Thursday, January 27, 2022

Museum of the City of New York


Most cities and towns have museums that are dedicated to their history. New York, being a special place, has several. The five boroughs all have historical societies, and then there is my subject this week, The Museum of the City of New York.

From Activist New York

The Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) was founded in 1923 to preserve and exhibit the history of life in the city. Its vision has always been one that was open to, and openly invited in, all members of the New York community. At first it was housed in Gracie Mansion, the official home of the mayor of New York. In 1926, the city donated land on Fifth Ave, and the Museum built its permanent home on Fifth Ave and 103rd Street. This new home opened in 1932. In 2006, after a planned move downtown, to the Tweed Courthouse, was nixed by then Mayor Bloomberg, the museum took on a two year renovation, and today it offers wonderful and world class exhibition galleries.

Delegates to the First American Writers Conference (1935)

The MCNY has several excellent ongoing exhibits that explore New York.’s past. New York at its Core covers the 400 year history of the city through themes like money, density and diversity. It also explores New York’s role as a port city. Together it captures the drive of the people who lived and worked here, from the big names to the working poor. Also on permanent display in the lobby rotunda is “Starlight” by the Cooper Joseph Studio.


On this visit I focused on two exhibits. New York, New Music (ongoing) explores the period from 1980-1986. That time marked a major shift in music styles in New York. Disco was on the way out, and many people felt that the large arena rock bands had become stale and corporate. New genres were developing, and New York’s clubs were at the center of this cultural (r)evolution. Rap and hip-hop were exploding, and punk, new wave and alt-rock bands were being formed throughout the city. In the 80’s New York had dozens and dozens of clubs and performance spaces, and bands could get a slot to develop their sound. I remember that the Village Voice, the go-to cultural paper for the youth of the city, literally had twenty or more pages filled with ads from clubs around the city. This exhibit offers photos, and videos from this wonderful and eclectic musical era.

Tito Puente at Lehman Center for the Arts by Joe Conzo

LL Cool J by Janette Beckman

Joey Ramone, St. Marks Place by GODLIS

Dotarock by Charlie Ahern

Johnny Pacheco by Joe Conzo

Club listings in the Village Voice

Concert Advertisement

Kid Creole Album

Laurie Anderson by Allen Tennenbaum

The Fort Apache Band

My other destination was Puppets of New York. (Through April 3, 2022). From Shari Lewis to Jim Henson; from street theater to the Lion King,  puppets have play an integral role in both entertainment and protest, and this exhibit explores that history. MCNY has brought together an excellent and diverse selection of puppets, that help to show how wide spread the practice of puppetry has been and continues to be in New York.

Puppets from Shari Lewis' collection

Lion King Cheetah

Yeya, en mi barrio se puede

Oscar the Grouch, Jim Henson Worksop

The Museum of the City of New York presents the history, present and future of the city as a vibrant celebration of the people who live here. Enjoy a visit to explore the life of New York.

Nuts and Bolts:

  • The Museum is located at 1220 5th Ave. between 103rd and 104th streets.
  • It is open from Friday-Sunday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
  • The suggested admission is Adults $20/ Seniors and Students $14

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