There are hundreds of museums and cultural institutions in New York City and it could take a lifetime to see them all. For some people, though, it could seem like a lifetime just to explore one art museum! The reality is that many people avoid going to museums because they fear becoming bored or they lack the patience to take in the exhibits and learn something new. Like Disneyworld, you cannot expect to cover the entirety of a large museum in one visit; you must pick and choose.
For those people and for others who might like a more quirky sort of museum experience, there are a multitude of small museums with single themes that do not take long to explore and are ideal for children, teenagers and the less-patient. There are so many of these small, specific museums throughout New York that I can only touch on a few here. Why not try one (or two, or three) with or without your children this winter and see if you might just turn into, yes, AMUSEUM PERSON!
The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
Two East 91st Street (5th Ave)
Not really in the quirky category or the tiny category, I mention this museum because it is located in Andrew Carnegie’s old mansion surrounded by a lovely courtyard. The exhibits focus on everyday items, such as furniture, computers and toothbrushes, and how designers make these functional items interesting and artistic. All age groups can relate to the concept of design.
The Museum at FIT
7th Ave. bet. 27th & 28th Streets
The Fashion Institute of Technology’s Museum contains the largest collection of costumes, textiles and apparel dating back to the 18th century. There are many special exhibits ranging from jewelry design to fashion photography and fashion photos are everywhere. Sometimes a photo shoot may be taking place.
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum
103 Orchard Street
This is a glimpse of the melting pot that is America. The cramped tenement apartment that houses the museum once was home to a German Jewish family in the 1870s, an Eastern European Orthodox Jewish family in 1918, and an Italian Catholic Family in the 1930s. In fact, between 1863 and 1935, 7,000 people from 20 nations passed through buildings and apartments like this one.
The Paley Center for Media (Formerly The Museum of Television and Radio)
25 West 52nd Street
The Paley Center is dedicated to audio-visual artifacts with a collection of over 50,000 television and radio shows. Visitors can pick from the library and watch at a video console. What do you think our children would think of Archie Bunker or the family dinner table from Leave it to Beaver? Special Exhibits change regularly.
The New York City Fire Museum
278 Spring Street
Located in an old firehouse, the museum is filled with fire engines, equipment and firefighters’ clothing from various time periods. There are paintings and photos all around and off-duty FDNY firefighters do their best to tell the stories of the men and women who have served over the years.
The New York City Police Museum
100 Old Slip (across the street from the Wall Street “Bull” statue)
A bit larger but similar to the Fire Museum, the Police Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the world’s largest and most famous police departments. Memorabilia lines the walls, from uniforms, badges and medals to motorcycles and a squad car. There is also an explanation of the structure and function of the modern police department as well as a forensic science exhibit.