The City of New York overflows with a spectacle of people, objects, and facades. It is truly an outdoor museum. So it should come as no surprise to learn that there is an indoor museum appropriately titled the “Museum of the City of New York” located on “Museum Mile,” upper Fifth Avenue, directly across from Central Park.
This large, elegant, colonial revival mansion looks like a private home from the Gilded Age and represents the ultimate essence of New York style — classical on the outside, but modern and ready on the inside — for a diverse series of exhibits. This is a museum whose holdings are fluid, where new exhibitions continuously enter and exit, appropriately mirroring the important city outside while honoring NYC’s diversity, continuous transformation, and fast paced mode of living.
There are, of course, permanent holdings at the Museum of the City of New York, such as the six furnished rooms on the second floor representing an early 1600s Dutch kitchen up to a 19th Century Victorian parlor from the Gilded Age. A most unique display off the first floor is the 1935 “Stettheimen Doll House” consisting of two floors and 12 rooms lovingly furnished with precious tiny pieces of furniture and household items, accurately scaled. But the delight in this petite home consists of 15 miniature 2” x 3” paintings by the likes of modern artists such as Marcel Duchamps and Gaston Lachaise.
“Absorb it all. Relish this city. No two places are alike and change is a constant in NYC. There is always something to see, admire, and contemplate. Continuous surprises are around every corner.”
Yet the strength of this Museum consists of its intriguing, ever changing displays appropriate to NYC. Currently on display is “The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811- 2011.” Our great Gotham built up from lower Manhattan, i.e. the Battery, and the diagonal, crisscross maze of streets and place names downtown, even today, are confusing. Thus a daring master plan of straight lines, right angles, consecutively numbered streets and avenues was proposed in 1811 and took some 200 years to enact. This fascinating exhibition details — via maps, photos, portraits, topographical maps, and videos — NYC’s visionary urban plan which literally paved the way for our present Big Apple. Especially captivating are the old photos of NYC landmarks, then and now.
Enjoy the absorbing visual display “Stories the City Tells Itself/The Video Art and Photography of Neil Goldberg.” Our daily activities and habits are elevated to a well deserved level of importance and become art through the eye of Neil Goldberg. He honors the small but significant actions unique to urban life. They form a necessary whole, and so each and every detail, no matter how mundane and miniscule, contributes to the texture of this great city.
“Police Work/Photographs by Leonard Freed 1972-1979” are a series of black and white prints taken “on the beat,” which realistically detail a day in the life of NYC police officers and the raw world they face. These sharp photos capture the grit, danger, and ugly but truthful underbelly of our not always fair city.
Each day, when you leave your now familiar community, remember that the blocks you travel en route to another destination hold something new and unexpected. Absorb it all. Relish this city. No two places are alike and change is a constant in NYC. There is always something to see, admire, and contemplate. Continuous surprises are around every corner.
A city as rich and varied as ours deserves a shiny museum full of celebratory, exciting and realistic stories to tell. The displays inside The Museum of the City of New York are both permanent and transient, like NYC itself. Well worth a visit, but allow more then a NY minute! There is an affordable downstairs café and a gift shop. If you are a NYC employee, prove as such and you can enter for next to nothing!WHERE: Museum of the City of New York 1220 Fifth Avenue @ 103rd Street, New York, New York Ph. 212.534.1672 WHEN: Open Daily 10AM – 6PM TICKETS: Adults $10/ seniors and students $6 / family $20
By: Joanne Theodorou