‘Keep Your Eye Upon the Donut’ at the City Reliquary

Hole lotta love: Sweet exhibition celebrates New York’s deep-fried delicacies

for The Brooklyn Paper
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You can bet dollars to donuts that this exhibition will make your stomach rumble.

“Keep Your Eye Upon the Donut,” an exhibition celebrating the history of the donut in Manhattan and Brooklyn, is currently on view at the City Reliquary in Williamsburg. The show profiles famous donut-slingers of yesteryear, as well as many of today’s most popular purveyors, including Bedford–Stuyvesant’s Dough, Williamsburg’s Dun-Well Doughnuts, Bay Ridge’s Mike’s Donuts and Coffee, Greenpoint’s Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop, and Shaikh’s Place in Sheepshead Bay.

Curator Julie Thomson is a self-proclaimed “donut ambassador” who runs a blog entirely dedicated to the dunkable delicacy. Though the former Williamsburg resident has since moved to Durham, NC, when Thompson decided to put an exhibition about her favorite fried treat together, she realized a quirky museum in her old neighborhood was the perfect place to host it.

“I’ve been doing a number of donut projects over the past year including some audio documentaries and blogging about donut shops,” said Thomson. “I think the City Reliquary itself, with its unique approach to history and the ephemera it collects from people’s daily experiences in the city, inspired me to do an exhibit.”

In addition to photos and artifacts from some of the city’s top deep-frying destinations, the exhibition features a variety of donut ephemera from Thomson’s personal collection, including vintage postcards, advertisements, books, mugs, menus, and even a cup and plate from the first Mayflower Doughnuts shop that opened in New York in 1931.

“A number of the items are from the Doughnut Corporation of America and were made in the 1930s to 1940s,” said Thomson. “We also have items from some of the nine present-day donut shops that we’re highlighting in the exhibit. Those items include the bike that Mark Isreal, founder of the Doughnut Plant, used to deliver donuts when he was first starting his business on the Lower East Side.”

For Thomson, the appeal of the donut is more than just sugar and spice — it is the pastry’s ability to bring people of all ages and backgrounds together.

“I think it’s a sweet that has a lot of resonance for people across multiple generations, she said. “I have memories of going to donut shops as a child. I’m finding that lots of other people have specific donut memories too. Donuts are delicious and beautiful, and donut shops are a place to have conversations with people you don’t know.”

“Keep Your Eye Upon the Donut” at the City Reliquary [370 Metropolitan Ave. near Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg, (718) 782–4842,]. Through February 2014. Free, but donations accepted.

Updated 10:16 pm, July 9, 2018
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