The New-York Historical Society Museum & Library hits the spot for anyone craving an offbeat and often surprising bite of New York City culture easily digested in an hour or two. Quirky, smart, immersive and right next door to the much larger and more well-known Museum of Natural History, the New-York Historical Society Museum offers a rich taste of New York City with a collection that includes everything from 16th-century arrowheads to almost 3,000 historical toys and games to a model of Lincoln’s head from the same sculptor who created the Lincoln Memorial to a door from the first fire engine that reached ground zero on September 11.
Featuring well-curated exhibits – everything from the legacy of beer brewing in New York City to World War II and New York City – that show off the museum’s eclectic collections, and the ceiling from Keith Haring’s original Pop Shop installed above the admission desk, the New York Historical Society is also boasting a hip new vibe.
Visitors encounter the New-York Historical Society’s first new gallery on the ground floor, the 3,400-square-foot Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History. Within the lofty space, exhibits that explore the city’s multifaceted history include “History Under Your Feet,” which displays New York City artifacts beneath transparent manhole covers in the museum floor; “Here is New York,” a rotating selection of photographs taken by the people of New York City on September 11, 2001; and “New York Rising,” an exhibit that explores New York’s critical role in United States history during the early Federal period. Additional galleries showcase temporary and ongoing exhibitions, like the exhibit of popular board games manufactured from the 1840s to the 1920s by the New York-based McLoughlin Brothers company. Take these games at face value and giggle over their vintage designs, or go deeper via display panels that examine how these games reflected the shifting values of the middle-class.
The DiMenna Children’s History Museum, the first museum of its kind in the country, invites children to become History Detectives and explore the past through artifacts, replicas, illustrations and user-friendly tools. A series of three-dimensional pavilions help children identify with history through the stories of figures whose enterprise and creativity changed the course of the city’s history. Kids can also cast votes, deliver a presidential address, explore urban archaeology and use the Historical Viewfinder to see how selected sites in New York City have changed over time. A Children’s History Library allows kids to use interactive displays to explore rare books, maps and manuscripts.