Celebrating 400th Anniversary of Henry Hudson’s Historic Voyage

March 30, 2009 at 2:42 am Leave a comment

Looking for something to celebrate? How about the commemoration of New York’s 400th birthday beginning next Saturday?
On April 4, 1609, the English navigator Henry Hudson left Amsterdam harbor to search for a shortcut to Asia. Hudson’s instructions from the Dutch East India Company were to sail east, as he had on two earlier voyages that were thwarted by Arctic ice.

Instead, inspired by insights gleaned from other explorers, Hudson steered his triple-masted ship toward the New World in hopes of discovering a Northwest Passage to Asia.

The 400th anniversary of Hudson’s departure will be celebrated this week in Amsterdam and in Manhattan, where the Museum of the City of New York opens “Amsterdam/New Amsterdam: The Worlds of Henry Hudson.”

The exhibition includes 275 artifacts in an installation that evokes the hull of Hudson’s 85-foot-long ship, the Half Moon. It will remain open through the end of September, which is when New York City and New York State will formally commemorate the anniversary of Hudson’s arrival in what would become America’s most diverse metropolis and a city of superlatives.

Hudson and his crew received a decidedly mixed reception from the natives. Today, New York’s diverse population includes more American Indians and more people who identify their ancestry as Dutch than any other big American city.

And that is precisely the point of the museum’s exhibition: New York is and has always been different from other places in America because it was founded by the Dutch.

“The Dutch were the first to overthrow a king and create a republic,” said Sarah Henry, chief curator of the museum. “Nobody was celebrating tolerance, but the Dutch had a pragmatic approach to diversity.”

The exhibition — in collaboration with the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam and the New Netherland Project in Albany — includes rare maps, excavated objects, paintings, documents and other artifacts. (Curators also correct a historical footnote: Peter Stuyvesant, the irascible director general of the Dutch colony in the mid-17th century, was missing his right leg, not his left.)

The collection validates the enduring Dutch legacy and the shared economic heritage of Amsterdam and New Amsterdam, including the figurative and literal birth of Wall Street, where stock trading and multinational companies were incubated and where a barricade was built as protection from the Indians and the British.

The exhibition is the first of three being organized by the museum this year to celebrate New York’s quadricentennial.

The exhibit “Mannahatta/Manhattan,” which explores the natural environment that Hudson encountered, will open on May 18 and is being mounted in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society. In addition, modern images of New York by Dutch photographers will be featured in “Dutch Seen: New York Rediscovered,” which opens June 10.

In September, the museum will publish “New York 400: A Visual History of America’s Greatest City With Images From the Museum of the City of New York,” a collection of paintings and photographs, many of them never displayed publicly before.

The three exhibitions and the book, edited by John Thorn, a historian and author, are intended to provide a new portal to a past that is unfamiliar to many, and a contrast to the myths largely perpetuated by Washington Irving’s satirical Diedrich Knickerbocker and by other fanciful 19th-century interpretations.

Ms. Henry, the curator, calls the visual history a “birthday card to the city.”


New York Times


Entry filed under: Get Wet, Manhattan, Maritime. Tags: , , , , , .

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