Muppets Take Manhattan – and the New-York Historical Society!


What do the Muppets and New York City landmarks have in common? You’ll see them all here at the New-York Historical Society this weekend! In fact, here’s a photograph of the Kermit balloon from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in front of the building. You’ll find his image and other historic balloon photos on view in the DiMenna Children’s History Museum.

Kermit the Frog Balloon in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Kermit the Frog, ca. 1982. Kelly-Mooney Photography/Corbis


This Sunday the DiMenna Children’s History Museum is starting a summer family film series, where you can see some great shot-on-location scenes from New York’s past. And of course, we’ll have popcorn for everyone!

Muppets Take Manhattan

Our first film is Muppets Take Manhattan, released in 1984, almost 30 years ago. Several of New York landmarks are visible in scenes throughout the movie. See if you can spot the Empire State Building, Central Park, Bergdorf Goodman department store, or the Biltmore Theatre, where the Muppets stage their play “Manhattan Melodies.” These locations will look familiar, but you’ll notice many differences from 30 years ago – like older taxi cab models, or different city sign designs.

You may have seen your own neighborhood changing over time. You might see new stores, or new park benches, or maybe whole new buildings! One way to gather evidence about change over time is to speak with someone who has lived in New York a long time (a grandparent, teacher, or trusted neighbor). Another way is by looking at photographs from a long time ago and comparing them to today.

Here at New-York Historical we have a large collection of New York photographs, many of which are accessible through our digital collections. Browse through this collection to see many photographs of New York City and beyond!

In the DiMenna Children’s History Museum we have an exhibit inspired by these wonderful photographs – our Historical Viewfinder. Families can choose a borough and then flip through now and then views of locations throughout the city.


85683d_NYHS_DCHM_img15 Cast Your Vote Viewfinder smaller cropped

To create this exhibit we chose photographs from our collection and hired a photographer to locate each address and shoot a modern photograph of the view.  Here is one that shows the corner of Broadway and 32nd Street in Manhattan, shot in 1902.


85174d_SaksAndMacysBway32nd_Bracklow smaller
Broadway and 32nd street, 1902. Collection of the New-York Historical Society

What are some things you notice about the building, the transportation, or people’s clothing? Think about what is missing from the photograph that you would expect to see today on the corner of Broadway and 32nd Street.

Now compare it to this photograph of the location today:


Broadway and 32nd Street, 2011. Collection of the New-York Historical Society

What do you see in the now photograph that was missing in the then photograph? What surprised you about the comparison?

After seeing Muppets Take Manhattan this Sunday, head to the DiMenna Children’s History Museum and find 15 pairs of these now and then photographs – they help us tell the story of New York City’s past.


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