27 Offbeat NYC Museums
Museum, Cortlandt Alley [Franklin/White] is one of the world's smallest museums, occupying what was once a freight elevator. Its showcase urges us to look at everyday objects from around the world with fresh eyes. Closed now until season three opens in spring—but you can see it through the viewing windows any time.
Once a ground-floor apartment window display, City Reliquary, 370 Metropolitan 718.782.4842, gives pride of place to NYC things that might have ended in landfill: subway tokens, rocks, seltzer makers, signs, Statue of Liberty replicas, 1939 World's Fair memorabilia or been lost to attics or time. Through February, an exhibit on donuts and the city.
Museum of American Finance, 48 Wall [William] 212.908.4110, calls itself a "chronicler of American financial achievement and development." Alexander Hamilton is its patron saint.
Noguchi Museum, 9-01 33rd Rd. [Vernon Blvd] LIC 718.204.7088, is one of the city's quiet jewels. Designed by artist Isamu Noguchi as a setting for his work, the galleries and sculpture garden are a reliably restorative pleasure.
Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts, 80 Hanson Pl. [S. Elliott/S. Portland] 718.230.0492, founded in 1999, continues its mission of showing current African Diasporan art and its reflection in and of an urban context.
Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, 338 Lighthouse Ave. 718.987.3500, in Staten Island, was established by Ms. Marchais in 1945, a fitting setting for her collection of Tibetan artworks, historical, religious and cultural items.
The Society of Illustrators, 128 E. 63rd [Park/Lex] 212.838.2560, is home to The Museum of American Illustration and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art.
'Life at home in mid-19th century New York City' is on view at the Merchant's House Museum, 29 E. 4th [Bowery/Lafayette] 212.777.1089—the merchant family being the Tredwells, who built the house in 1832. Family members lived there for almost a century before it was turned into a museum in 1936.
In 1654, Dr. Thomas Pell bought the land; in 1836, Robert Bartow built the house that in 1946 became the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, 895 Shore Rd. Pelham Bay Park, Bronx 718.885.1461. The house and the grounds aren't exactly Downton scale, but they're beautiful nonetheless:
The story of urban immigration is told by the Tenement Museum, 103 Orchard [Broome/Delancey] 212.982.8420, through its restored apartments of real families, a saloon and a sweatshop.
The Weeksville Heritage Center is located at 1698-1708 Bergen Street and was built between 1840 and 1883, vestiges of the community built by free blacks in what is now Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy community. It was formed by James Weeks, who bought land from the Lefferts family in 1838. Around him grew a close-knit community of several hundred, consisting of houses, churches, and a school.
Louis Armstrong House Museum, 34-56 107th St. [34th Ave./ 37th Ave.] 718.478.8274—Satchmo and Lucille's Corona house.
Many credit Antonio Meucci with creating the first telephone. He and his wife lived in this Staten Island house and welcomed revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi to stay with them for several years. The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, 420 Tompkins Ave. 718.442.1608.
Green acres and farm livin' the place for you? Queens County Farm Museum, 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy., Floral Park, 718.347.3276, the 'largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland,' dates back to 1697. The 47-acre working farm, complete with livestock, sells produce at Union Square Market.
Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, 7th Ave. and 27th, celebrates the past, present and future of fashion.
Nerdland meets Chuck E. Cheese, in a good way, at Museum of Math, 11 E. 26th [5th/Mad] 212.542.0566, where numbers are cool—and fun.
At the Museum of Sex, 233 5th [27th/28th] 212.689.6337, 'scholarship on sex and sexuality'. Also: Linda Lovelace.
At Riverdale's Hebrew Home, the Derfner Judaica Museum's collection includes over 250 items such as Hannukah lamps and Kiddush cups and a lamella amulet from the 2nd-4th century.
FINEST, BRAVEST and GREATEST
Honor the bravest at NYC Fire Museum, 278 Spring [Hudson/Varick] 212.691.1303, which traces firefighting since New Amsterdam days and has a special memorial to members of the FDNY who died on 9/11.
NYC Police Museum is in a temporary location at 45 Wall [Broad/William] while its Old Slip home undergoes renovation. Exhibitions highlight the history and traditions of the world's largest police department.
At Bronx Community College, an outdoor colonnade of 98 bronze busts called the Hall of Fame for Great Americans—the lineup includes Washington and Lincoln, but also Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Susan B. Anthony and Stephen Foster.
A cultural center with the Brooklyn Navy Yard as its subject, Bldg 92 was once the Marine Commandant's residence, now adapted with a four-story extension for use in exhibitions, tours and as an employment center.
City Island Nautical Museum, 190 Fordham St. Bronx 718.885.0008, tracks the history of this community and its long connection to the water.
The Maritime Industry Museum at Fort Schuyler features a large collection of ship models, artifacts from ships sunk around New York harbor, navigation instruments and an exhibit on the Evolution of Seafaring.
At Fort Hamilton, the Harbor Defense Museum, reminds you how important defending the waterways has been throughout the city's history with its collection of cannons, small arms, uniforms and military-themed art.
The Waterfront Museum, founded in 1986, is housed on 1914 Lehigh Valley Barge #79, and advocates for increased waterfront access.
Museum of the American Gangster, 80 St. Marks [1st/2nd] 212.228.5735, examines the ways in which crime has shaped 'shaping the politics, culture, myth and lore of New York City'.