Brooklyn Children’s Museum is one of only four children’s museums in the United States to hold an educational collection. Since its inception in 1899, BCM has acquired objects through private donations, and donations from Brooklyn Museum. BCM’s collection is now comprised of approximately 30,000 natural history and cultural objects ranging from Paleolithic to ancient to modern day, making the collection an encyclopedia of cultures across the globe.
Collections objects are used throughout the Museum in exhibits and programs, serving as a primary resource to engage children with natural history and cultures. BCM’s collection’s mission is use objects as hands-on learning tools to support and deepen experiential and inquiry-based learning. The Museum’s collection is maintained at the highest ethical practices and standards of preservation, in accordance with our Collections Management Policy.
Each object in the BCM collection embodies ideas that are entry points for children’s learning. Our science specimens tell the stories of evolution and of Earth’s geological changes. Our endangered species specimens tell a cautionary tale of why we need environmental protections. Our cultural objects speak of lives of past civilizations, and show how those people have formed the foundation for how we now live. The shapes, colors, forms, textures, patterns, and materials of our objects allow children to explore, fail, ask questions, and use their imagination.
BCM fundamentally believes that children’s engagement with objects fosters learning experiences that cultivate empathy and prepare young visitors to be thinking, critical, kind, and engaged citizens of the world.
Rapid Response Collecting Task Force
Brooklyn Children’s Museum holds a unique collection of 30,000 educational objects. BCM recognizes that this group of mostly 19th and early 20th century objects invites conversations about race, culture, and colonialism, and does not fully represent the Central Brooklyn community the Museum serves. A collaboration between BCM’s teen program and its collections department, the Rapid Response Collecting Taskforce (RRCT) is one way the Museum activates change and discussion about these issues.
Through this initiative, a cohort of 10-15 teens is trained to go into the community, engage with local residents, and — using a framework they create – identify and accession objects to include in BCM’s collection. Past themes the RRCT has identified to guide sourcing of objects include immigration, criminal justice, gender fluidity, and gentrification. Objects they source and the interpretation they generate will become integrated into the Museum’s collections and will remain there in perpetuity.
Collections Connections is a new partnership with Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) to enable BCM to provide museum education experiences through a series of pop-up Collections Connections community galleries installed at library branches across the borough.
Made possible with the support of the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the galleries are being displayed in libraries throughout the borough, allowing patrons to see objects and artifacts from the Museum’s collections exploring animals and nature, transportation, cultures around the world, and more. Each gallery contains a booklet with object information, and librarians will incorporate the objects into programs and share books with similar themes. Some of the objects include head wraps and curling irons, dolls, sea sponges, petrified wood, and more.
Collections Connections will appear in 20 BPL branches and is the first major project in the U.S. to leverage a museum collection for a sustained series of exhibits and programs sited in public library branches. Created with librarians from across BPL’s system, Collections Connections are a joint effort to increase access to museum experiences for children and caregivers while allowing librarians to augment their book-based programming to create deeper engagements with a topic or idea. When fully launched, Collections Connections will serve 1/3 of all BPL library branches, an estimated 30 librarians, and approximately 3,000 children and caregivers.
Cultural & Natural History Collections
Our collection of African objects totals some 3,400 original artifacts, offering an extensive survey of African cultures.
Antiquities and Archeological
Totaling some 1,900 objects, this selection shows a small survey of early human civilizations focusing on the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks.
Perhaps our most known section of the collection, our doll collection totals over 2,000 objects and is comprised of dolls from around the world.
The geological collection numbers around 6,200 individual specimen. It is one of the earliest of BCM collections, evolving out of student field trips as well as through numerous large gifts.
Butterflies, moths, beetles and other insects make up our insect collection. Since BCM’s opening in 1899, the Museum’s collection has held insect specimens.
Shells and Ocean Life
The large shell collection has been developed since our founding in 1899 and is comprised of specimens from every ocean.
Shoes and Hats
Our shoe collection ranges from getas, moccasins, sandals, boots, and sabots to contemporary shoes. Hats include those worn for religious significance, warmth, status, and as protection from the sun.
Taxidermy and Mounts
The taxidermy specimens were acquired from 1899 until the 1940s. Many of the specimens came from the Brooklyn Museum when it disposed of its natural history collections.