Learn More About the City Museum of New York


In Manhattan, New York City, New York, there is a history and art museum called The Museum of the City of New York. Henry Collins Brown established it in 1923 with the goal of preserving and showcasing the history of New York City and its inhabitants. On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, across from Central Park, it is situated at 1220–1227 Fifth Avenue, at the northern end of the Museum Mile stretch of Fifth Avenue, between East 103rd and 104th Streets.

The neo-Georgian-style museum in red brick with marble trim was constructed in 1929–1930 and was designed by Joseph H. Freedlander. Its exterior features niches where statues of Alexander Hamilton and DeWitt Clinton by sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman face Central Park.

The museum is a privately funded, non-profit organization that belongs to the CIG, or Cultural Institutions Group, of New York City. Endowments, entry costs, and contributions are some of its additional revenue sources. The first-ever museum presentation of New York City’s complete history, “New York At Its Core,” is currently on display at the museum. Having a guide to the best art museums in New York is helpful if you are planning to visit one.

The Museum of the City of New York’s history

Henry Collins Brown, a Scottish-born writer with a vision for a populist approach to the city, founded the Museum of the City of New York in 1923. The Gracie Mansion, which would eventually house the New York City mayor, served as the museum’s first location. In 1926, Hardinge Scholle took over for Henry Brown and started making plans for the Museum’s new location. The building’s Georgian Colonial-Revival design by Joseph H. Freedlander was built on property provided by the City on Fifth Avenue between 103rd and 104th Streets beginning in 1929 and ending in 1932.

The Museum gathered a sizable collection of exceptional items over the following few decades, including several of Eugene O’Neill’s handwritten manuscripts, an entire room’s worth of Duncan Phyfe furniture, 412 glass negatives shot by Jacob Riis and donated by his son, a man’s suit from George Washington’s Inaugural Ball, and the Carrie Walter Stettheimer dollhouse with a miniature Marcel Duchamp piece. Currently, there are almost 750,000 items in the museum’s collection, including prints, photos, decorative arts, costumes, paintings, sculpture, toys, and stage props.

Museum of Modern Art, New York Pictures & Images, West 53rd Street

Relocation of the Museum

The museum started exploring for new space in 2000. The board of directors decided to relocate to the restored former courtroom in Tweed, downtown Manhattan, but the mayor’s office decided to set up the Education Department’s administrative offices there instead. Therefore, the museum stayed in its previous spot in East Harlem. Its restoration took almost 10 years, and as a result, the Museum of The City of New York is now a stunning display space that complies with all the standards of contemporary museum science. The mayor’s mansion is in Gracie Mansion, which served as the Museum of the City of New York’s first location.

The Museum’s Expansion

Through the planning of an addition to the Museum, the former director of the institution, Susan Henshaw Jones, reaffirmed MCNY’s commitment to the community of East Harlem. On August 2, 2006, the foundation for this extension, which comprised the construction of a new pavilion and the renovation of existing gallery space, was laid. The extension was finished in February 2008, and a ribbon cutting ceremony was held later that year.

The Exhibits in the Museum

The museum’s collection of over 1.5 million items includes costumes, decorative items, furniture, antique toys, ship models, rare books, and manuscripts. It is especially strong in items from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Paintings, drawings, prints, including more than 3,000 by Currier and Ives, and photographs featuring New York City and its inhabitants are also included. Additionally, there are dioramas devoted to the architectural history and natural surroundings of the city.

One of the unique pieces in the museum’s collection previously belonged to Sarah Rapelje, who is said to have been the first person of European descent to be born in New York State. Sarah was the daughter of Joris Jansen Rapelje of Nieuw Amsterdam. She received the chair as a gift from her Brinckerhoff ancestors. The museum is well-known for its extensive collection of pictures, which features images by renowned photographers Percy Byron, Jacob Riis, and Berenice Abbott as well as numerous images from the Federal Art Project during the Great Depression. Stanley Kubrick’s still photography is also included in the collection.

Significant Exhibitions

Perform was the only ongoing display in New York City that was exclusively dedicated to New York theater from October 2004 to July 2009. In June 2007, the museum unveiled its temporary The Glory Days, 1947-1957 exhibition, an in-depth photographic look at the history of professional baseball in New York City. It featured items from Bill Robinson’s tap shoes to advertising materials from Avenue Q. Clips of Ed Sullivan, a forerunner of CBS television entertainment, interviewing many of the athletes of the day, including Mickey Mantle and Phil Rizzuto, were featured in the exhibit. Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in 1947 when he joined the former Brooklyn Dodgers and became an active member of the Civil Rights Movement, was the subject of a section.

The Museum unveiled a brand-new area in May 2012 that was devoted to the Puffin Foundation and its collection. The first exhibition highlighted social activity and the activist history of New York City. New York At Its Core, a three-gallery study of New York City’s 400-year history and its future, debuted at the Museum in November 2016. 

More than 450 historical items and pictures, many of which are from the Museum’s collection, are included, together with modern video, photography, and interactive digital experiences. The exhibition In the Dugout with Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait of a Baseball Legend was on display until September 15, 2019. The display included Robinson family mementos, rare film, and published magazines in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Robinson’s birth. The exhibition, City/Game: Basketball in New York, debuted in February 2020. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob Douglass were among the basketball players included in the show that examined the sport’s history in New York City and it is considered to be one of the top museums to visit.

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