The Staten Island Museum may be billed as a “general interest” museum, but its exhibitions tend to hone in on specific, eclectic subject matter. Take, for instance, its current exhibit on cicadas, They’re Baaack! Return of the 17-Year Cicadas. The exhibit is an homage to one of the museum’s founders, William T. Davis—otherwise known as “the Cicada Man of Staten Island”—and boasts the largest collection of cicadas in the Americas. In the late 19th century, Davis fell in love with the insect and turned an amateur interest into a career. He became one of the world’s leading expert on cicadas, dubbing New York state’s most prevalent species Magicicada and receiving specimens from entomologists all over the world.
When Dave Herman moved into his ground-floor apartment at Havemeyer and Grand Streets in Williamsburg, he discovered a neighborhood in transition. Condos and high-rise apartment buildings were sprouting up in once barren lots; abandoned storefronts were transforming into upscale restaurants, cocktail bars, and yoga studios. Young creative types flocked to the area in droves. They set up loft spaces in the abandoned factories next to the homes of the established Hasidic and Hispanic communities. Dave saw the value in both the emerging scene and the traditions of the old neighborhoods. To connect Williamsburg’s rapid growth spurt and the area’s rich past, he dreamt up the idea of a City Reliquary—a museum that celebrates Brooklyn’s evolution by immortalizing and honoring its history.