Help Save the Civic Organization That’s Saving the City

The weekends-only, not-for-profit gallery, which opened in 2006, curates a motley collection that wouldn’t find a home anywhere else.

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While we believe a Brooklyn Museum of Food could take up several blocks, we’re big fans of the tiny culinary collection at the City Reliquary, the mini museum squeezed in between Saltie and what used to be Vinny Vella’s Pizza on a scrubby stretch of Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg.

The weekends-only, not-for-profit gallery, which opened in 2006, curates a motley collection that wouldn’t find a home anywhere else: a set of dentures from Marine Park’s Dead Horse Bay; a few hunks of Greenpoint’s original wooden sidewalks; a roller skate from Brooklyn’s rink-crazed disco era. But we’re especially enamored of the objets d’eat: real glass seltzer bottles from across Brooklyn; old Piel Bros., Schaefer’s and Rheingold cans and coasters from the borough’s beery past; a display cake from semi-famous Puerto Rican bakery La Villita on nearby Grand Avenue; and an ode to the 100-year-old bottled-in-Brooklyn coffee soda called, for the avenue, Manhattan Special.

But this sweet space for quirky city posterity is in danger of itself becoming history. To keep its doors open, the store-front-size museum needs to raise $60,000 by the end of the year, says director Dave Herman, who refers to the Reliquary—which is a religious term for a place where relics are stored—as “a civic organization.”

He’s procured a few grants, but the money hasn’t yet come through and he’s sending out an appeal for funds. “We’re treading water,” says Herman, who’s had to cut off phone service for a few weeks, “but we’re just gonna drown if we don’t find a way [of fund raising] that’s more immediate.”

The museum’s “Plan B” is rotating exhibits or perhaps a local library. But Herman hopes a membership drive and donations-you can give or join at cityreliquary.org—plus a few upcoming fundraisers will help fill in the gaps. (Those include “Meals and Spiels,” a food history lecture and dinner prepared with the help of a superstar team that includes Brooklyn Kitchen, The Meat Hook, Roebling Tea Room, Saltie and Brooklyn Brewery on April 27.) In the meantime, we urge you to visit soon—it’s pay what you wish—to help save the civic organization that’s literally saving the city.

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.