A pirate with more than a passing resemblance to Captain Jack Sparrow opened the treasure chest.
Inside the sturdy wooden box – hauled to the stage area of the Showboat Barge in Red Hook’s Waterfront Museum by the museum’s director, David Sharps – were artifacts from eight Brooklyn cultural institutions which have banded together to form the borough’s latest collaboration, the Brooklyn Cultural Circuit.
The pirate connection was hardly accidental. The group of organizations – the Coney Island History Project, The Doll and Toy Museum of New York City, Green-Wood Cemetery, the Micro Museum, the New York Transit Museum, the Old Stone House of Brooklyn, the Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge, and Weeksville Heritage Center’s Historic Hunterfly Road Houses – are featured on a brand-new treasure map whose purpose is to promote the variety of smaller, more personalized cultural institutions that make their home in this borough.
“We got together and said we have some great hidden treasures,” noted Sharps, “some off-the-beaten-path places we’d like you to visit.”
“One of the amazing things about New York and Brooklyn is that there are always places to discover,” enthused Liz Koch, arts and culture specialist for Borough President Marty Markowitz, who has supported the effort.
Indeed, while the city attracts tourists from all over the country and the world, Koch added, “Everyone who lives here is pretty much a tourist as well.” Visiting the institutions within the Brooklyn Cultural Circuit, she went on, engenders in people, “An incredible sense of discovery.”
That sense of discovery can lead Brooklynites and those from beyond the borough’s borders to the site that hosted the event, the last surviving railway barge whose home at 290 Conover Street, Pier 44, provides awe-inspiring views of New York harbor, as well as a myriad of other wonders. 718-624-4719 or www.waterfrontmuseum. org.
The Coney Island History Project, nestled beneath the historic Cyclone roller coaster, at 1000 Surf Avenue, offers up a taste of the past to visitors even as it strives to make a record of oral histories regarding the area. 718-265-2100 or www. coneyislandhistory.org.
The modest wooden homes of Weeksville, 1696 Bergen Street, which stand out dramatically against a backdrop of large apartment houses, provide another window into the borough’s storied history, bringing visitors back in time to a pre-Civil War community of free African-Americans. 718-756-5250 or www. weeksvillesociety.org.
The New York Transit Museum, housed in an old subway station at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street, provides visitors with what Assistant Director Marcia Ely called a “please touch me atmosphere.” Old train cars and memorabilia make compelling viewing that attracts kids and adults alike. 718-694-1600 or www. mta. info/museum.
The rolling hills of Green-Wood Cemetery, 500 25th Street, hark back to Revolutionary War days, when the Battle of Brooklyn was fought. More recent history is also on tap; the cemetery is the last resting place of many notables, from abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, to composer Leonard Bernstein, to Brooklyn Dodgers owner Charles Ebbets. 718-768-7300 or www. greenwoodcemetery.org.
The Old Stone House, in J.J. Byrne Park, Third Street and Fifth Avenue, also has ties to the Revolutionary War era and the Battle of Brooklyn. Today, the house – outside of which many members of the Maryland 400 once gave their lives to promote the cause of freedom – offers an array of cultural programming including musical and theatrical performances. 718-768-3195 or www.theoldstonehouse. org.
Cutting edge art is the focus at the Micro Museum, 123 Smith Street. The museum showcases performance arts, media arts and visual arts, “all kinds of shenanigans,” promises Executive Director Kathleen Laziza. “It’s very eclectic. It’s not that anything goes. It’s that everything goes.” 718-797-3116 or www. micromuseum.com.
The Doll and Toy Museum does not yet have a permanent home. But, its exhibits are now on view at the Brooklyn Heights and Bay Ridge branches of the Brooklyn Public Library at 280 Cadman Plaza West and 7223 Ridge Blvd. respectively. The Brooklyn Heights branch currently has an exhibit on American games and toys of the 20th century. The Bay Ridge Branch features a period room diorama of an 18th century library.
‘Dolls and toys are mirrored reflections of life,” explained museum founder Marlene Hochman. “You can teach kids about colonial America with reproductions of toys from that era, and you can show old train or trolley toys and bring them back to a time where trolleys were used in New York.” 718-243-0820 or www. dtmnyc.org.
Each of the institutions reflects the community in which it is located, added Laziza. “We’re really embedded in neighborhoods and responsive to them,” she stressed.
For further information on the Brooklyn Cultural Circuit, log onto www. BrooklynCulturalCircuit.org.