There is no central record to tell us exactly how many museums exist in New York or on Manhattan alone, but we can rest assured that it is comfortably over 100. During our stay in Manhattan, we got to see some of the island’s most well-known museums and explore the gorgeous buildings the expansive collections were housed in.
Something I haven’t mentioned yet is our use of the New York Pass. This was expensive but it did save us money in the end because everything we did, including the museums I’m going to tell you about here, was included in the pass. If you’re going to be in New York for a few days or more, and you’re planning to visit the big sights, I would recommend it. All the tours we did, big landmarks I’ve already filled you in on – it was all included and essentially pre-paid before we got there. Convenient and cost effective! But anyway, let’s get onto the museum frenzy!
The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
The Met, well known in pop culture for hosting The Met Gala each year, is the largest art museum in the United States. The enormous space houses a collection covering sculptures and paintings from the ancient right up to the modern day American artists. I have a soft spot for classical art so we began in the Greek and Roman rooms following into a fascinating area on Africa, Oceania and the Americas. At the centre of the first floor is a beautiful open space featuring an impressive Medieval gate. It was a real pleasure to see the enormity of the collection, even though we didn’t have time to see it all. The Met is a place you could spend an entire day in and still feel you’ve only just scratched the surface.
The MoMA (Museum of Modern Art)
Richard and I openly admit that we’re not art enthusiasts, and that we don’t always ‘get’ art. We can only appreciate the effort and skill that went into creating works, and their aesthetic pleasure. Modern Art in many ways escapes us. But we always give it a chance! It seemed criminal to pass up on the chance to wander through the MoMA. Unfortunately the MoMA staff were the least friendly of all New Yorkers we ever met during our trip. I’m really not sure why.
Collections at the MoMA cover a wide variety of mediums including painting, sculpture and photography, but also books, film, architecture and design. It is a very important museum for developing modern art, but mostly I found it quite strange! The one piece I did recognise is Van Gogh’s Starry Night – yay!
Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
This interesting museum began life in 1896 as the Cooper Hewitt museum and is located in a pretty Georgian mansion that was once home to Andrew Carnegie (the Carnegie’s are about as famous as the Rockefellers!). We particularly enjoyed the intricate models on display and some of the retro homewares that look like they’ve hopped out of a movie from 40 years ago.
Natural History Museum
Initially the Natural History Museum was not in our plan but on a rainy afternoon we decided it could be squeezed in. Without a lot of time before the museum closed, we were very selective in the exhibitions we visited – space and dinosaurs. Priorities people.
The area covering outer space and all that mind boggling math began with a spiral ramp taking you along a timeline from the moment of big bang up to the present day. It’s the kind of thing that makes a museum feel particularly interactive. We also watched a short video projected onto a concave screen, narrated by Liam Neeson. It’s always fascinating to learn a little more about the vast vastness that is out there, and marvel at how small we all seem in comparison. And dinosaurs, well, they’re just awesome. Period.
9/11 Memorial Museum
In my previous post I told you about the beautiful 9/11 Memorial created in downtown Manhattan. Situated just back from that memorial is the museum commemorating those who died during the 9/11 attacks and also the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Centre. I was surprised at the size of the museum which extended below ground to include touching tributes to the horrors every day New Yorkers experienced during these attacks. It was a sobering place with more than a handful of other visitors wiping a tear from their eye with the museum-provided tissues. I think what resonated with us the most is that we remember when this happened, being in school back in Auckland, and wondering what the heck this was all about. Now, my childhood is distinctly divided into pre-9/11 and post-9/11 because the world seemed to become so dramatically different after 2001.
New York has so much to offer in its many museums. There is certainly something for everyone and all of the above museums come highly recommended from us. Each one is an opportunity to look into the local culture as well as find out something about those further abroad or even from another time! Don’t leave New York without visiting at least one museum!