Art and Industry is run by an artist who’s had his studio in the yard for nine years, and witnessed the huge influx of artists to one of Brooklyn’s last major havens from real estate development—he estimated there are upwards of 100 artists based at the Navy Yard now.

On the museum’s second floor are rooms dedicated to specific periods in the Navy Yard’s history, with one focused on construction of wooden sailboats and another devoted to iron steamships deployed during the Civil War. On this level a resource room equipped with computers lets visitors browse the center’s impressive digitized collections, and a display of historical photos chronicles the career of the USS Brooklyn.

On the top floor of the historic home is another contemporary art space that will present rotating exhibitions, Gallery 92, and a room detailing the Navy Yard’s role in building the U.S. Navy’s modern fleet. The room concludes with accounts of the rapid decline of shipbuilding activities at the yard throughout the 50s and 60s, the protests against plans to shut down the Navy Yard’s military activities and, for good measure, the seeds of its present-day revitalization. The fourth floor of Building 92 features a cafe that will open tomorrow, and an outdoor terrace.

There’s a pretty astounding amount of information to be gleaned from the historical displays—way too much for one visit—and with so much space set aside for rotating exhibitions, Building 92 should have no trouble getting Brooklynites to keep coming back. Already, during its opening weekend, the new museum welcomed more than 1,000 visitors.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at Building 92 (63 Flushing Avenue), is open Wednesday-Sunday 12-6pm. Admission is free.

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