Road Trip! Destination: Museum gems of NYC
Most art lovers and museum-goers headed to New York City are likely to have a museum or two on their must-see list.
The big institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum or the American Museum of Natural History are on almost everyone's radar.
They require no introductions or explanations and are prominently displayed on maps aimed at visitors.
But that would mean missing out on smaller, less well-known but equally rewarding museums that are often tucked in corners and side streets.
This list offers seven suggestions, all of which are within easy reach of public transportation and offer the bonus of introducing visitors to unexplored neighborhoods just slightly off the well-beaten tourist path.
To discover additional sites targeted to your interests, click on the amazingly diverse list of museums and galleries posted on the NYC Official Guide at www.nycgo.com.
Alice T. Carter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Museum of Chinese in America
Viewed from the outside, this contemporary glass-fronted building looks like a trendy, upscale Manhattan boutique. In actuality, it's a 13,200-square-foot space, designed by Maya Lin and dedicated to preserving and presenting the history, heritage, culture and diverse experiences of people of Chinese descent in the United States.
Since its opening in 2009, it has attracted a growing number of visitors with its interactive displays and temporary exhibits that tell the stories and journeys of the many communities of Chinese Americans. Exhibits look at more than two centuries of relationships between China and the United States. Two current exhibits focus on fashions — Front Row: Chinese American Designers and Shanghai Glamour: New Women 1910s – 40s.
Public walking tours of the Chinatown neighborhood that begin at 1 p.m. Saturdays from April through December offer insights into how Chinatown restaurants evolved over time or reveal how Chinese-American households prepare for and celebrate Chinese holidays. Details: 212-619-4785 or www.mocanyc.org
New York Transit Museum
The largest museum in the United States devoted to urban public-transportation history can be found in a historic 1936 IND subway station in Brooklyn Heights. Exhibits concentrate on vehicles that have kept New Yorkers and visitors on the move below ground and on the surface from the early 1800s through the 21st century.
Full-size vintage vehicles, as well as a collection of 50 detailed models, trace the evolution of subways, elevated trains, buses and streetcars along with multiple styles of turnstiles, fare-collection devices and a working signal tower.
The “Steel, Stone, and Backbone” exhibit recounts the building of New York City's 100-year-old subway system, and the interactive exhibition “On the Streets” provides an in-depth look at New York City's trolleys and buses. Details: 718-694-1600 or www.mta.info/mta/museum
The National Museum of the American Indian – New York
Located within the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House near the lower tip of Manhattan, the permanent exhibition contains nearly 700 works of native art from throughout North, Central and South America. On display are a colorful variety of headdresses, including a magnificent Kayapó krok-krok-ti, a macaw-and-heron-feather ceremonial headdress and objects that range from an Apsáalooke (Crow) robe illustrated with warriors' exploits and a detailed Mayan limestone bas relief depicting a ball player to a Mapuche kultrung, or hand drum. Details: nmai.si.edu
The Frick Collection
See masterpieces the way they were meant to be displayed — on the walls of an opulent Fifth Avenue mansion. When he died in 1919, Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick bequeathed his New York residence and the most outstanding of his many artworks to establish a public gallery. The Frick Collection now houses more than 1,100 works of art created between the Renaissance and the late 19th century.
Carefully selected French, Italian, and English furniture, Sèvres and Chinese porcelains, oriental carpets, and clocks decorate the rooms, as do paintings and sculptures by artists who include Rembrandt, Bellini, El Greco, Goya, Vermeer, Fragonard, Gainsborough, Whistler, Houdon and Renoir.
The museum hosts temporary exhibits such as “The Impressionist Line From Degas to Toulouse-Lautrec” a collection of 58 mid- to late-19th century drawings and prints from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., through June 16 and “Precision and Splendor: Clocks and Watches at The Frick Collection through Feb. 2. Details: 212-288-0700 or www.frick.org
Museum of the City of New York
A visit to this museum is almost a sure bet you'll discover interesting facts and ideas about the city's past, present and future. Start with “Timescapes: A Multimedia Portrait of New York,” a 22-minute film that reveals how New York City grew from a tiny handful of Europeans, Africans and Native Americans to an international metropolis. The story unfolds on three screens filled with animated maps, photos, prints and paintings from the museum's collections.
The ongoing “Activist New York” exhibit covers New Yorkers protesting and supporting issues as diverse as historic preservation, civil rights, wages, sexual orientation and religious freedom through displays of artifacts, buttons, posters and multimedia presentations, from the 17th century to the present. Details: 212-534-1672 or www.mcny.org
The Morgan Library & Museum
Between 1902 and 1906, financier and book collector J. Pierpont Morgan added a library to house and display his vast collection that ranges from Egyptian art and Renaissance paintings to print artifacts from American history and objects that include Chinese porcelains, ancient seals, tablets and papyrus fragments from Egypt and the Near East.
Though Oct. 6, the library will continue the “Treasures From the Vault” exhibit with 30 items from the collection. Some are directly related to Morgan's life — a stock certificate from the United States Steel Corporation that represents the purchase that gave him control of almost half the nation's steelmaking capacity.
Others were acquired because of their interest or historic value — a 20-foot-long mid-15th-century English cookery scroll containing nearly 200 recipes in Middle English; autograph music manuscripts by Wagner, Verdi and Britten; and Jane Austen's letters to her sister, Cassandra, that offer glimpses into her private life. Details: 212-685-0008 or www.themorgan.org
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Most of us have heard the word but don't exactly know what a tenement is. But in the late 19th and early 20th century these cramped, often dark, apartment buildings were home to literally thousands of immigrants and newcomers who lived on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum offers a look inside these homes with guided tours of apartments inside 97 Orchard. The building has been restored to re-create immigrant life in different eras.
Tours also concentrate on businesses that occupied street-level commercial spaces offering goods, services and employment to the residents. Details: 212-982-8420 or www.tenement.org