The narrative of New York City—from its beginning as a small Dutch trading post to its status today as one of the world's most important cities—unfolds through special exhibitions and the diverse collections of the museum. The permanent collection here contains over 3,000,000 items maintained by six curatorial departments: costumes, decorative arts, paintings and sculpture, prints and photographs, theater and toys.
Highlights include apparel worn at George Washington's inaugural ball, silver objects from the studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany, paintings by members of the Hudson River School, Currier & Ives prints, artifacts from various Broadway productions and several original handwritten manuscripts by Eugene O'Neill.
In addition to period rooms, exhibits explore the city's cultural diversity, architecture and economic significance. Such exhibits include ongoing exhibitions Broadway! and Family Treasures: Toys and Their Tales. Using artifacts, photographs, audio and visual presentations, the exhibition Activist New York explores social activism from the 17th century up to the present, addressing historic preservation, civil rights, wages, sexual orientation and religious freedom.
Founded in 1923, the museum first opened in Gracie Mansion, now the mayor's official residence. In 1932 it moved to its current home, a five-story neo-Georgian building designed by Joseph Freedlander. The education department offers concerts, walking tours, workshops, symposia, lectures and gallery talks.
Three hundred years ago, when New York was Nieuw Amsterdam, no fewer than 18 different languages were spoken in the city. In 1865, snakes and tigers roamed the streets of Manhattan after P. T. Barnum's famous "museum" caught fire. Following its gala opening, the Empire State Building was dubbed the "Empty State Building" because it attracted so few renters. SoHo was almost replaced by a superhighway. The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor almost didn't materialize due to lack of funding!
The Museum of the City of New York explores these and other areas of New York history and culture through its collections, housed in a five-story Georgian Colonial building near the top of Fifth Avenue's Museum Mile. Any child who ever wondered why New York City is called "The Big Apple" or how the New York Knicks got their name will find the answers here—and have fun in the process! In addition, the museum's famous collections of dolls and Broadway costumes are sure to appeal to many kids.
Museum educators lead tours that focus on enduring themes in New York City history, and provide curriculum-related content to all groups in grades K-12l. Group visits include a hands-on activity.
Teachers can choose from one of the following programs: Traveling Through Time: New Amsterdam to New York; Leave It to the Beavers: Trade and Transportation; We Didn't Start the Fires!: Catastrophic Fires That Shaped Our City; Growing Up in New York City: New York City Childhood; Over the Bridges and Through the Tunnels: Connect Our City; Skyline Timeline: A Photographic Timeline of Urbanization in New York City; and the Grid: Urban Planning in New York City.