Museum Collections at The New Jersey Historical Society
Portraits, toys, uniforms, quilts, silver, a doorframe: The New Jersey Historical Society collects remarkable things, each with its own story.
That collecting has been going on for many years. In fact, the Historical Society was started in 1845 to preserve what was perceived as the rapidly disappearing history of the country’s beginnings. Today we continue to collect items to reflect the many stories that make up New Jersey’s history. While older pieces are always of interest, we concentrate in particular on 21st-century collecting, and work hard to reflect the state’s diversity. Most often, collecting is done in conjunction with exhibitions. For instance, for an exhibition on Caribbean folk arts, we collected a costume worn in Paterson’s Dominican Day parade; for the show Teenage New Jersey: 1941-1975, donors transferred from their attics to our collections a 1950s girl’s gym uniform and a boy’s 1970s high school letter jacket. While mounting Dining In Dining Out—the 1999 show looked at the ways we create community around food—we acquired sheets used for drying chow mein noodles—part of one temple’s traditional community lunch. And for What Exit? New Jersey and Its Turnpike, we amassed what may be the finest collection of Turnpike souvenirs in existence! See a sample of what’s in our museum collections.
More than just “things,” the Historical Society’s collections are stories waiting to be told. On view in exhibitions, used for school programs and academic research, they will, we hope, not only document the past and the present but provide rich insight and illuminating stories for generations to come.