NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY NAMES DOUGLAS BRINKLEY
ITS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN
Annette Gordon-Reed, Jon Meacham, Sean Wilentz, and Patricia O’Toole Among the First
to Join Presidential Historians Panel to Evaluate and Rank Past Presidencies
Groundbreaking Initiatives Expand New-York Historical’s Presidency Project,
Created to Educate the Public on the Role of the American President
New York, NY – September 25, 2017 – The New-York Historical Society today announced that Douglas Brinkley will become its first presidential historian. This new role―the first of its kind at the Museum―spearheads the expansion of the Presidency Project, created by New-York Historical earlier this year to educate the public about the role, powers, and responsibilities of American presidents. In addition to the presidential historian, the Presidency Project will now include a Panel of Presidential Historians comprising Annette Gordon-Reed, Jon Meacham, Sean Wilentz, Patricia O’Toole, and other historians to be named who will evaluate qualities and characteristics of successful and unsuccessful presidencies, provide context for past successes and failures, and develop a system for ranking past presidents in advance of the next presidential campaign season. The initiative will also include an educational program for gifted New York City students, public programs, and a dedicated website focused on presidential history.
“It is a distinct honor to name Douglas Brinkley as New-York Historical’s presidential historian. His vast knowledge of how American presidents have impacted the nation’s history will be invaluable as we move forward in expanding our Presidency Project,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “We are also honored to have outstanding historians such as Annette Gordon-Reed and Jon Meacham, both New-York Historical Trustees, and Sean Wilentz and Patricia O’Toole lend their expertise to this initiative. At the core of this exciting initiative is our mission to help the public better understand the history of the American presidency and our strong belief that by providing historical context to current events, we can help promote greater civic responsibility and voting. We are grateful to Trustee Ira Lipman for his leadership as chairman of presidential history on behalf of New-York Historical’s Board of Trustees, and to Trustee Richard Gilder who will serve as honorary chair on behalf of our Board.”
Douglas Brinkley is a professor of history at Rice University, bestselling author, and presidential historian for CNN who has described him as “a man who knows more about the presidency than just about any human being alive.” He also serves as a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, Washington Post, and the James Madison Council of the Library of Congress. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, the New Yorker, and the Atlantic, he is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Century Association, and the Society of American Historians. In a recent profile, the Chicago Tribune deemed him “America’s new past master.”
In this new role, Brinkley will bear the title “Presidential Historian at the New-York Historical Society” and assist New-York Historical in articulating the mission, goals, and activities of the Presidency Project. He will participate in several public programs annually and convene the Panel of Presidential Historians. In advance of the 2020 presidential election, Brinkley will also lead a one-day symposium at New-York Historical called Elections Matter, featuring a variety of speakers and topics. The symposium will take place every four years, a few months prior to Election Day.
The Presidency Project’s website will educate the public about the presidency via articles written by members of the Panel of Presidential Historians and short films created by the Presidency Project team.
A Presidential History Public Programs Series—focusing on presidents in conflict, tumultuous elections, wartime powers, and the Constitution—will be offered throughout the year as part of New-York Historical’s robust public programs. The Museum’s current stellar line-up of lectures and dynamic conversations on history and current affairs include the Bernard and Irene Schwartz series and History with David M. Rubenstein series at New-York Historical. Among the programs scheduled are Gordon S. Wood and Carol Berkin on November 16 discussing how the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams led to the establishment of America’s first divergent political parties; and academics Jeremi Suri and Sean Wilentz on January 30 charting the presidency’s rise from the limited role envisioned by the Founding Fathers to its current status as the most powerful job in the world.
Seminars for highly motivated, high-achieving middle schoolers will be offered each spring as part of the Presidency Project. Presidential Scholars is a four-part series designed to inspire young New Yorkers to become informed and engaged citizens with a critical appreciation of our nation’s presidential history through direct engagement with renowned scholars. The program will serve a small, selected group of middle school students and is an opportunity for them to learn from and engage with historians while discussing and debating the issues with their peers. The scholars are experts in presidential history and will lead the groups with the expectation of rigorous intellectual discussion. Presidential Scholars will run in spring 2018, four consecutive Saturdays; applications are due in February, and scholarships are available.
New-York Historical’s Institute for Constitutional History is a leading national forum for interdisciplinary study of American constitutional history, offering advanced seminars as well as workshops devoted to improving the teaching of constitutional history. Open to doctoral students, junior faculty members, lawyers, and educators from around the world, the seminars and workshops are offered free of charge and take place at the New-York Historical Society, the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., and the Stanford Law School throughout the year.
About the Presidency Project
The Presidency Project launched in January 2017 in response to increased interest in the American political process following the 2016 presidential election. A special installation recreating the setting of George Washington’s first inauguration in 1789 was on view in the Museum, which featured an original piece of wrought-iron railing from Federal Hall that ornamented the second-story balcony where Washington took the oath of office, as well as the mahogany chair Washington sat in before he delivered his inaugural address to Congress. Documents from New-York Historical’s extensive collection, focusing on the creation of the presidency and executive branch of government, were also on view in Patricia D. Klingenstein Library. Living Historians helped families learn more about presidents and first ladies in the early days of the republic.
For several weeks from December 2016–January 2017, visitors to New-York Historical added their reactions to the 2016 election to Messages for the President-Elect, a special installation inspired by the Subway Therapy project―created by artist Matthew “Levee” Chavez―in which commuters were encouraged to post sticky notes in Union Square subway station following the election. Content from Subway Therapy and Messages for the President-Elect was added to New-York Historical’s permanent collection.
Also on view at New-York Historical is Nari Ward’s monumental art installation, We the People, which was created with hundreds of donated shoelaces spelling out the opening line of the preamble of the U.S. Constitution. We the People explores how an art object can call attention to our shared connection to American history as well as issues of identity and politics that remain relevant in the United States today. Acquisition of We the People was generously underwritten by Diana and Joe DiMenna.
About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.
Nari Ward, We the People, 2017, New-York Historical Society Photo: Glenn Castellano.