The little storefront museum that celebrates Brooklyn’s underdog spirit with exacting curatorial detail and a passionate devotion to artifacts large and small may be in danger of closing.
The Williamsburg-based City Reliquary Museum (370 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn), which has featured exhibits such as Miss Subways Past and Present and hosted events including the Miss G Train Pageant, Bicycle Fetish Day, and the Havemeyer Sugar Sweets Festival needs $60,000 in order to maintain its operations this year or they will shut their doors for good.
City Reliquary founder Dave Herman sent a personal appeal to friends and museum supporters on January 24 to inform them of their financial situation. In the letter, Herman characterized the moment as “a scary yet decisive turning point” in the museum’s history if it wants to move forward as a viable institution in Williamsburg.
“For the four years since opening our public museum, we have managed to tread water just enough to pay the rent from one month to the next. However, we have finally come to the point when this is no longer possible,” said Herman. “We believe we can achieve the level of support we need to truly turn this operation into the flourishing and self-supporting museum it deserves to be.”
While the museum has received two grants of $33,000 from Council member Diana Reyna (D-Williamsburg) in 2008 and 2009, they have not been able to collect the funding, due to delays with their application at the city’s Department for Youth and Community Development.
“Friends of City Reliquary 's Fiscal Year 2009 City Council Discretionary award was registered on January 12, 2010, and the funds are currently available,” said Ryan Dodge, Deputy Chief of Staff with the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development. “DYCD has not yet received all of the documents required to proceed with processing the organization’s Fiscal Year 2010 award. We are in contact with FOCR about these documents.”
Herman has been frustrated by the process.
“They gave us a list of everything we need, they gave us a second list, and then they went back to the first list, and asked us to please resubmit our tax forms, budget, and other information,” said Herman.
Herman and his board have found their museum struggling to meet the demands of operating their museum, which include the goal of hiring a part-time administrative assistant, while also paying a hefty $2,500 monthly rent.
“A lot of nonprofits that require money like this start off with a staff which is dedicated to following up on this,” said Herman. “We’ve been asked to repeat submitting forms two and three times. It takes a lot of dedication to get the money promised.”
Nevertheless, the museum is pushing forward with an aggressive fundraising drive, coinciding with a brand new exhibit, Company Journals of the Southside Firehouse”, curated by Firefighter Pat D’Emic of Williamsburg’s Hook & Ladder Company 104.
The museum’s goal is to raise $20,000 by March 31, which will cover the cost of a part-time assistant, with the long-term goal of raising $60,000 by the end of the year. Two fundraisers at The Knitting Factory (361 Metropolitan Avenue) over the next two months, a Fire Sale on February 18, which will feature a date auction with NYC Firefighters, and a St. Patrick’s Day Benefit Concert on March 17, will help, though Herman is asking for donations from the community.
Herman acknowledges that raising tens of thousands of dollars during an economic recession is an uphill battle, but he believes that the museum where he and his fellow collectors “learn, share information and celebrate the city we love” is worth saving.
“It is the living embodiment of our local heritage and hometown pride.It protects and preserves the ever-disappearing character of our neighborhoods and New York flavor, while contributing to that character by being in itself, a unique destination,” said Herman. “Losing the City Reliquary would mean not only losing a unique contribution of and for the people of the city, but also the many memories and artifacts of similar unsung landmarks which this museum presents.”
City Reliquary’s upcoming fundraiser, Fire Sale: NYC Firefighter Date Auction will occur on February 18 at The Knitting Factory on 361 Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg. Doors are open at 6:00 PM/ Show opens at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $20 and available at the door. For more information visit http://bk.knittingfactory.com.
Editor's Note: This story was updated on February 2 to include more information on the City Reliquary's application at the city's Department for Youth and Community development.