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Brooklyn Museum

Institute Park

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This park, located at the intersection of Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue on the north side of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, takes its name from the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences.

Set aside from the main part of Prospect Park, the City of Brooklyn purchased this land in 1864. The New York State Legislature passed a law in 1891 authorizing the construction of a complex of buildings on the eastern area of the park to provide free and accessible libraries, museums, and other centers of education. Built after nearly ten years of planning, the Institute opened to the public in June 1897. The architectural group McKim, Mead, and White designed the structure, modeling it after the town lyceums of the early 1800s.

Reorganized and updated several times over its 137 years of operation, the Institute has kept abreast of changing community needs. When it first opened, museums were expected to provide popular entertainment and education while also serving as academic repositories for scholars. In 1908, the Institute’s administrative offices and private programs were moved off-site to the Academy of Music on Lafayette Street to make room for new public programs. In 1914, the scope of the Institute was widened by the addition of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

Today the Institute maintains a large collection of paintings, sculptures and books. Ancient Egyptian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean societies are represented as are many Asian, African, and American cultures across history. The building contains five floors of exhibit and public viewing space, two research libraries and an archive. Visitors can also take art classes, watch films, attend lectures, and listen to storytellers and musical performances. Nearby Grand Army Plaza hosts Brooklyn’s Central Library, Mount Prospect Park Playground and the spacious greenery of Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

In January 2001, the museum began its most recent renovations. Among the improvements are the installation of an innovative glass entrance pavilion and a handicapped-accessible public plaza designed by James Stewart Polshek, who also restored Carnegie Hall in the 1980s. The renovations are expected to be completed by the end of 2002. Commissioned and built “for the people and for all of the people,” the Brooklyn Museum Institute of the Arts and Sciences remains a cultural oasis amidst the greenery of Prospect Park.

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