When Sara Cedar Miller was hired in 1984, Central Park Conservancy had only been up and running for four years. The park was still in poor condition and, as she recalled, every night on The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson would joke about how unsafe it was.  

She was tasked with photographing the park’s existing conditions and the night-and-day progress that was happening in the landscape. Her aim was to encourage New Yorkers and travelers alike to visit Olmsted and Vaux’s Manhattan masterpiece and support the growing Conservancy.  

Now, 40 years and two job titles later, a lot has changed. Today, Central Park welcomes over 42 million visitors annually and Central Park Conservancy serves as an inspiration to conservancies and friends groups across the country.  

“The best part was watching people not only trust the Conservancy but respect the park,” she said.  

Five years after coming onboard as a photographer, Miller, a trained art historian, transitioned into the role of park historian. In this role, she researched and wrote several books, including Before Central Park, which explored the park’s pre-history and took eight years to complete.  

Miller, who retired in June, continues to be fascinated by New York history and pledges to continue finding beauty in Olmsted and Vaux’s design for Central Park.  

“To this day, in Central Park— depending on the weather, the light, the season of the year, the work of the Conservancy— you can be surprised… All Olmsted landscapes are equally beloved because they bring you back to the essence of being human and being in nature.”