In The News
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:
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.
This is the prerecorded segment compiled from May 11th to be inserted within his live coverage on May 12th. The first half covers the history of the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys and the second half the new Brooklyn Seltzer Museum.
This is the live segment with Roger at the Museum and the anchors in the studio. Seltzer was flying!
Here is Roger Clark LIVE, speaking on air with anchor Pat Kiernan, in front of the filling machine:
On Sat, May 20, 2023, Yahoo News' Catherine Garcia, Night editor (what is a night editor?) wrote (compiled?) the following:
A trip to New York City isn't complete without a bagel, cheesecake, a slice of pizza, and a stop at the last standing seltzer shop. Brooklyn Seltzer Boys is in the Cypress Hills neighborhood and includes the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum with exhibits on the history of seltzer, how it's made and bottled, and a spritzing station. "We want to introduce the next generation to seltzer," owner Alex Gomberg told The New York Times.
Seltzer is the family business. In 1953, Alex's great-grandfather opened Gomberg Seltzer Works in Canarsie. Alex decided to reinvent the business, moving it to Cypress Hills, changing the name and opening the museum. The centerpiece of the new operation is the century-old carbonator, which puts bubbles into the triple-filtered tap water that's then delivered in hand-blown glass bottles to about 600 customers across New York City. "Good seltzer should hurt," Alex said. "It should be carbonated enough that it kind of stings the back of your throat."
The Brooklyn Seltzer Museum is open by appointment only. To start planning a visit, sign up on the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys' website for appointment notifications.
In June of 2023, our launch partners at Teachers College, Columbia University, published "Do You Know How to Design a Museum? TC students bring the story of seltzer to life in a new Brooklyn experience". Read it here or check-out some highlights below:
Ice cream, subways and even sex are among the topics you can explore at specialty museums around New York. But a new immersive experience focused on the history of seltzer comes into fruition this spring thanks to a collaboration with 16 Teachers College students and faculty member Yoo Kyung Chang, senior lecturer in the Communication, Media and Learning Technologies Design (CMLTD) program.
The Brooklyn Seltzer Museum, which opened May 6, was the culmination of approximately 10 weeks of work from the group, which leveraged learning design principles based on situated and constructivist learning theories and scholarship to develop, pitch and help execute permanent exhibits. After participating in a design workshop, students from across the College embarked on an authentic and challenging journey that included a needs assessment, design, iteration, and pitching with the client and subject matter expert.
“All of our students can really benefit from having a hands-on and authentic experience integrating classroom learning to practice with guidance from experts in the field,” explains Chang, who with museum exhibition designer Barry Joseph facilitated and guided the collaboration.
Building a hands-on learning experience at the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys factory, students focused on developing exhibits with effective learning methods and tech tools like virtual reality and digital media. Students also incorporated storytelling to support interdisciplinary learning across all age groups at the museum — the latest chapter for a New York family business established 80 years ago.
“I never thought seltzer could be a learning opportunity, but learning can happen anywhere,” explains CMLTD student Xiaoyan Qin, who describes the exhibit as a window through which one can learn more about everything from chemical engineering to the history of Jewish culture within New York City. “This has really opened my eyes to see the value of telling stories through objects. Instructional design can be very creative and go way beyond traditional teaching and learning.”
Qin and many of her peers plan to pursue careers in instructional design — and working outside of the classroom with a real client and the gravity of actual project constraints provided vital work experience.
“A real client is very different from a class project in that you have to work with real constraints, and every one of your designs has a direct consequence. You’re learning how to work remotely and be agile,” explains student Xichen Li, whose work focused on the interactive digital simulation for STEM learning used at the museum. “You have to predict and forecast the uncertainties, and develop back-up plans and solutions for the highest priorities.”
For student Helen Song, who years ago lived just minutes away from what would become the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum, the project quickly became a critical inflection point in her learning.
“It really prepared us mentally to work and know what we want to do in an actual career,” explains Song, who with her friends and classmates, was still working on the exhibits just hours before their opening. “We were exhausted, but happy…We wouldn’t have this opportunity as entry-level workers at entry-level jobs. The respect, levels of support were things I couldn’t imagine happening years ago.”
Song and classmates like Keying Chen celebrated by meeting museum-goers on opening day, and watching them engage with the class’ creations.
“It’s really touching to see how they really care about our work and how we can bring some changes with our work,” explained Chen. “I can be too in the weeds with the work, and the opening event was a moment that reminded me that I have the power to make a difference and I’m expected to make a difference.”
WTNH, which is Channel 8 in New Haven Connecticut, aired a 5 minute interview with Alex Gomberg in June 2023. This clip features the section where they ask Alex about the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum.
Channel 12 News in Brooklyn ran this two minutes piece on the Museum as well.
New York University, who was one of our partners for connecting with graduate students to help us develop the exhibits, produced this fantastic video to promote our relationship.