Gotham & Its Garbage: A History of the NYC Dept. of Sanitation

The NYC Department of Sanitation & New York University present


A Free Illustrated Lecture, Exhibition Tour and Status Report on the DSNY Museum-in-the-Making by

Robin Nagle, Ph.D., DSNY Anthropologist-in-Residence, and
Haidy Geismar, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, NYU

To be presented twice:

  • Thursday, January 10 at 6:00pm
  • Sunday, January 13 at 6:00pm

136 West 20th Street, 2nd Floor (between 6th & 7th Avenues), Manhattan
No RSVP or registration required.

New York City choked on its own trash for much of its early existence. Until Gotham got serious about sanitation, foul-smelling streets, staggering infant mortality rates and short life expectancies were normal characteristics of city life. Using newly rediscovered photos from the DSNY’s own collection, Profs. Nagle and Geismar will recount how the Department of Street Cleaning and its successor, the Department of Sanitation, transformed New York from a public health minefield to a safe and sanitary home for millions. They will also describe their recent efforts to create a permanent NYC Department of Sanitation Museum.

The lecture will take place within the ongoing exhibition “Loaded Out: Making a Museum.” Profs. Nagle and Geismar will conduct a brief tour of the exhibit after their talk. On display are rare historical DSNY images and memorabilia, including a scale replica of a DSNY tugboat and barge, built by sanitation craftsmen in 1952; a sanitation worker’s uniform, customized for the 1939 World’s Fair; a pith helmet worn by one of the White Wings, NYC’s famous white-uniformed street cleaners of the 1890s; and vintage film footage describing the varied duties of the DSNY in 1950. The exhibition, “Loaded Out: Making a Museum,” is free and open to the public Thursdays through Sundays, 3:00p to 7:00p. It closes after Sunday, January 13.

For more information about the lecture, the exhibit and the museum-in-the-making, call 212.998.8065 or email .

Read more about the exhibit and the museum-in-the-making here:

Posted Under: Event, Exhibit, Talking Heads

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