The New York Times Visits the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum

On May 13, 2023, The New York Times ran a front-page article on the weekend Metropolitan section focused on the Museum and the larger seltzer works. It is also full of online-only videos and photographs. You can read the full article (by Corey Kilgannon) here with photos and video (by Juan Arredondo) here (even without a NYTimes subscription).

Below is an excerpt from the article focused on the Museum:

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Originally called Gomberg Seltzer Works, the business was started in 1953 in Canarsie, Brooklyn, by Moe Gomberg, Mr. Gomberg’s great-grandfather. After nearly closing for good during the pandemic, Brooklyn Seltzer moved and (somewhat) modernized its factory, introducing a visitable space called the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum.

“We want to introduce the next generation to seltzer,” Mr. Gomberg said.

The museum, which is appointment-only, features vintage bottles from seltzer companies all over the country and exhibitions on how the bubbly elixir is made, as well as its historical and cultural role.

Mr. Gomberg created the museum along with Barry Joseph, a seltzer historian — perhaps the seltzer historian — who also teaches digital learning and engagement for museums at New York University. Mr. Joseph arranged for a dozen graduate students from N.Y.U. and Columbia University, most of whom were from China and had never heard of seltzer, to help create the exhibitions as part of their studies.

“They caught on quick,” Mr. Joseph said. “They got it.”

Earlier this month at the Cypress Hills space, Mr. Joseph walked along a wall showing a 2,500-year-old seltzer history timeline that dated to ancient Greece. He inspected illustrations of how seltzer is made and bottled, as well as digital 3-D models of the machines.

New York seltzer, which has become a culinary staple in the city like knishes and Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda, has its own history, Mr. Joseph said.

Many Eastern European Jews who enjoyed seltzer overseas began making, delivering and selling it in the early 1900s, largely on the Lower East Side. They also sold it from soda fountains — either straight up, as a citrus concoction known as a lime rickey, or with milk and chocolate syrup known as an egg cream.

While many Americans switched to soda after World War II, many Jews in the city stuck with seltzer, Mr. Joseph said.

At Brooklyn Seltzer Boys, the museum and the factory can merge into one educational experience. Next to the exhibitions, delivery workers back up their trucks into an area to drop off cases of empty bottles and pick up freshly filled ones. Workers buzz around cleaning, refilling and repairing old nozzle tops.

There is also a spritzing station where visitors can spray seltzer from a bottle, Three Stooges style.

“We wanted to present the rich history of seltzer in New York City within a longstanding mom-and-pop business that still serves as a functioning seltzer works,” Mr. Joseph said.