Located in Manhattan, New York City, the Museum of the City of New York, commonly known as MCNY, is an art and cultural history museum dedicated to telling the diverse and ever-changing story of the city. The museum was founded as a private nonprofit institution by Henry Collins Brown in 1923, as a means of preserving the cultural history of New York City.
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Originally housed inside the historic Gracie Mansion before its use as a gubernatorial residence, the museum also showed early exhibits at West 57th Street's Fine Arts Building. The success of the museum's Old New York exhibit in 1926 prompted the search for a permanent location, along with a design competition for a new building. A space on Fifth Avenue at 103rd and 104th streets was donated to the museum by the city, with a red brick neo-Georgian design by Joseph H. Freelander chosen as the competition's winner. The museum was opened to the public on January 11, 1932.
In 1982, the museum was the recipient of the Gold Medal Award by the Hundred Year Association of New York, in honor of its outstanding contributions to the city. A large renovation and extension in 2008 added a 3,000-square-foot pavilion gallery with two levels of display space.
Permanent Collections and Exhibits
The museum holds a collection of more than 1.5 multimedia items pertaining to the cultural history of New York City, focusing on artifacts from the 19th and 20th centuries. Ephemera, including materials related to city infrastructure and public transit, civic events and celebrations, and night life, are highlighted. Rare items date back to the city's New Amsterdam era, including a chair that belonged to the first child of European descent born in New York.
Notable among the museum's collections is its theater collection, containing more than 190,000 objects chronicling the history of Broadway from the late 18th century through the present day. A costume and textiles collection is among the most extensive in the city, cataloguing 26,000 pieces of fashion. An extensive collection of more than 400,000 photographs and negatives documents notable eras in the city's history, including the Great Depression, and features pieces by noted artists such as Percy Byron, Berenice Abbott, and Stanley Kubrick. A large print collection, including nearly 3,000 works by Currier and Ives, chronicles urban iconography before the advent of photography. A collection of more than 1,500 paintings and 6,000 drawings and other works on paper include 18th-century oil portraits, graffiti drawings, and architectural materials for the 1939 World's Fair. More than 300 sculptures highlight many of the major sculpture artists of the past two centuries, featuring a large collection of public-commissioned busts and maquettes.
Opened in 2016, New York At Its Core is the museum's flagship exhibit, chronicling the city's 400-year history through historic objects, multimedia presentations, and interactive digital exhibits. The exhibit highlights major events and figures in the city's history, asking visitors to consider the legacy of the city as a port, a hub for immigrants, and a major world center, while a Future City Lab area looks to the next chapter of the city's development. The New York Silver: Then and Now exhibit contains one of the nation's foremost collections of American silver, featuring newly commissioned works meant as a direct response to historical holdings. Activist New York presents the history of social activism in the city, and the short documentary Timescapes, highlighting the city's immigrant history and development, offers showtimes every 40 minutes.
In addition to the permanent exhibits, visitors may walk through recreations of several furnished rooms of the former house of John D. Rockefeller. The handcrafted Stettheimer Dollhouse, a 12-room creation reflecting the city's Golden Age, is a popular display. Outside the building, statues of DeWitt Clinton and Alexander Hamilton, designed by Adolph Alexander Weinman, adorn the courtyard.
Ongoing Programs and Education
The museum's Frederick A. O. Schwartz Education Center serves 50,000 students annually, striving to make programming accessible for under-resourced area public schools. Field trip programs, family programs, special events, and professional development educator workshops focus on city-wide issues facing social studies education, encouraging students to develop critical thinking skills and connect knowledge subsets. Educational programming is also offered for toddlers through the NYC Tots program and for children ages 6-12 as part of the My City Lab explorative space.
As a member of the East Harlem community, the museum is committed to presenting programming that highlights the neighborhood's diversity and focuses on current social issues. Drop-in community events on a variety of topics are hosted at the museum and across Fifth Avenue inside Central Park. A lecture series focuses on current events and cultural topics, and a jazz concert series is hosted on the museum's terrace.
1220 5th Ave & 103rd St, New York, NY 10029, Phone: 212-534-1672