New York Historical Society – New York’s History Museum
Located directly across the street from the world renown National History Museum is the equally impressive but slightly less known New York Historical Society which is actually the oldest museum in the entire city. The museum was founded in 1804 and after operating from a variety of different locations opened its current location on the west side of Central Park in 1908. Giving New Yorkers a unique take on history for over 200 years, the NYHS is one of the most unique historical gems in the city.
While the city of New York might contain some of the most well known and famous museums in the world, very few of them actually focus on the city itself which is what helps the NYHS stand out. While this museum does contain exhibits and collections from throughout the history of America, it does feature and highlight historical significant periods that are specific to New York. Short term exhibits come through constantly at the NYHS like the one that highlighted the history of the Harlem Rens, the highly successful all black basketball team which played in Harlem starting in the 1920’s. Exhibits are in constant rotation at the museum so that every visit you make will feel different than the last.
The NYHS also features a children’s museum which brings the same historical context of the main exhibits but is taught through the use of digital games, interactive exhibitions, and character based learning. The children’s museum is geared towards children aged 8-13 and great for any family interested in a uniquely geared learning experience. Like the main museum, the exhibits in the children’s museum focus on the history of New York but also features other areas of American history. One of the main draws of the museum beyond its fascinating rotating exhibits are its permanent collections display located on the top floor of the museum. This houses its extensive collection of artifacts and objects that at most museums would be in secluded storage but at the NYHS is available to view. From stone mile markers that were used in the early 1800’s to a unique display of Tiffany lamps, there is a diverse array of historical objects to be viewed here.
While the New York Historical Society Museum isn’t the most well known museum that Manhattan has to offer, its wide array of exhibits and its unique interpretation of its historical objects make it a must visit. Whether you are looking to become a little more knowledgable about New York or looking for a great place to bring your family on a rainy day, the NYHS has all you could want and more.
New Yorker Tip: The NYHS building also features a fantastic research library which is available to use with an appointment. Books and manuscripts which are hundreds of years old are available during your visit. Very few museums grant such unique access to materials and is a one of a kind place to visit for any history lover.