Museums Of New York City
( Originally Published 1940 )
All museums of New York are legion, and in listing and selecting those most likely to interest the visitor I have been somewhat bothered by the question of what constitutes a museum anyway? So at last I chose the twenty-two listed in this chapter by a process of elimination. First I excluded all old houses. Many of them are decidedly museums of a sort, and of a very interesting sort, but they seemed more properly to belong in the descriptions of those parts of the city where they might appeal to the sightseer on his journeyings around the town. Then I cut out all zoological gardens, all botanical gardens, and the aquarium. Again they are certainly museums, but again they seemed more properly to belong in other parts of this book.
I admit that some of the remaining museums listed here are rather "special" in their appeal. Consequently I have capitalized those which definitely should be seen by everybody as being the establishments I would visit first. The rest are far t00 good to overlook if the length of your visit will possibly permit you to find time to see them, but are nevertheless in the class I would visit selectively.
Having been traveling since I was six, I have suffered many times from bad attacks of overenthusiasm where museums were concerned. May I offer a word of advice? Limit your visit to any museum. Few people are capable of appreciative looking for over two hours. At the end of that time your feet hurt; your back hurts, and your eyes are tired. "But," I hear you say, "I cannot possibly see all the things I want to look at in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a mere two hours!" Of course you can't, but there is no reason why you shouldn't go back twice—and if you try to absorb it all at once, I am afraid that a bad attack of what I call museum indigestion will prevent your enjoying it at all. Sightseeing, no matter how educational or how fascinating it may be at the time, is at the best hard work, and making it t00 hard work will inevitably defeat the very purpose of the sightseeing itself.
American Museum of Arts and Letters. Open only during the winter months (November to May), this Museum offers rather special exhibits. It is housed in that monumental group of museum buildings occupying the block on the west side of Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets. It is best reached by Fifth Avenue buses Nos. 4, 5, and 19, or by the West Side Subway (I.R.T.) to 155th Street Station. The trains are the 242nd St. Van Cortlandt Park expresses. Visiting hours are from ten to five weekdays and from two to five on Sunday. Admission is free.
AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY. This is decidedly one of those things that must not be missed. Although much of the Museum is housed in buildings which may not be old, but which for America are at least middle-aged, and as in consequence it may not be so spectacular at first glance as, say, the Field Museum in Chicago, in the value and extent of its collections it is unsurpassed in the world. Be sure to visit the Akeley Memorial Hall, the Asiatic Hall, the collection of dinosaurs (unique), the Hall of Ocean Life, the exhibit of the life and art of the American Indian, the new exhibit of bird life just to the right of the main entrance, and then anything else your time or your tired feet will permit. The buildings are huge, and you must be prepared for a long walk. The Museum stands in its own park between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West, and between 77th and 81st Streets. The main entrance is on Central Park West at 79th Street. The Museum is reached by Eighth Avenue bus (No. 10), by 79th Street crosstown bus (No. 17), and by Eighth Avenue Subway (Independent) to 81st Street. Take a local train marked "CC.".
American Numismatic Society. Another of the 155th Street and Broadway group. As the name implies, it has interesting collections of old coins. It will fascinate you if (and only if) you are a collector or numismatic enthusiast. Open daily from 2 to 5 P.M. (For communications, please see American Museum of Arts and Letters, on page 77.)
Bache Collection. This fine, private art collection, located at 814 Fifth Avenue, is now open to the public, but admission is only by card granted on written application to the custodian.
BROOKLYN MUSEUM. A distinguished art collection, not so extensive as that of the Metropolitan, but nevertheless sufficient to make it one of the great museums of America. Special exhibits of great interest are often arranged here. Located at Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue, it is reached most quickly by either the East Side or West Side Subway (I.R.T.) to Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum Station. Take any downtown express except those marked "South Ferry."
COOPER UNION MUSEUM FOR THE ARTS OF DECORATION. Located in the building of Cooper Union, the name is in itself a good description of the exhibits. It is conveniently reached by 3rd Avenue Elevated to 9th Street, Fifth Avenue bus marked "Wanamaker Terminal," East Side Subway (I.R.T.) (any local to Astor Place), or Eighth and Christopher Street cross-town buses (No. 13). Open daily 9 A.M. to 5P.M. except Sun-day from early September through June. From October first through April the Museum is also open in the evenings from 6.30 to 9. The Museum is closed Saturday evenings, all day Sunday, and on New Year's, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Admission is free.
THE CLOISTERS. This magnificent but somewhat remote museum is devoted to medieval art, the foundation of the collection being largely the beautiful things gathered lovingly through the years by Harrison Gray Barnard, the sculptor. It is now a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As it is located far north on Manhattan in Fort Tryon Park, a visit to the Museum is best combined with one to the beauty spot in which it stands. It can be reached quickly by the Eighth Avenue Subway (Independent). Take an express marked "A" and alight at 190th Street.
A slower, but far more interesting way to reach the Museum and the Park is by Fifth Avenue bus (No. 4), marked "Fort Tryon Park-the Cloisters." This will take you to the Museum door, whereas from the subway there is quite a little walk through the Park. It will also give you interesting glimpses of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Grant's Tomb, the great Medical Center at 168th Street, and the George Washington Bridge on the way.
FRICK COLLECTION. This great private house at Fifth Avenue and 70th Street (entrance at No. 1 East 70th Street) has now been opened to the public. The exhibits are the superb collections of paintings, sculpture, porcelains, and furniture gathered by the late Henry C. Frick. The Museum is open free from 10 to 5 on weekdays except Mondays and from r to 5 on Sundays. It is closed on Mondays and and on most holidays. It is best reached by Fifth Avenue bus (Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4) to 70th Street, or by Madison Avenue bus (Nos. 1 and 2) to 70th Street, walking a block west to the entrance.
Grand Central Art Galleries. Although all the works in these galleries, located in the Grand Central Terminal, are for sale, they are open to the public as a museum of contemporary art, and there is no solicitation to buy. Any of the transportation lines leading to the Grand Central Terminal will take you to them. They are open daily except Sunday in the winter time from 9.30 to 5.30. In the summertime they are closed on both Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is free at all times.
HAYDEN PLANETARIUM. Part of the American Museum of Natural History, and under its direction. The showing, taking an hour, is repeated several times during the afternoon and evening. The general admission for adults is 25 cents in the after-noon and 35 cents in the evening. In the basement there is a remarkable display of meteorites and a mechanical demonstration of the solar system. The display in the main hall of the Planetarium is not only of great scientific value, but of breath-taking beauty. The Planetarium should be considered obligatory by anyone who has not seen one of these displays elsewhere. The entrance is from 81st Street, and communications are as-for the Museum of Natural History.
HISPANIC MUSEUM. This Museum, maintained by the His-panic Society of America, is one of the most fascinating, not only in New York, but in America. There is not only a fine collection of paintings by El Greco, Goya, Zuloaga, Sorolla, and other masters of Spanish art, ancient and modern, but old maps, tiles, furniture, and almost everything else of beauty and interest. The famous room in the main building decorated with murals by Sorolla would alone make your visit an unforgettable experience. The Museum occupies a large portion of the group at 155th Street and Broadway, already mentioned. The entrance is through the court, and the Museum is on both sides near the center. On your left as you enter the court is the main building, housing the ancient art and the Sorolla room, and on your fight a pavilion devoted principally to modem paintings. There is also a library maintained by the Hispanic Society of America. The Museum is open from 10.00 to 4.30 daily on weekdays, and from 1 to 5 on Sundays. It is closed on Thanks-giving and Christmas. Admission is free at all times. Communations as for the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
THE JEWISH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY MUSEUM OF CEREMONIAL AND HISTORICAL OBJECTS. This Museum is of far greater interest to the student than to the general sightseer, whatever his faith. It is open daily except Friday and Saturday, from 10 to 5. Admission is free. It is conveniently reached by Broadway surface cars, or by the West Side Subway to either 116th Street, with a walk downhill to the Museum, or 1 25th Street, with a walk uphill to the Museum, which is at the corner of Broadway and 12 2nd Street. A visit to this Museum can be conveniently combined with one to Grant's Tomb, or to Columbia University, or both.
METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART. This is certainly the richest art collection in America. While other museums may have a finer collection of some particular specialty, in general value and interest the Metropolitan is supreme. There is almost nothing imaginable of worth or beauty, from paintings through sculpture to early American furniture and antique jewelry, that is not worthily represented, and well displayed. In addition to the permanent collection, the Museum arranges many special displays illustrative of some special branch of art, taking the examples either from its own wealth of material or from outside sources. Of all the museums of New York I would put the Metropolitan first on the list of things which must be seen, with the Museum of Natural History second.
The Museum is open from 10 to 5 on weekdays, from 1 to 6 on Sundays, and from I to 5 on Christmas. On Mondays and Fridays there is an admission fee of 25 cents. On all other days admission is free. I advise the visitor to go on Monday or Friday if possible, as then the Museum is less crowded, and on these days many students can be seen at work copying the various works of art.
The Museum is located at Fifth Avenue from 80th to 82nd Streets. The best communications are by Fifth Avenue buses (Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4) direct to the Museum entrance, or by Madison Avenue buses (Nos. 1 and 2) to 80th Street, with a walk of one block west to the Museum.
MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN. Another museum housed in the 155th Street and Broadway group. A visit to this collection might well be combined with that to the Hispanic Museum. The Museum is open daily except Sundays and holidays from 2 to 5. It is closed during July and August, and on all Sundays and holidays. The communications are as for the American Academy of Arts and Letters (see page 77).
Museum of Costume Art, 63o Fifth Avenue, International Building, Rockefeller Center. This tiny and very specialized museum offers displays of costumes, the history of dress, and related subjects. The' displays are changed frequently. It is fascinating to the initiate or the interested. Any Fifth Avenue bus will take you to the door.
The MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK has a unique collection of objects relating to the history, growth, and culture of the city. A visit to this Museum will do more to give you an idea of how the city came into its present preeminence, and what it looked like while it was doing it, than the reading of a dozen histories. The Museum is closed on Tuesdays and on Christmas Day. Otherwise it is open on weekdays from 10 to 5, and on Sundays from to 5. There is an admission charge of 25 cents on Mondays; on all other days it is free. Located at Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street, it is best reached by Fifth Avenue buses (Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4) or by Madison Avenue buses (Nos. 1 and 2).
MUSEUM OF LIVING ART. This rather small but well-selected museum featuring the Gallatin collection of twentieth-century paintings is maintained by New York University. It is open from 8 to o on weekdays except Saturday, 8 to 5 on Saturdays, and is closed on all Sundays and holidays. Admission is free. Located on Washington Square East, it is conveniently visited when you are looking at Washington Square and the Greenwich Village district. The most convenient communications are East Side Subway (I.R.T.) to Astor Place, with a walk of two blocks to the Museum; B.M.T. Subway to 8th Street, walking one block west; or by any Fifth Avenue bus marked "Wash. Square" to the Square itself (end of the Fifth Avenue Line).
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART. This rather special museum has the finest collection of its kind in America. Not only does it go in heavily for the works of the more "extreme" artists and sculptors, but it features special exhibits as well. It is not to be missed, whether or not you like the things on display there. It is open on weekdays from 10 to 6 and on Sundays from noon to 6. There is an admission fee of 25 cents on weekdays, and 10 cents on Sundays. It is reached by any Fifth Avenue bus to 54th Street, by any 6th Avenue or Madison Avenue bus to 53rd Street, or by the Eighth Avenue (Independent) Subway to 53rd Street and Fifth Avenue. Take a train marked "E." The address of the Museum is I I West 53rd Street.
NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY GALLERY AND MUSEUM. Located across the street from the American Museum of Natural History, the Society's interesting but specialized collections of early Americana can best be reached by any of the means of transportation recommended for the visit to its larger neighbor (see page 78). The Museum is open on weekdays from 10 to 5 and on Sundays from 1 to 5. Closed during the month of August, and on Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, and New Year's, it is open on all other holidays from I to 5. Admission is free.
The NEW YORK MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY. This will fascinate you if you have not seen the establishments de-voted to the same sort of display at either Philadelphia or Chicago. If you have, I am afraid you will be a little disappointed. At least, I was. But even with this warning, and even though you may have seen its rivals elsewhere, you will find this one well worth the quarter it costs, and if you haven't seen its rivals in other cities, you will find it a knockout! It is located in the basement of the R.C.A. Building of Rockefeller Center, Sixth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. Any Fifth Avenue bus to 50th Street, or any Sixth Avenue bus to 50th Street, or the No. M-3 bus crosstown on 49th and 50th Streets are convenient. So is the West Side Subway (I.R.T.) if you take any local to 50th Street, and walk one block plus a few yards east. Admission 25 cents.
The PIERPONT MORGAN LIBRARY. This is located in a separate building behind the family residence, and is open daily (exhibition room only) during the winter and early summer. The building is closed from the first of July until early September, and is also closed on Sundays and national holidays. Ad-mission is free. It is located just around the corner from Madison Avenue on 36th Street. It is easily reached by any Fifth Avenue bus, with a walk of one block east, the No. 2 Madison Avenue buses, or the West Side Subway (I.R.T.) to 33rd Street, walking three blocks north and one west.
WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. Located at 10 West 8th Street, this treasure house of the work of our own artists has not only valuable collections of its own, but offers special exhibits of the work of American artists, living and dead. It is open daily from 1 to 5 P.M. except Mondays. Admission is free. It is best reached by Fifth Avenue buses marked "Wash. Square," by Eighth and Christopher Street crosstown buses (No. 13), or by Sixth Avenue buses (No.5) to 8th Street, with a walk of almost a block east.