Sunday, June 5, 2011

MTA Museum (Brooklyn): Boerum Pl. & Schermerhorn St.

You might think that the MTA Museum is for children, but you'd be wrong.  Yes, they do have over 19 vintage railway, trolley, bus, and subway cars to explore (see above), an interactive area devoted to educating about various power sources and pollution, storytelling events, and a luncheon area for children's birthday parties, but they have much much more.

There are interesting historical exhibits that describe the dangers and meager wages of the subway tunnel builders, the development of the trolley and subway systems, the evolution of the cash-token-metro card, and the pivotal role played by Robert Moses in the creation of the public mass transit system.  The 60,000 square foot museum also houses over 6,000 objects that illustrate the technological history of the NYC transit system.  Finally, they also have a summary exhibit of transit art; have you ever noticed the interesting little sculptures, mosaics (like the Roy Lichtenstein -- see left), or vintage tiles that adorn the walls of various subway stations (see Transit Art)?

I will share with you all what I found most interesting about the museum, although I doubt if the museum curators wanted this to be the focus.  Lining the walls of the perfectly preserved train cars in the lower level are vintage advertisements.  Many of the products are still available (like Heinz 57, Wrigley's Spearmint Gum, and Clairol hair color dye), but there are also really interesting period public announcements and advertisements for issues and products that we don't have anymore (shirt collar ads and announcements about tuberculosis -- see photo at left and below).  I loved looking through all of these advertisements and I hope visitors take the time to appreciate them.

If you ever find yourself in Brooklyn Heights or before you take the free shuttle to the Brooklyn Ikea from Borough Hall in Brooklyn, you may want to walk a few blocks and stop by the MTA Museum headquartered in the decommissioned but still operational subway station that functions as the museum's main location (the annex is located at Grand Central -- please see my prior blog about Grand Central).  In about an hour, you can take a tour (check hours and admission info at MTA Museum Info) and enjoy learning about the MTA and how it has completely transformed and enabled the development of NYC into the powerhouse for power players that it has become.

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