There's more to great museums in New York City than just taking another trip through Natural History. As the weather outside turns frightful and you start looking for fun indoor things to do in New York, you may be wondering if it’s worth a trip to Queens to check out the Museum of the Moving Image. After living in Queens for more than a year, I finally dragged myself over to check out this famous media museum for myself.
Spoiler alert: this was one of the most entertaining museums that I’ve been to in New York City, and I easily spent almost 3 hours just looking at everything.
First opened in 1988, the Museum of the Moving Image exists to help the public understand appreciate the art, history, technique, and technology of media through a collection of different artifacts, programs, screenings, and events. Whether you are looking for more on the history of cinema, or you’re curious about how the entertainment industry has evolved over the years, you’re promised something interesting and unique at one of the most famous places in Queens.
Getting to the Museum of the Moving Image is pretty simple, as Astoria is served by a few subway lines. You can take the R (and the M on weekdays) to Steinway Street, or the N/W to 36th Avenue. The museum is also located right near a movie theater and a few chain restaurants.
Like most other museums in New York City, the Museum of the Moving Image features an ever-changing list of exhibitions. However, one of the permanent programs is the Jim Henson Exhibition.
Jim Henson was an artist, cartoonist, and puppeteer who created some of the greatest characters in entertainment history. No matter who you are, you’ve likely heard of at least one of his famous creations - Kermit, Ernie, Rowlf the Dog, Big Bird, and so many others. The exhibit gives you an inside look at Henson’s life, and how he came to develop his puppets.
When I say an “inside look,” you really do get to experience everything about Henson’s career. There are sketches of the characters, first drafts of different puppets, and even Henson’s membership card with The Puppeteers of America.
You learn how The Muppets and Sesame Street all came to be, and how it involved more than just making some sketches and hoping they were a hit.
There is even a screen playing every episode of The Muppet Show on constant loop.
Have a future puppeteer with you? Families looking for things to do with kids in New York City will probably enjoy themselves here. You can take the time to create your own muppet, and there is another section where you can put on your own puppet show.
Lovers of movies and television need not travel to Los Angeles to learn more about the history of the entertainment industry. The Museum of the Moving Image also features the permanent “Behind the Screen” exhibition, where you can find artifacts, artwork, and other cool relics of the movies and shows of yesterday.
I don’t think I can accurately summarize all of the relics you can find in this exhibit, but I’ll try. First up, there’s old-school arcade games like Donkey Kong and Pong. Apparently, you can play these games. Unfortunately, I don’t carry coins on me, so I was left to just look at them.
While the Museum of Natural History goes through one aspect of our history, the Museum of the Moving Image goes through our history of entertainment. Lovers of Old Hollywood can find plenty of items to showcase how we have always used merchandising to market our favorite stars and shows. Museum visitors learn about the practice of royalties and licensing, and how these combine to give us some of the coolest keepsakes.
Of course, there’s more that goes into movie making than you even realize. This includes costume design and screenwriting. The Museum of the Moving Image features exhibits on both of these, with costumes on display from movies like Chicago and shows like the original Dallas.
You’ll also find shots of various screenplays, including Citizen Kane.
Once upon a time, when movies didn’t cost $15 per ticket, theatres and drive-ins were the places to be to catch the newest flick. The Museum of the Moving Image showcases these times with a huge wall of pieces.
There’s old movie posters…
The original usher’s uniform from Radio City…
And plenty more to see! Check out those ticket prices! (And weep accordingly.)
If you’re interested in a fun and affordable indoor place to go in New York City but you’re wondering, “is it worth it to go to Queens?” then I’ll make it easy and say “absolutely.” The Museum of the Moving Image has so many things to see and experience that I don’t think a single blog post can capture them all. Whether you’re a casual movie fan or you spend your free time studying the history of media, you’ll find something interesting at the Museum of the Moving Image.