Monday, April 18, 2016

Museum of the City of New York

The Museum of the City of New York is located at the north end of the so-called Museum Mile, a mile-long stretch of 5th Avenue that runs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 82nd to El Museo del Barrio at 104th.  The MCNY itself is located at 103rd Street, accessible by the M1 bus, the 123 subway line, or via short walk from the Harlem 125th Street Metro North train station.

Approaching the museum from the north.
It's in a beautiful old brick and marble building.
Alexander Hamilton, America's original captain of finance.
Obligatory selfie as Sally & the girls head to the front door.
MCNY is one of my favorite NYC museums.  I finally got the chance to take Sally and the girls there on Friday during our first sightseeing trip of the year.  We're not going to Maine this year, unfortunately, and as a result, we're trying to make a bit more of what's located right around us.  I'll be archiving these explorations in a new tab, NYC and the Area.

MCNY is built like a townhouse, with the lower levels given over to admissions, a gift shop, a (free!) locker room, and restrooms.  From the first floor, you take a curving marble staircase up to the main levels, which house a variety of exhibits showing the different facets of the City's history.  On our trip, these included NYC's activist tradition, its upper-class extravagances (sponsored by Tiffany!), cartoons from The New Yorker, and Yiddish theater.

Sally heads up the grand staircase.
Advocacy is a way of life in New York.  Bicycle advocacy is a new
phenomenon, but it has changes the City profoundly.
Apocryphal sayings line the back staircase.
They're terrific! 
My favorite thing about MCNY is the movie Timscapes, a 22-minute multimedia history of the City and its place in the world.  Explorer Henry Hudson discovered New York Harbor, the Hudson River, and the island of Manhattan while working for the Dutch in the early 1600s.  He saw New York Harbor as perhaps the world's best, most well-protected natural port, noting that it is strategically located to allow access to the interior of the country via the river as well as to Long Island and the rest of the Eastern Seaboard.  The Dutch planted a colony at the southern tip of Manhattan Island, and the rest is history.  Trade grew as the colonies grew, and the nascent finance industry grew right alongside it, making fortunes and offering opportunity to people from all over the world.

My other favorite thing in the museum was the portrait gallery of prominent New Yorkers, including early colonists, statesmen like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, and latter dignitaries that made their name by, well, making money.
The modern history of ladies' fashion in one graphic.
A city of immigrants, New York has a long history of nativism, for better or worse.
Alexander Hamilton holds pride of place alongside Washington in the portrait gallery.
My favorite of the "Activist" collection, this exhibit traces the near-death
and resurrection of the South Bronx, where I worked when I first came to NYC.
A portrait from the Tiffany gallery.
There are lots of these, and many are absolutely stunning.
MCNY is a small museum, but it's well worth the trip.  You can see all of it in a couple of hours, or you can linger on the portraits, discussing the merits of having famous French painters paint vanity shots for the rich and famous.  Regardless, I highly recommend it, if only to catch Timescapes and get a sense of how New York came to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment