The Bronx’ rich history displayed at NYC Department of Records exhibit

The Bronx’ rich history displayed at NYC Department of Records exhibit
The Department of Records exhibit on Bronx Centennial, which opened on Tuesday, September 30, displays various materials representing Bronx history.
Photo courtesy of Department of Records

If someone were to look up the word “centennial” in the dictionary, they would find the definition “pertaining to, or marking the completion of a period of 100 years.” However, due to the endless history attached to the Bronx, an exhibit starting from the year 1914 – when the Bronx officially became its own county – just wouldn’t do it justice.

The New York City Department of Records and Information Services on 31 Chambers Street (1st Floor Visitor Center), opened its exhibit on Bronx Centennial to the public on Tuesday, September 30, and includes historical documents from as early as the 1870s, provided by the Department of Records and Information Services’ Municipal Archives and Municipal Library. The exhibit also holds photographs and footage contributed from the WNYC Collection, City Lore, the Bronx Music Heritage Center and Hostos Community College.

This exhibit may take place in Manhattan, but there’s no questioning the importance that this exhibit has on the Bronx and the residents that live within its boundary lines.

The main purpose of this exhibit – educate those who are interested in the Bronx and its history, from an out-of-towner to Mr. Bronx Trivia.

Did you know that the Bronx used to be part of New York County, a/k/a Manhattan? Did you know that between 1920 and 1930, the population of the Bronx nearly doubled, increasing from 700,000 to more than 1.3 millions residents? Did you know that the increasing number of Puerto Rican students in the Bronx led to an agreement that all public school students with limited English comprehension had the right to a bilingual education in 1974?

These are just a few of the many facts that one can learn at the exhibit of Bronx Centennial, which showcases government records to chronicle the development of New York State’s lastly created county.

If it occurred in the Bronx within the last hundred-plus years and it was documented, the Bronx Centennial has it – containing photographs of elected officials along with community residents, while in the very same exhibit highlighting the Bronx’s greatest musicians of all genres. The exhibit even includes an 1872 map depicting the territory of the Bronx before it was its own borough and one of the five boroughs of New York City.

“The New York City Department of Records and Information Services, as a whole, decided to honor the Bronx County centennial year by putting on an exhibit recognizing its rich history over the past one hundred years,” said staff archivist Alexandra Hilton, who admits that even though she isn’t from the Bronx, she has become one of the Bronx’s biggest fans as a result of her curating this exhibit.

“I actually grew up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – which I suppose is where my love of history began.”

In her two years working with the city, Alexandra has conducted intensive research on a variety of subjects of the city’s past. She hopes those who see the exhibit will learn something new about the Bronx and leave with a new or renewed sense of appreciate for the county.

“The history of the Bronx is fascinating,” said Hilton. It is one of the greatest stories ever told, but rarely done so outside the borough itself which is why we chose to bring the amazing history of the Bronx to lower Manhattan.”

The exhibit on Bronx Centennial is open Monday – Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For more information, go to visit‌orcen‌ter@r‌ecord‌

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 742–3384. E-mail him at sgood‌stein‌@cngl‌

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