Go down memory lane with this exhibit on The Floating Hospital, a Long Island City institution

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Basin Collection

An upcoming art exhibit in Long Island City will showcase memorabilia from the 150-year-old Floating Hospital that has not been displayed publicly.

The Floating Hospital (TFH), founded in 1886, is one of the city’s oldest health care charities. It provides primary health care to domestic violence survivors living in safe houses and families living in homeless shelters, and for years, doctors operated out of a ship along the East River. It recently celebrated its 150th anniversary.

In 1875, the first Floating Hospital on the vessel “Emma Abbot” was launched, and families living in cramped and polluted tenements were able to have a respite from their living conditions while receiving preventive care.


On April 17, “The Floating Hospital—A Legacy of Caring Since 1866” opened at the Citigroup Building at One Court Square and documents the organization’s work providing care to all New Yorkers. On display are photographs showing children receiving fresh milk and vaccinations and artifacts such as a ship’s bell from 1916 and an 1899 logbook of people who received care.

The exhibition was curated by graduate students from Queens College and St. John’s University who participated in a yearlong fellowship run by the Citi Center for Culture and Queens Library.  Jeffrey Delgado and Regina Carra from Queens College and Pamela Griffin-Hansen from St. John’s University pored through archives and made recommendations on what pieces to preserve and display.


The exhibition also highlights the advances in medicine made throughout the 18th and 19th century and will also feature photographs of patients receiving care in TFH’s facilities today.

“The Floating Hospital is one of the few remaining health care institutions driven by charity,” said TFH President and General Counsel, Sean Granahan. “In our long, storied history, we witnessed health care develop from the ground up, and have been a singular witness to the changes brought about through science. What hasn’t changed is our devotion to relieving those who need it, and this exhibit reflects over a century of dedication to that mission.”

Viewers will also see the entertainment provided to patients on these ships – from a traveling library to music performances, families were able to unwind when they received critical care.


“The most interesting part of working with The Floating Hospital has been the going through the vast amount of material they have in their archive. Their collection is fantastic and represents a long history of record keeping dating back to the beginning years of the institution,” said Delgado, a graduate fellow at Queens College.

The exhibition will run through June and the hospital is still looking for a permanent home. Today, a Queensbridge clinic provides services to those living in public housing and a primary health care clinic opened last year at Astoria-based nonprofit Reality Houses. TFH also operates five off-site clinics in homeless shelters in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

The organization runs a free transportation program called the Good Health Shuttle, which serves thousands of homeless families and residents of public housing.

For more information, visit the TFH website.