Art Works Blog

Hidden Gems among NYC Museums

The Met, MoMA, the Guggenheim, and the Whitney are some of New York City’s most famous museums for a reason. But in addition to these major jewels, the city has plenty of hidden gems as well. We pulled together a few of our favorite off-the-beaten-track Blue Star Museums throughout New York, all of which would make the perfect complement to any tour of the Big Apple.

Mmuseumm

Not many museums can claim to occupy an abandoned elevator shaft. But Mmuseumm’s unusual setting is more than fitting for its curious collection of objects, which range from corn flakes to a broken lava lamp, all neatly organized within a 60-square-foot space. If you’re left pondering and puzzling over the why of it all, then that’s exactly the point: to get you thinking about our relationship with the manufactured accoutrements of life, and how they illuminate the absurdities, banalities, and frightening realities of our existence.

Museum at Eldridge Street

Opened in 1887, the Eldridge Street Synagogue was once a magnificent house of worship that welcomed the great waves of Eastern European Jews who immigrated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although a small community of Orthodox Jews continues to pray here, the synagogue—which has been designated a National Historic Landmark—also houses a museum, which shares the history of Jewish migration to the United States, and illuminates how Jewish immigrants lived and prayed as they formed new communities. Today, people of diverse faiths and nationalities live in the surrounding neighborhood, which the museum through multicultural festivals and events.

Rubin Museum of Art

Despite major advances in transportation, the Himalayas remain one of the world’s most inaccessible regions. So if you find you can’t make it there, the Rubin Museum of Art will instead bring the region’s riches to you. Opened in 2004 by Shelley and Donald Rubin, the museum introduces visitors to the art, philosophies, and history of the Himalayas through ancient and contemporary artwork, as well as a full calendar of events.

New York City Fire Museum

The origins of FDNY—affectionately known as New York’s Bravest—go back to the 1600s when the Dutch first arrived in what was then New Amsterdam. Today, New York City’s fire department is the largest municipal fire department in the nation, second only in the world after Tokyo. So it goes without saying that a museum dedicated to FDNY includes a fascinating array of historical equipment, photographs, and other memorabilia that document the evolution of firefighting, and the city’s major historical moments. Housed in a renovated firehouse built in 1904, the museum features collection highlights such as a double-decker engine that was present at State of Liberty’s opening celebration, painted leather buckets, horse-drawn ladder wagons, and artifacts salvaged from 9/11, when 343 FDNY members lost their lives.

Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden

In a city where even a balcony is considered enviable outdoor space, it’s difficult to imagine a 23-acre estate gracing 61st Street and 1st Avenue. But in 1799, when Manhattan only extended north to 14th Street, it was still possible (especially if you were the daughter of John Adams, who originally owned the Mount Vernon estate, naming it in honor of George Washington’s Virginia manor). In 1826, what was originally the home’s carriage house was converted into a hotel—a fashionable country retreat from the urban sprawl. Today, the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden brings visitors back to the 19th century through eight fully-furnished period rooms, as well as a small (but still lovely and lush) section of the original gardens.

Museum of the City of New York

Cultural melting pot. Artistic hub. Financial powerhouse. Center of social activism. Throughout its history, there has never been one way to describe the many facets of New York City. But the Museum of the City of New York tries its best, giving visitors a taste of the many people and events that have made New York the city it is, and sparking the imagination for what the city might still become.

Museum of Chinese in America

Strolling through New York’s Chinatown is one of the most city’s most exhilarating sensory experiences. Learn about the stories that shaped this neighborhood—and this country—at the Museum of Chinese in America, which offers guided tours of surrounding Chinatown, as well as thousands of artifacts that chronicle 160 years of Chinese-American history. The building itself is an homage to the contributions of Chinese-Americans: it was designed by Maya Lin, one of nation’s leading architects and artists, and the force behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

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