As we compile our 5 favorite quirky museums in New York City, we feel like we’re revisiting them by looking at the images, reading our own enthusiastic impressions and remembering the particular things that remained with us long after we left. Also, there is a sense of appreciation as they remind us of how quirky can mean so many different things, how even two elevator museums in the same city can be complete opposites. It is a great testament to how the wildly diverse denizens and sides to New York City combine to form a multi-faceted yet harmonious whole. Without further ado, here they are. May you enjoy reading about them and visiting them as much we enjoyed getting to know them.
At the Lower East Side’s Troll Museum, you’ll discover that trolls are so much more than retro toys. The museum is located in a nondescript apartment building that might have you wondering if you’ve come to the wrong place. This is why making an appointment with Reverend Jen, the troll museum’s proprietor, is a must. Her enthusiasm and expertise on her collection (which is so massive that even she can’t remember how many trolls it contains!) will ensure that you will come away with more than just a lousy t-shirt.
2. Morbid Anatomy Library
After visiting the Morbid Anatomy Library, part of Brooklyn’s interdisciplinary Proteus Gowanus Gallery, you might walk away feeling a little bit haunted. True to its name, it is an impressive one-room collection of some very macabre memorabilia, ranging from eerie Victorian post-mortem photography to small animals pickled in formaldehyde. Nonetheless, the beautifully displayed exhibits and their vivid stories might prompt a new appreciation for the finer aesthetic points of death.
3. The Museum
The Museum, located on Cortlandt Alley in Tribeca, won’t teach you much about the way elevators work. However, seeing as it actually is in one, it might change the way you think about them altogether and give you a few bright ideas about efficient use of space. The exhibits themselves may seem disparate, running the gamut from fake vomit to bombproof Disney backpack. But take some time to learn the stories behind them and you’ll find that they all provide revealing insight into the collective human experience.
The Conjuring Arts Research Center does not advertise itself to the casual visitor. This is because the content within is not just for gimmicks, but is a serious collection of reading material for actual magicians and magic historians. Founded by sleight-of-hand artist William Kalush because he was frustrated by the dearth of reading material for those in his profession, the collection is exhaustive and richly varied, covering everything from hypnosis to ventriloquism. However, the non-magical visitor will still find plenty to intrigue him, including a wonderful rare books room and original memorabilia from the likes of Houdini!
Located in a former speakeasy, the Museum of the American Gangster is likely to show you that everything you have learned from the mob about movies is wrong. Book a tour and you’ll discover the surprising beginnings of organized crime, the correct way to use the term Mafia and more. But the best part will be heading down to the speakeasy and the basement below, where you’ll learn about the Museum’s history, a riveting tale involving a close brush with actual gangsters and two million dollars in cash!
Also check out our articles about the Livingston Masonic Library, the Museum of Biblical Art and the Top 5 Museums that Used to Be Artist Studios in Paris.