The Road Less Travelled: The Museum of the City of New York
There is no scarcity of things to do in New York City, you know this and so do I: the world-renowned urban centre pulsates and throbs with a beating heart of its own. It is a place built on the backs of hard working migrants, a place that has adapted to the times and adopted ‘change’ as its middle name. New York is the type of city that offers so much, possibility too much in some cases, that even hedonists find themselves flustered when under her care. Landing in Gotham we all know the usual suspects we need to cross off our lists: there’s MoMA and Times Square. There’s the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge. However, if you’re looking for something a few steps off the beaten path then the Museum of the City of New York might be right up your alley.
It was certainly up mine, this quieter and less overrun find.
Located on the Upper East Side, on the edges of Harlem, the museum was founded in 1923 by a Scottish-born writer, the doors finally opening in 1932. The Victorian style building was the place where the ever-bourgeoning city of New York would be celebrated and revered, the museum reflecting the visions NYC residents past and present. A tribute to the city that never sleeps and the place where dreams are realized. It’s the sort of place that displays high (and low) brow art, though several of its collections are highly educational as well where guests can learn about how the city came to be and the way in which its current heritage of diversity and opportunity was cultivated. One is able to see the way in which New York has transformed over the years.
The four story museum houses an impressive collection of items that include engaging ever-changing exhibitions and ongoing ones that speak of social activism and historical foundations. There is antique furniture to admire and exquisite jewels from Tiffany & Co to lose your breath over. There are century old photographic prints and handwritten manuscripts scrawled in ink. If those things don’t do it for you then the paintings, sculpture and decorative arts certainly will. Between the theatrical memorabilia or though-provoking photographic series on Hurricane Sandy, there is bound to be something that catches your interest, causing a ripple of pleasure run through you knowing your $10 was well spent.
I came across the Museum of the City of New York when Mama Intolerant was in town. Having spent the morning at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx (post to come!) we wanted to avoid places that were overrun with tourists and would be an annoyance to make our way through. With that in mind we took the subway to E 125th in Harlem and walked along Park Avenue towards the museum. When we hit 110th Street we hugged the northeastern quadrant of Central Park before arriving at the museum short of breath and with hunger gnawing deep in our bellies. After paying our entrance fee we rocked up to the café where we took a short rest and had a bite to eat (beet chips? Yes, please). After satiating our temporary famine we spent the next hour and a half perusing rooms filled with curated goods sometimes making comments to one another though, more often than not, wandering off in the face of some piece we wanted to explore further.
Now while it wasn’t the MoMA or the Metropolitan – I mean, one is surely enough – the Museum of the City of New York was special in its own right and we found ourselves enjoying our time there to leave just minutes it closed. Feeling inspired and energized we finished off our day by entering Central Park and walking it the whole way through before returning to the concrete jungle of midtown and eventually making our way back to Brooklyn.
Where New York City was all around us, and most definitely on our minds.
Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue (at 103rd Street)
New York, New York
Tel: +1 (212) 534-1672
Open seven days a week from 10:00 – 18:00 (with the exception of holidays like Christmas).