Preservation in Progress

Picturing Immigration

April 12, 2024 - October 13, 2024

A 19th century painting on a harbor with many people on the street next to a large ship.

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Preservation in Progress: Picturing Immigration offers visitors a rare opportunity to witness the restoration of one of the most significant items in the Museum’s collection: Samuel Bell Waugh’s massive painting The Bay and Harbor of New York (1855, 8.25 x 16.5 ft).  

Take a behind-the-scenes look at the challenge of caring for collections objects through both the ongoing preservation work to the painting happening live in the gallery and hands-on opportunities to experiment with conservation tools and processes.  

Opening for the April 17, 1907 anniversary of the busiest day at New York’s famed Ellis Island, Preservation in Progress delves into this painting’s role as a document that provides a rare depiction of early immigration. The installation considers this historic painting within a larger context of (often politically charged) visual documentation of the individuals and communities who have looked to New York as a beacon of opportunity and arrived seeking freedom, safety, and a new beginning.  

Samuel Bell Waugh, The Bay and Harbor of New York, c. 1855, Museum of the City of New York. Gift of Mrs. Robert M. Littlejohn, 33.169.1
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