Look behind, in between and beyond the monumental marble walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Musuem of Natural History for some of New York City’s more eccentric museums. This week we explores those more unusual museums and libraries dedicated to iconic toys, wizardry, and the legacy of the mob.
10. The Troll Museum
It all started when owner Reverend Jen got her first troll doll Ariana at the age of nine. Her collection has long since grown to fill a Lower East Side apartment. Booking a tour at the Troll Museum will allow you to enter Reverend Jen’s world filled with costumed troll dolls and hear the inside stories of some haunted and cursed dolls in the collection.
Walk into Joanna Ebensten’s Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus, Brooklyn to see cadavers and mortuary photographs and also to learn about humans’ changing attitude towards death through the ages. The sobering collection inclues mummified, pickled, fossilized and waxed specimens that are sure to either traumatize or desensitize you but in exchange for valuable anatomical knowledge.
8. The Mmuseumm
Possibly the smallest museum in New York City, the Mmuseumm is contained in a former freight elevator. Although on display are seemingly everyday objects, the whole collection tells the larger cultural narrative of our society. Funerary paper effigies shaped like ordinary objects, Disney backpacks that are actually bulletproof and fake vomit almost unrecognizably real give visitors a chance to reflect on society and its values.
The Conjuring Arts Research Center is an extensive collection on magic ranging from books on mentalism and hypnosis to artifacts from world famous magicians like Houdini. Equipped with an online database, a rare books collection and an exceptionally cozy reading room, the center is ideal for research or simply exploring.
Step back in time to the Roaring Twenties in this unique museum, the Museum of the American Gangster, located in a former speakeasy, where you can see two rusted safes which once contained enough money to buy the Lower East Side. This museum tells the story of organized crime in American from the slaver traders and smugglers in the time of the Founding Fathers all the way to the bootleggers of the prohibition era.
This collection at the Long Island City Elevator Historical Society gives a detailed historical narrative of the elevator as an invention that revolutionized transportation and architecture. On display are antique plaques, enunciators, push stations, indicators and elevator memorabilia collected by historian Patrick Carrajat.
This homegrown museum contains mementos from everyday NYC life through the ages. The collection of tokens and trinkets range from pens and postcards to fixtures and signs removed from landmark buildings and the old L train. Open Mondays through Wednesdays by appointment and Thursdays to Sundays for walk-in, enjoy this unique collection that showcases New York City’s distinct urban culture. The Reliquary also hosts special exhibits, like the recent Donut exhibit and last summer’s exhibition on the Coney Island Velodrome.
Courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum
Explore the life of jazz icon Louis Armstrong and his family at their quaint house in Corona, Queens. The Louis Armstrong House Museum showcases family photos, manuscripts, favorite instruments and home recordings that were never published. The tour through intimate family spaces like bedrooms, the kitchen and the Japanese garden that Armstrong avidly designed gives one a very human insight into a music legend.
The New York City Fire Museum is dedicated to the history, development and remembrance of the fire service of New York City. The collection has fire fighting artifacts from the time of New Amsterdam all the way up to recent artifacts recovered from the debris at Ground Zero. Highlights include an interactive smoke simulation room for educational purposes as well as a 9/11 memorial to members of the FDNY.
Once home to the Tredwell family, the Merchant’s House Museum is the only house preserved intact from the 19th century. A historical and architectural gem located next to the Bowery, the interior holds all the original furnishings and belongings as the family left them while the brick and marble Greek revival exterior reminds people of the days when the street was an affluent residential area. The furnishings and art accumulated by the Tredwell family over 100 years also showcases the development of domestic life in America.
Read on for 10 more obscure museums in NYC.