BHS DUMBO Museum and Waterfront Exhibition

The Brooklyn Historical Society’s new satellite museum, located in the revitalized Empire Stores warehouse, and its inaugural long-term exhibition, Waterfront.


BHS DUMBO is a museum located within Empire Stores, a 19th-century warehouse converted into a multi-use complex with restaurants, shops, and offices. Facing out to an interior courtyard, the museum is the only cultural institution in the building. Pure+Applied designed the museum’s branding, wayfinding, interiors, and millwork, as well as the gallery’s first long-term exhibition, Waterfront.

Through text panels, graphic images, and interactives (including tactile, mechanical, and digital experiences), the Waterfront exhibition and multimedia experience brings to life the vibrant history of Brooklyn’s coastline through stories of workers, artists, industries, activists, families, neighborhoods, and ecosystems. There is no designated path through the spaces - discreet areas, while interconnected in content, can work independently and be visited in any order. The exhibition blends BHS’s acclaimed approach to historical interpretation with forward-thinking design. The space includes activities for children as young as two years old, along with thought-provoking history for adults.

I served as a senior designer and project manager for this project at Pure+Applied.

Waterfront’s design encourages visitors to choose their own paths through interconnected stories.

Landfilling the Shore displays more than 80 archaeological artifacts excavated from the Empire Stores site.


Brooklyn Bivalves features gilded glass text panels set into a gabion wall filled with oyster shells borrowed from the Billion Oyster Project on Governor’s Island.


"An Unfree Waterfront" highlights the stories of enslaved Brooklynites through the lens of three different kinds of documents – a painting, a slave bill of sale, and an account book.


In "A Laboring Family," visitors learn the story of one dockworker, Michael Harkins, and his family as they get a glimpse into how historians piece together the lives of the less-documented working class.


Factory Women honors the women who worked in waterfront factories in the 19th and 20th centuries and contributed to Brooklyn’s booming economy despite inequality in pay and the prejudice they faced.


The Walled City explores the industrial waterfront of 19th century Brooklyn, with an 1879 Currier & Ives lithograph of Brooklyn as its focal point.


Along with the interiors and finishes of the museum, Pure+Applied designed the custom millwork in the space, including the visitor services desk and gift shop.


The gift shop shelving features retractable panels that secure the gift shop when the museum is used as an event space.

Pull-out drawers and panels throughout the exhibition provide a deeper dive into content.


“After Industry” covers the mid-20th-century decline in manufacturing and shipping and the effect of the current reinvention and gentrification. Visitors can sit and look at salvaged artifacts from the abandoned Empire Stores warehouse while listening to oral histories of Brooklyn residents.


"Made in Brooklyn" cases inside the museum restrooms highlight some of the iconic products made on the Brooklyn waterfront, including Chiclets Gum, Domino Sugar, and Benjamin Moore paint.

LED signage set in a custom redrawn version of a 19th-century Clarendon typeface directs visitors to the museum entrance.


©2020 Vonn Weisenberger