Museums are EVERYWHERE in NYC. Sometimes the most unique ones are overlooked and harder to find. #DoWhatLocalsDo and avoid the tourist crowds and see the hidden exhibits during your stay in NYC. By Local Expeditions team member Stephanie Schroeder.
There are the Met and the MoMA, of course. And the Whitney, the Guggenheim and the Brooklyn Museum, which has raised its visibility and stature in recent years. But, plenty of other museums in New York City exist that are worth a visit. It’s not easy to ferret out what institutions are here, when they are open and where to find them, so we’ve put together this guide of some of the most interesting, important, and off-beat museums to seek out.
SQUAT, GARDEN AND MORE
MoRUS, the Museum of Urban Reclaimed Space, is an effort of love, a small historical museum of grassroots activism run by volunteers. MoRUS documents “efforts to create community spaces on the Lower East Side, especially those that ‘reclaim’ space that has been taken over by city bureaucracies or corporations.” MoRUS also has exhibitions and educates about the “political implications of how social structures shape and control our space and take a long-term historical perspective on how the urban landscape evolves through cycles.” If you want to see NYC through the eyes of a LES (Lower East Side) activist, the Museum of Urban Reclaimed Space is the place for you! Located on the LES at 155 Avenue C (at E 10th Street), MoRUS asks for a $5 donation. Closed on Mondays, the museum is open 11AM-7PM Tuesday and Thursday-Sun and 11AM-3PM on Wednesdays.
LEARN ABOUT TALL BUILDINGS IN SINGLE VISIT
I found the Skyscraper Museum when I was making a NYC itinerary for friends from Copenhagen who are into architecture and engineering. It’s a cool place, billing itself as “the world’s first and foremost vertical metropolis” with lots of engineering history, urban planning information, design esoterica, and architectural models and displays to view – and you don’t have to strain your neck in the process! The Skyscraper Museum is located in Battery Park in lower Manhattan at 39 Battery Place. Museum and hours are 12-6 PM, Wednesday-Sunday. General admission is $5, $2.50 for students and seniors and all galleries and facilities are wheelchair accessible.
IT’S HERE IT’S QUEER
A good choice for anyone with an interest LGBTQ art and history, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is the prime forum in NYC for preserving and exhibiting LGBTQ art and artists. Located in SoHo, Leslie-Lohman, not only exhibits artwork, but also puts on plays, hosts storytelling series, film screenings, readings, and other LGBTQ-related events. The space houses a permanent collection comprised of 30,000 objects dating back to the 1600s. These two collections are stored in five locations and have been professionally cataloged and preserved. Located at 26 Wooster Street (between Grand and Canal Streets), the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is open 12AM-6PM, Tuesday-Sunday 12-8PM on Thursday, and closed on Mondays and all major holidays. Admission to Leslie-Lohman is free and the museum gallery is fully wheelchair accessible.
IT’S HERE IT’S EVEN QUEERER
For a more grassroots perspective on LGBTQ art, history and activism, check out the offerings of the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History. I’ve seen some amazing exhibitions at this museum, which pops up at various locations. Their website states, “The Pop-Up Museum of Queer History is a grassroots organization that transforms spaces into temporary installations dedicated to celebrating the rich, long, and largely unknown histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. We believe that our community – and especially our youth – deserve to know our history. If you don’t know you have a past, how can you believe you have a future?” Check out The Pop-Up Museum of Queer History’s Facebook page for current information.
NOW MORE THAN EVER
The Peace Museum NY is not quite yet a reality, at least not in a physical, bricks and mortar sense. But its stated mission, to use participatory “arts, community, public space, positivity, and joyful events to shift our global value system to one of love, compassion, generosity and inclusion, inspiring all to find peace in their own hearts in order to create, celebrate and share peace in our world, now,” is certainly a reality! The organization sponsors regular bike rides to places of peace and does, indeed inspire. Find the Peace Museum NY on its website and on Facebook, where new events are added all the time.
FEMINISM IS FOR EVERYONE
Geared toward global activism with a Black Feminist focus, the Museum of Women’s Resistance (MoWRe), according to its Facebook description, puts on “year-round exhibitions and programs that include historical and contemporary objects, as well as commissioned art, sculptures, textiles, and pottery. Video and sound stations provide selections from historical and contemporary interviews, literature, proverbs, prayers, folk tales, songs, and oral epics from the African continent as well as the African Diaspora. MoWRe has a special focus on promoting Transnational as well as Black Feminist histories and traditions, and is especially interested in promoting women’s demonstrated capacity to reach across chasms of race, class, sexual orientation, geography, and religion to mount resistance and build movements for social justice. Located at 279 Empire Blvd (between Rogers and Nostrand Avenues) in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the Museum of Women’s Resistance is open 10:30AM-5:30PM Monday through Friday. Entrance fees are as follows: Adults, $7, Seniors & Students, $5, while children get in FREE.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
Of all places, the Morbid Anatomy Museum truly has something for everyone. You’ll find, of course, exhibits, lectures, a library – and a cafe. Just want a cup of coffee, hold the morbid? The cafe is open from 8AM – 8PM Monday-Friday, 10AM – 8PM on Saturday, and 10AM – 6PM on Sunday. The museum roasts their own pour-over blend which they call Black Gold. And, they use espresso roasted by the local roasting company, Variety.
The Morbid Anatomy Museum hosts the kind of temporary exhibitions that very few larger museums can produce; shows both large and small, drawing on private and public collections and calling on the scholarship and expertise of the greater Morbid Anatomy community. Their permanent collection houses a research library of over 1,000 books as well as artifacts such as memorial artworks, medical moulages, wax embryological models, natural history specimens, and a variety of uncanny artworks and artifacts from around the world.
The exhibition space & library are open from 12PM – 6PM, every day except Tuesday. Admission to the exhibition & library is $12. Seniors & students are $10, and children 12 and under are free. The store is open from 12PM – 8PM Monday-Saturday and 12PM – 6PM on Sunday.
We at Local Expeditions have a tour in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood that stops at the Museum of Morbid Anatomy. Check out our sneak-peek promo of GOWANUS? YES, GO ON US!
Do you dig a museum on the down low in NYC you’d like to share with folks who like to #DoWhatLocalsDo? Please tell us: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will share your favorite museum on social media!