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6 Riveting Museums in NYC

Posted on Dec 15, 2014 by in Culture, Design, New York | 0 comments

 

Postcard Gallery. 9/11 Tribute Center. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Tiles painted by children. 9/11 Tribute Center. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

Can’t get enough of arts and culture? One of the perks of living in New York City is having access to a wide range of museums – from historical to contemporary. What better way to spend a cold wintry day than in the comfort and warmth of an indoor museum? (Well, besides bookshops, open mics and arthouse theaters). After bombarding my senses with a museum’s artifacts and interactive displays, I often come away with a newfound appreciation for another culture, heritage or design aesthetic.

When possible, I like to join the free guided tours, which are often led by knowledgeable, passionate museum staff. If you search hard enough, you can usually find a day when museum tickets are free or discounted (‘pay-what-you-wish’), so definitely take advantage of those!

The following are 6 Riveting Museums I’ve discovered in New York City, but it is by no means a conclusive list. If you’ve been to a fascinating museum or gallery recently, let me know in the comments section below!

 

9/11 Tribute Center

 

Waterfall Memorial. 9/11 Tribute Center. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Waterfall Memorial. 9/11 Tribute Center. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

The 9/11 Tribute Center does a beautiful job of capturing the events surrounding the World Trade Center attack. Take a guided walking tour led by one of the real-life 9/11 survivors, many of whom still live in the Lower Manhattan vicinity today. Their unique, personal accounts of their experience on 9/11 are bound to leave a lasting impression. Outside, you’ll find a large artificial waterfall surrounded by flower tributes and an engraved memorial to the survivors.

 

Museum at Eldridge Street

 

Hand-painted numbered synagogue seats. Museum at Eldridge Street. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Hand-painted numbered synagogue seats. Museum at Eldridge Street. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

I didn’t even know that the Museum at Eldridge Street existed until recently, but it was established in 1887. Did you know that the architects that designed the synagogue borrowed from Catholic and Moorish elements, having never designed a synagogue before?

 

Inside the synagogue. Museum at Eldridge Street. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Inside the synagogue. Museum at Eldridge Street. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

Stained glass and painted walls. Museum at Eldridge Street. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Stained glass and painted walls. Museum at Eldridge Street. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

If you look closely at the walls, what do you think it is made of? I won’t give away the answer, but it’s probably not what you think…

 

Stained glass window by Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans. Museum at Eldridge Street. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Stained glass window by Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans. Museum at Eldridge Street. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

The synagogue has largely been preserved with its original look intact. In 2010, the latest addition of a stunning stained glass window by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans completed the building’s restoration.

 

Museum of Chinese in America

 

Fill in the Notebook. "Waves of Identity" exhibit. Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). Photo by Sarah Tung.

Fill in the Notebook. “Waves of Identity” exhibit. Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

Full disclosure here: I’m currently interning in the Public Programs department of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). Please note I have not been solicited or paid to write about this.

For anyone interested in learning about the history, culture and identity politics of Chinese Americans from the 19th century to present time, the smartly curated Waves of Identity exhibit (on view through March 1, 2015) is worth a look. Cultural memorabilia – from costumes to letters to a mahjong table – are explored, along with media highlights of trailblazing Chinese Americans throughout history.

 

"Waves of Identity" exhibit. Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). Photo by Sarah Tung.

“Waves of Identity” exhibit. Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

Check out the museum’s upcoming public programs, which include a documentary film screening of longtime activist Grace Lee Boggs, Fujianese folk art crafts, and readings from #UndocuAsians.

 

Museum of Jewish Heritage

 

Fountain in front of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Fountain in front of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

Idyllic scene in front of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Idyllic scene in front of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

Be forewarned: The Museum of Jewish Heritage is not an easy one to walk through. It delves into heavy subject matter. At the same time, it’s such a powerful and necessary testament to the Holocaust, and pays tribute to its heroes and survivors.

 

"Jews Out" board game. Museum of Jewish Heritage. Photo by Sarah Tung.

“Jews Out” board game. Museum of Jewish Heritage. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

The old videos, Nazi propaganda and letters by Holocaust victims provide a compelling narrative that retells and reframes these tragic events. I was deeply moved, much like my experience at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

 

Museum of Modern Art

 

Mondrian. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Photo by Sarah Tung.

Mondrian. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) needs little introduction. I like browsing the six floors on Target Free Fridays, though you’ll likely rub elbows with other museum-goers. Past exhibits have included works by Tim Burton, Diego Rivera and Jeff Koons.

 

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Photo by Sarah Tung.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

"Perfect Door/Perfect Odor/Perfect Rodo" by Bruce Nauman. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Photo by Sarah Tung.

“Perfect Door/Perfect Odor/Perfect Rodo” by Bruce Nauman. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

New-York Historical Society

 

"Chinese American Exclusion/Inclusion" exhibit. New-York Historical Society. Photo by Sarah Tung.

“Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion” exhibit. New-York Historical Society. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

The New-York Historical Society was founded in 1804, making it the oldest museum in New York City.

 

"Nine New Yorkers" mini-exhibit. New-York Historical Society. Photo by Sarah Tung.

“Nine New Yorkers” mini-exhibit. New-York Historical Society. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

I would peruse the Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion exhibit, which explores the tide of immigration and trade between the United States and China. A poster-sized graphic novel format brings to life the story of one Chinese American family.

 

"Chinese American Exclusion/Inclusion" exhibit ads found in subway station. Photo by Sarah Tung.

“Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion” exhibit ad found in subway station. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

This exhibit should be viewed in conjunction with MOCA’s Waves of Identity as it touches on similar themes.

Did you know? The Exclusion Act of 1882 barred most Chinese from entering the United States.

 

Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai in "Nine New Yorkers" mini-exhibit. New-York Historical Society. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai in “Nine New Yorkers” mini-exhibit. New-York Historical Society. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

Nine New Yorkers, a mini-exhibit, showcases brief portraits of nine distinguished Chinese Americans. Spoken word artist Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai and Charles Lai, MOCA co-founder, are among those featured.

Other notable museums: Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Museum at FIT, El Museo del Barrio, Asia Society Museum, American Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and many more.

***

9/11 Tribute Center
120 Liberty St (between Trinity Pl & Greenwich St)
New York, NY 10006
Neighborhood: Financial District
212.393.9160
tributewtc.org

 

Museum at Eldridge Street
12 Eldridge St (between Canal St & Division St)
New York, NY 10002
Neighborhood: Chinatown, Lower East Side
212.219.0302
eldridgestreet.org

 

Museum of Chinese in America
215 Centre St (between Howard St & Grand St)
New York, NY 10013
Neighborhood: Chinatown, Little Italy, SoHo
212.619.4156
mocanyc.org

 

Museum of Jewish Heritage
36 Battery Place
New York, NY 10280
Neighborhood: Battery Park
646.437.4202
mjhnyc.org

 

Museum of Modern Art
11 W 53rd St (between Avenue Of The Americas & 5th Ave)
New York, NY 10019
Neighborhood: Midtown West
212.708.9400
moma.org

 

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park W
New York, NY 10024
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
212.873.3400
nyhistory.org

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