New York City has a long and zany history to it. It’s pretty incredible to think about all of the people who have lived here, the places they have gone, and the things they have seen. For the longest time, I’ve wanted there to be a place to learn about the history of New York City. As it turns out, that spot is already very much around, and it’s at the Museum of the City of New York.
The Museum of the City of New York is located on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street. The easiest way to get there is to take the 6 up to 103rd Street and walk over a few blocks. It’s right next to Central Park, at the very top of Museum Mile.
Founded in 1923, The Museum of the City of New York was built to preserve and present the history of New York City and its people.
I, in all honesty, had never even heard of the museum until I had a sponsored Instagram post pop up in my feed. After visiting the Museum of Natural History, I figured there had to be a similar museum about New York. Most of the people who I have mentioned the Museum of the City of New York to have also never heard of it. Let this post be your inspiration to go visit.
So, what can you find in the Museum of the City of New York? Housed in the museum are more than 1.5 million items, including paintings, drawings, prints, and artifacts from some of the biggest parts of New York City history.
One of the great things about the Museum of the City of New York is that there is so much to see that it’s impossible for me to capture everything in just one blog post. Each time I turned a corner, I saw something else that caught my eye and that I tried to photograph. My mom and friends ended up getting an overabundance of “this is so awesome!” text messages.
My visit started with a trip through time. The museum covers different decades throughout New York City’s history, with items from some of the major periods, from the Roaring 20s to the 9/11. I can’t include every single thing (you’ll have to go check the museum out for yourself, wink wink), but here are some of the highlights.
(A model of) the shovel used to break ground on the subway.
The Great Depression display includes foot powder, a toothbrush, and bottles from Hadley Rescue Hall, where struggling New Yorkers could go during the Depression.
A signed baseball from Jackie Robinson and Jim Brown.
“Welcome to Fear City,” a survival guide for tourists during the 60s and 70s. More on this crazy time period can be found here.
Guest list from the famed Studio 54. Recognize any names?
As with every museum, the Museum of the City of New York has different exhibits at any given time. During my visit, I got to check out Activist New York, which covers the history of protest in New York City.
As part of Activist New York, you’ll see headlines and facts from every protest subject.
Before my visit, I knew that New York has always been the center for protest, but seeing everything on display really gave me an idea of just how much history has been made here. The exhibit includes everything from Prohibition to Gay Liberation, and ends with Black Lives Matter.
There are also various items on display, so you can get a feel for what people wore/gave out during the protests.
One of the coolest parts of the Museum of the City of New York is that there is just so much to see. Currently on exhibit is Interior Lives: Contemporary Photographs of Chinese New Yorkers.
This exhibit features beautiful works by three photographers, who explore the lives of Chinese Americans in New York City’s nine predominantly Chinese neighborhoods.
Rebel Women: Defying Victorianism details the badass women who were the first to challenge society’s ideas on everything from beauty to employment. The exhibit details the women of the Victorian era and the beginnings of the suffragette movement.
Cute shoes, right? These flats are crafted in such a flimsy way because women weren’t really expected to do much labor. I doubt these shoes would be good for many things.
You’ve probably heard of famous women in history like Susan B. Anthony, but Rebel Women introduces you to pioneers who you may not know. Women like Dr. Susan Smith McKinney-Steward, New York’s first black female physician.
The exhibit is a great source for inspiration, with quotes painted on the walls that serve as a kick in the ass from the women who came before us.
Another photo exhibit is Through a Different Lens. This area covers many of Stanley Kubrick’s photos throughout the years. If photography is your thing, this is a must-see spot.
Ever wonder how so many people can live in New York City and there isn’t more disease running rampant? Germ City takes a look at the history of diseases like Cholera, Polio, Measles, and so much more.
There’s some science involved. Science is so not my thing, so I skipped over all that. If you’re into science, well, this is perfect for you.
I did, however, enjoy seeing the different health-related artifacts. This massive thing is an Iron Lung, and it was used to help Polio patients breathe through their paralyzed chest muscles.
Before you make your way back out to Fifth Avenue, I highly recommend sitting in on Timescapes. This free movie offers a brief, but thorough, explanation on how New York City grew to today’s heights. It explains why the city was built on a grid pattern, and why the outer boroughs developed the way that they did.
I’ve seen so many New York City museums while I’ve been completing this bucket list. After this visit, the Museum of the City of New York is absolutely at the top of my list of favorites! The museum has so much to offer, and I easily spent more than 3 hours walking around and looking at everything before I left.
Whether you’re looking for places to go with kids in New York City, things involving science, or you’re just interested in the history of this amazing place, I 100% recommend adding the Museum of the City of New York to your list of things to do. You will learn something new about the place that so many of us call home.
Interested in more bucket list adventures in New York City? Follow along on Instagram at @fiveboroughbucketlist!