Thursday, June 2, 2011

Museum of the City of NY: 103rd and Fifth Ave

With all the hoopla surrounding the major museums in NYC (the MOMA, the Met, the Natural History, etc.), the smaller, more niche museums are often overlooked.  Did you even know there was a Museum of the City of New York?  I really didn't know what to expect (their website does not provide a great overview, but it does provide basics like hours and admission fees--Museum of the City of NY Info), but with about an hour, I got a good look into this rich museum.

About a third of the museum is closed for renovation, but what is open to the public, while a little disjointed (varying from a temporary photography exhibit called "Moveable Feast: Fresh Produce and the NYC Green Cart Program" to a time-line wall mural about "How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment"), is really worth a visit.

The museum also has vintage metal toys (see left), a wonderful collection of period furniture showcased in alcoves with distinct styles (including several Duncan Phyfe pieces) as part of its permanent exhibit of New York Interiors from 1690-1906, and the incredibly detailed Stettheimer Dollhouse with real miniature paintings like the Marcel Duchamp of "Nude Descending a Staircase" (see below left), and an interesting exhibit of memorabilia and NYC photographs from consummate NYC Tony Award winning performer Joel Grey.

However, I think one of the best highlights of this museum is the 23 minute film in the Timescapes viewing room about the history of New York City.  It weaves stories of immigrants, the development of communities like the Lower East Side, the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, and Wall Street.

It also explains the effects of public transportation and the policies of Fiorella LaGuardia and Robert Moses that created commercial areas completely separate from suburban commuter communities and what that did to the City when the economy faltered.  Whole areas of New York City became a kind of urban wasteland and it was only when grass roots initiatives for revitalizing the City coupled with increased investment in infrastructure and safety in the 1970s turned the tides around.  By the year 2000 New York City was again the fastest growing city in the country.  If you have an interest in history, a visit to this museum is a must.

Finally, I should mention that if you have a wedding or formal event to plan, you may want to consider the Museum of the City of New York.  With its grand staircase and marble foyer, it could be just the location to make your next event extra special.

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