Skip to 0 minutes and 12 secondsHello everybody. What made New York one of the world's leading cities for culture? Let's start from the beginning. Founded in the early 17th century by the Dutch as a trading post, New York City became a major port in the 19th century and turned into a global metropolis in the early 20th century. There is no doubt that immigration has played a key role in creating the social, economic, and cultural richness of New York City. It is reported that already in the 17th century, the bustling trading activity in the streets of New York was conducted in 18 different languages. And history shows us that New York City has been the gateway to the US for many European immigrants, first.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 secondsThink of the waves of Irish and Italian immigrants back in the 19th century, and of Non-Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th century. As the city grew, turning into a major economic and trade centre in the 19th century, it set out on a mission to become a world class cultural hub. The recipe for success was that of bringing together the American private initiative with the European tradition of public support for the arts. Back in those days, cultural was best understood as acquiring and displaying artefacts from all over the world.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 secondsIndeed, the mission of branding New York as a global cultural centre, could allow it to compete successfully with its old world counterparts such as London, Paris, or Rome, that could brand their own cultural heritage. The role of New York wealthy philanthropists in this cultural mission, proved very important. While the state would construct and maintain museums, private boards of benefactors would help build the collections and operate the institutions. The public private character of this model is distinctive and continues to this day, even if it is subject to the ups and downs of politics, and to the different ambitions and views of local administrations.

Skip to 2 minutes and 21 secondsBeyond the major New York museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the MoMa, the American Museum of Natural History, or the New York Botanical Garden, the cultural profile of the city has been enriched since the late 1960s with important ethnic and migration museums that represent the contribution of new immigrant waves from Europe, Asia, the central and South America, to the social, economic, and cultural fabric of the city. Did you know that New York City has, now, more than 25 ethnic museums?

Skip to 2 minutes and 58 secondsThe Studio Museum in Harlem, the Museum of African Art in Brooklyn, and El Museo Del Barrio, the Asian-American Art Centre, the Italian American Museum, the Japan Society, the Museum of Chinese in America, and the National Museum of the American Indian, only to name a few. The Studio Museum in Harlem and the El Museo Del Barrio, in particular, were established to represent specific cultural communities neglected by major institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the MoMa. The strategy of branding New York and the model of public private partnership have allowed to create a truly global cultural centre where one can virtually visit the world without ever moving from the city.

Skip to 3 minutes and 54 secondsNew challenges that arise for New York City and its cultural institutions are indeed those related to the new opportunities that information technologies bring. Notably, to have collections and artefacts travel digitally, and hence to be available to visit in other parts of the world. That said, cultural activities fundamentally remain social. It, thus, remains to be seen whether digitally visiting museums and engaging with virtual visitor experiences can provide for a useful compliment or risk becoming a real substitute.

A global migration metropolis: New York City

This video explains the case of New York City, where the city’s heritage is the world’s cultures.

Share your views:

Can one truly visit the world through the museums of one global city?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Cultural Diversity and the City

European University Institute (EUI)