Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029
Open: Sunday-Monday 10:00am-5:00pm/Tuesday-Wednesday Closed/Thursday 10:00am-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm
Admission: Adults $20.00/Seniors over 65 $14.00 (with ID) and Children under 19 and Members are Free; please check website for updates.
My review on TripAdvisor:
I have been a member of the Museum of the City of New York for almost twenty years and what I love about the museum is that its concentration is to be everything about New York City and what makes the City so great. Its development from a Dutch Colony to the Modern Metropolis that it is today. It covers the history so well that they created a permanent display entitled “New York at its Core”, an extensive history of the City from its start as being colonized by the Lenape Indians as a fishing and hunting set of villages on the island.
Each display takes you through a different point in the history of the development of the City and how each era brought dramatic changes to the fabric of the City from immigration over the years to the fires that leveled the original City and the raise of Wall Street and the Arts to make New York City the Capital of the World. The almost bankruptcy of the City in 1975 to the attacks on 9/11 have really shaped the direction and change in the City to the COVID-19 pandemic reshaping it again. We see how New York City continues to survive. The exhibition is now updated to add the COVID pandemic to the fabric of what is happening in New York City now. This exhibition will continue to evolve over the coming years.
The film “Timescapes” in the basement theater again tackles the issues of a changing City since its development and the City continues to morph over time. The movie narrated by Stanley Tucci tells the story of New York from the time of the Dutch settlement to the attacks of 9/11 and like “New York at its Core” the issues that come about after every event. The film is shown five times a day and do take the time to see it when visiting the museum.
Just recently I attended a special event at the Museum to honor the Founding Members of the “Talking Heads” Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth and their groundbreaking film “Stop Making Sense”. I was lucky to get tickets because the second I saw this on the museum listing I bought the tickets immediately. The event sold out quickly.
‘Talking Heads’ founders Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth
The event was discussion with the creators of the group and how the Talking Heads emerged as a popular group through the 1980’s and 90’s. I have to admit that the two of them have not changed much but looking a bit older. They enchanted the audience with their time with the group and some new things they have in the works. After a quick Q & A, we watched their popular concert film “Stop Making Sense”.
We had such a good time at the event, the I wrote about it for my blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com”:
Day Two Hundred and Eight: Private Members nights at the New York Museums:
On another recent trip, I visited the exhibition “New York New Music 1980-1986” which was an exhibition on the development of the music scene after the Disco era was over and the rise of MTV. You had a combination of Club Music, Hip Hop, New Wave and the English Wave from Australia and New Zealand coming into the United States plus a resurgence of Rock and Roll after years of the “Disco Duck”. The exhibition highlighted the music of Debbie Harry and Blondie, Run DMC, Cyndi Lauper and Madonna and the rise of music videos. The exhibition brought me back to my last years of high school and my college years as I remembered all these groups.
Over the years I have seen exhibitions on everything from the Bankruptcy exhibition of New York City and the rise of crime, the Gilded Era with Alice Claypoole Vanderbilt’s “Electric Light” dress that she wore to Alva Vanderbilt’s famous ball and the wonderful toy exhibitions of early playthings. I have also been to many lectures at the museum with guests such as former Brooklyn President Marky Markowitz.
In 2023, I visited the museum for the first time in months and was able to see the “Gingerbread House Bakeoff” exhibition of well-known and amateur bakers in New York City. The exhibition was a hold over from Christmas and it was interesting to see the detailed gingerbread houses that were on display.
There two that I really liked. One was of Madison Square Park at Christmas time and looked like the pictures I had just taken of the park.
Bryant Park at Christmas time in gingerbread
Christmas scene in New York City
The next exhibition I wanted to see before it closed was the “Food in New York” exhibition. It could have been a little more detailed than what I saw. I thought it was going to have more of the development and history of food in New York and how it pertains to today. It was more artwork related to modern food industry trends. It was interesting but not what I thought it was going to be.
‘Food in New York’ exhibition
Some of the artwork really stood out on the display. I like the Hispanic Ice Carts which you see all over Washington Heights and East Harlem during the warmer months.
Ice Cart “Pimp My Piragua” byt artist Miguel Luciano
Artist Miguel Luciano
“Twilight” by artist Suzanne Anker
The effects of pollination of crops and the loss of bees shown here.
Artist Suzanne Anker
I think the museum was looking for a more political and environmental view of food in New York City as opposed to the history and development. It still was an important issue. It also showed all the urban, community and roof gardens that are becoming part of the urban landscape. It is interesting how people are using space to grow food for the benefit of everyone. It was an interesting perspective.
The museum is really all things New York.
The History of the Museum of the City of New York:
(From the Museum of the City of New York website/Wiki):
The Museum of the City of New York is a history and art museum that was founded in 1923 by Henry Collins Brown. The red brick building with marble trim was built between 1929-30 and was designed by architect Joseph H. Freedlander in the neo-Georgian style with statues of Alexander Hamilton and DeWitt Clinton by sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman, which face Central Park from niches in the facade (Wiki).
The museum was originally located in Gracie Mansion, where available space was limited. One of the first exhibitions was “Old New York” in 1926. This took place in the Fine Arts Building on West 57th Street. The success of the project led to a search for a new, permanent headquarters for the museum (Wiki).
A design competition was held between five invited architects and the Colonial Revival design by Joseph H. Freelander was chosen. The City donated the site on Fifth Avenue and the funds for the construction of the museum was raised by public subscription. The original plans for the museum’s building were scaled back as a result of the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The building was finished and dedicated in 1932.
In 2000, there was talk by then Mayor Rudy Giuliani to move the museum to the historic Tweed Courthouse near City Hall but that was over-turned by the incoming Mayor, Michael Bloomberg. In protect the museum director, Robert R. McDonald resigned.
In coming new museum director, Susan Henshaw Jones, planned an extension to the museum and it was completed in 2008. The extension including renovating the existing gallery spaces and adding a new pavilion. New displays and a remounting of valuable artifacts were done to give the museum a refreshed look. In 2011, the Museum of the City of New York temporarily took over operation of the South Street Seaport Museum which itself reopened in 2012 (Wiki).
The museum has a collection of over 1.5 million objects including many items from the 19th and early 20th centuries including paintings, prints, costumes, decorative objects, furniture and an extensive collection of toys. There are also extensive collections of police and fire items as well as shop models, rare books and manuscripts (Wiki).