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Relics of Brooklyn’s past

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A fortuitous coincidence of seeing a child’s drawing of the Brooklyn Bridge in Williamsburg and the coming 125th year anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge inspired the City Reliquary’s upcoming exhibit.

“I literally found it on the street and it became an inspiration, a call for more student art at the museum,” said Dave Herman, president and founder of the City Reliquary in Williamsburg (370 Metropolitan Avenue), a museum that celebrates the history of New York City through the display of collections and artifacts of different eras of city life. The museum includes a permanent collection of architectural remnants of city buildings, Statue of Liberty memorabilia, a 1939 World’s Fair exhibit, and special exhibits that rotate on a monthly basis.

Visitors come to the museum from other parts of Brooklyn, New York, and all over the world.

“We’re getting more and more people into the museum week to week,” Herman said. “The last photo exhibition [76 Kisses] was the most popular yet.”

The quirky nature of the collections and the interest in memorabilia from New York’s bygone eras often draw visitors to the Reliquary. The popularity of shows such as the “Antiques Road Show” also helps increase interest in the value of artifacts both sentimental and monetary.

“I like seeing people holding onto some piece of family history,” said Herman. “They know it’s important but they don’t know its value and they can talk to an expert who will tell them the value right on the spot.”

The next exhibit, The Brooklyn Bridge: 125 Years of Inspiration, will feature the artwork of Brooklyn-area students influenced by the architecture and iconography that surround the bridge. Museum volunteers have been communicating with local high schools in the community, but submissions are open to students from pre-kindergarten through college. Several works that have been accepted include photographs, drawings, and a scale model of the bridge made out of popsicle sticks.

“The Brooklyn Bridge marks a moment in time,” Herman said. “It was the first bridge to connect the city of New York with the city of Brooklyn and it was the largest suspension bridge in the world at that time.”

Herman believes that part of the allure of the bridge stems from the public’s fascination with large architectural projects during the turn of the century, which is in contrast to the contemporary obsession with technology.

“In today’s culture, smaller is better, with nanotechnology and the development of microchips for computers. The more compact something is, the more people want it,” Herman said.

The anniversary of the bridge’s Brooklyn anchorage will take place on May 24 and the museum is hosting a birthday celebration and a bicycle tour to coincide with the borough’s official festivities. Borough President Marty Markowitz will be invited to the event, though it is unclear whether he will be able to attend.

“The borough president has been referring subtly to Brooklyn as the city of Brooklyn, saying that Brooklyn is enough of a city to hold its own ground and that you don’t have to go into Manhattan because we have everything right here,” Herman said.

The sustained growth of the borough due to the development of several residential neighborhoods and the movement of creative industries across the bridge has heightened the rivalry between Manhattan and Brooklyn in recent years.

“The rivalry started 125 years ago with the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge,” Herman said. “It’s been an ongoing battle between Brooklyn and Manhattan and it will go on forever.”

The Brooklyn Bridge: 125 Years of Inspiration will be opening at the City Reliquary (370 Metropolitan Avenue) on Friday, May 16, time TBD, and a birthday celebration of the bridge will occur on May 24 at 1 p.m.

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