A view of the second floor collection at the New...

A view of the second floor collection at the New York City Fire Museum Credit: All photos: Danny Ghitis

To say that the history of New York City is intimately tied to its fire department is an understatement.

Firefighting shaped everything from politics to the street grid, and of course was an essential part of the 9/11 story.

A visit to the New York City Fire Museum, with its collection of 10,000 objects, brings that past vividly to life.

We spoke with curator Damon Campagna, who gave us the lowdown on four must-see objects at the museum:

Chief, preserved dog

"Chief was a firehouse dog from Engine 203 in Brooklyn. Around 1936 or so, there was a fire - the family was evacuating the house, and the young boy went back into the house to get the family's cat. The firemen went in after the boy - he was 16 - and the dog went in after the firemen. The firemen took the boy out, and the dog took the cat out. The boy died but the cat lived. [Chief] won all sorts of awards for it."

Punch bowl set, 1872

"It's 800 ounces of silver. It was built in New York, commissioned for a fire chief in New Orleans. Each cup is for an individual company in the department. The ladle is shaped like a helmet, and an inscription of all the chiefs is on the side. There's really nothing like it."

1875 Hand-drawn Horse Reel, Steinway Hose Company No. 7

"When [piano maker] Steinway moved out to Queens, they basically built a company town, and they had their own fire department. This is a pretty fantastic piece. It's in its parade mode, [with] plumes on the top and kerosene lamps on the hose reel."

Brass trumpet c. 1851

"[It] belonged to Boss Tweed. William Tweed was a fireman in the volunteer department. In those days, from about post-Revolutionary War to about 1865, ... working in a volunteer company became a stepping-stone to politics. This was given to Tweed by his engine company, America 6, when he became an alderman. It was pretty much a traditional [present]."

If you go: The New York City Fire Museum is at 278 Spring St. Closed Mondays.

Latest video