For those who are curious and take an interest in history, art, and historical artifacts, the museum acts as a time capsule embracing century-old objects within its four walls. Each work of art narrates a different tale and takes visitors on a journey through time.
The cultural virtues of NYC are myriad, but none come close to meeting the number, expanse, and miscellany of its museums. Be it art, architecture, history, or science, just name the subject and there’s an establishment fulfilling every fascination.
For instance, the Metropolitan Museum harbors thousands of years of art history in its abode, the collection starting from possessions from the Stone Age to state-of-the-art examples of modern and contemporary art. There are also institutions solely dedicated to revolutionary art, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art.
There is a plethora of other subject museums as well, some of which are historic, and encyclopedic, like that of the American Museum of Natural History, and others which are fixated on specific categories, such as NYC History, architecture, photography, film, and many more. To be precise, the New York City museums are sights to behold.
1. Museums in Manhattan
The Manhattan museums are as dynamic, vibrant, assorted, and distinguishing as the guards of steel towering over the streets of New York City. Within this solitary NY precinct, you will be able to discover a whole cosmos of art, history, and culture.
Although, few people would term a visit to Guggenheim or MoMA, boring and not worth one’s time; dozens vie for the dominance of local beloveds.
To explore further, here are some of the most coveted museums that exhibit remains of the past as well as the nascent knack of the present and uncover numerous sides to New York City.
2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Founded in the late 18th century, popularly known as The Met across the globe, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is an establishment built to foster a museum and library of art, to advocate the Study of Fine Arts, and the implementation of Art, to progress cultural knowledge of art museums related subjects and to enhance popular recreations.
Considered one of the best museums in NYC, this museum is the third-largest museum in the country and the fifth-largest in the world. Beyond the doors, there is an entire world of art consisting of more than 2 million pieces circling back as old and long as 5000 years.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, favorably located within Central Park, has average visitors of around 6 million per year and is the most visited in New York. It is a domineering presence making it well-deserving of one’s schedule.
It has been a Central Park feature since 1870 and has only grown over the years. The distinctive collection is organized by 7 separate departments each acquired with a specialized staff of administrators and scholars as well as 7 devoted conservation departments and a Department of Scientific Research.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art harbors work from Sumerian, Babylonian, and Elamite cultures, as well as a wide-ranging assortment of unique Bronze Age objects. The arts of Oceania, Africa, the Asian, Egyptian, European, Greek and Roman, Islamic pieces of art as well as sculptures, paintings from Europe are part of this assemblage.
3. American Museum of Natural History
Founded in 1869, located in Roosevelt Park, across the street from Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History is debatably one of the best museums for children in New York City. It is also one of the world’s prominent scientific, educational, and cultural establishments. This astonishing museum is home to almost 33 million specimens, out of which 3 percent are on display, which is quite the figure.
The museum incorporates the Hayden Planetarium, and the Rose Center for Earth and Space, as well as galleries for temporary and rotating exhibitions, among its 45 permanent exhibition halls.
The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, New York State’s official memorial to its 33rd governor and the nation’s 26th president as well as a tribute to Roosevelt’s long heritage of conservation, is situated within this museum.
Embracing about 5 million visitors per year and showcasing all aspects of the natural world, the American Museum of Natural History is deemed to be one of the greatest natural history museums across the globe.
This natural history museum holds a variety of collections, starting from Old World Mammals to New World Mammals, Birds to Reptiles. There are halls to exhibit divergent cultures, comprising Asia, Africa, Central America, and many more, halls to showcase Human Origins, Ocean Life, Hall of Meteorites, Gems and Minerals, and Fossil Fuels. In short, this museum excels in telling a story of creation.
The 94-feet long blue whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life and the Hayden Planetarium directed by renowned astrophysicist and media notability, Neil Degrasse Tyson is among the museum’s eye-catching wonders.
4. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
The home to some of the greatest and most celebrated paintings like Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Monet’s Water Lilies, notable works by Picasso, Dali, Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait, the Museum of Modern Art, famously termed MoMA, located in Midtown Manhattan was established in the year of 1929 to elevate and assemble modern art.
The museum is identified as one of the largest and most influential museums harboring modern art in the world.
To be able to visit this art museum and appreciate the real-life paintings, one doesn’t necessarily need to be an art connoisseur. The paintings are well arranged and exhibited in an airy environment for exposure that everyone can enjoy.
This New York City museum is curated around 6 domains: Architecture and Design, Drawings and Prints, Film, Media and Performance, Painting and Sculpture, and Photography. It is regarded by many to have the best assortment of modern and Western masterpieces in the world.
After almost three years of rebuilding and renovation, the doors to modern and contemporary art have once again opened offering the audience a lot more to explore and ponder upon. For art lovers, this new museum is the perfect amount of modern art and contemporary paintings.
5. New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex
Opened on September 14, 1993, at the third-busiest train station in North America, the Grand Central Terminal, in the terminal’s main concourse, the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store shelters a transit-adapted gift shop as well as a space for rotating momentary exhibitions.
The Annex is the venue of the Transit Museum’s yearly “Holiday Train Show”, where an operating model train layout is displayed for the public.
Although an admission fee is required at the Transit Museum’s central Brooklyn Heights location, the doorway to the Annex is free. The main Brooklyn Heights location houses its gift shop, which is accessible outside of the museum’s paid area.
6. The Morgan Library & Museum
Formerly popular as the Pierpont Morgan Library, The Morgan Library & Museum is a museum and research library located in the neighborhood of Murray Hill in Manhattan, New York City. Once Morgan’s Private library, the museum was entrusted to the city along with his extensive collection which included printed books, manuscripts, prints, and drawings.
The library was turned into an institution with access to the public in 1924 by Morgan Jr. by his father’s will, after which the annex was rebuilt in 1928. The collection owned by Morgan included rare books, paintings by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Picasso, early printed Bibles, etc.
The most significant section of the Morgan Library & Museum among his other collections was the relatively small assortment of illuminated manuscripts. The manuscript collection was also home to authors’ original manuscripts, that as Charles Dickens’s manuscript of A Christmas Carol with handwritten edits and markup from the author himself.
7. 9/11 Memorial & Museum
The attacks of 9/11 and the 1993 World Trade Center bombings are some of the most dreadful incidents of all time.
To commemorate the same, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, popularly known as the 9/11 Memorial & Museum was established and is located at the World Trade Center site, where the Twin Towers were formerly located before its destruction in 2001.
The museum is operated by a non-profit firm, and the visit to it is an emotional exposure but is arguably one of the best museums in New York City.
It harbors an assemblage that has over 40,000 images, 14,000 artifacts, more than 3,500 recordings, and almost 500 hours of video. Artifacts from September 11, such as the Last Column, the last piece of steel to leave Ground Zero, are stored in the underground museum.
8. New York City Fire Museum
Built in the Hudson Square neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, the New York City Fire Museum, an establishment dedicated to the New York City Fire Department or FDNY is set in a 100-year-old firehouse.
The museum harbors more than 10,000 objects as well as an archive of records, tons of photographs, and memorabilia, that not only exhibit but also celebrate the long history of fire service and the FDNY.
The pieces showcase and trace firefighting dating back to the 1650s, as well as the museum is home to present-day examples, and is a memorial to the Ground Zero firefighters, making it a part of the permanent exhibition.
9. Whitney Museum of American Art
Presently located in the Meatpacking District and West Village neighborhoods of Manhattan, New York City, simply known as “The Whitney”, the Whitney Museum of American Art is an institution originally founded in 1930 by a noted American socialite, an art advocate, a sculptor, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, after whom the museum takes its name.
Previously, from 1966 till 2014, The Whitney was sited at Madison Avenue, which closed in October of the same year to be relocated to its current site and was reopened on May 1st of 2015, after expanding the exhibition space to 50,000 square feet. In 2022, it became the world’s 67th most-visited art museum and the nation’s 10th most-visited art museum.
The museum primarily focuses on 20th and 21st-century American art, and its everlasting assortment, dating back to as old as the 19th Century includes more than 25,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, videos, and artifacts of the latest media by over 3,500 artists.
It places a significant emphasis on works of living artists as well as maintains a profuse collection of essential pieces from the first half of the last century. The museum is also the curator of the Whitney Biennial, an exhibition that showcases growing artists and continues to have a crucial impact on contemporary American art.
10. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Established as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting by the Guggenheim Foundation in 1939, the museum adopted its name three years after the death of the founder, Solomon R. Guggenheim. The art museum is located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City, at 1071 Fifth Avenue, between 88th and 89th streets.
It is home to a permanently extending collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, primitive Modern, and contemporary art as well as features distinguished exhibitions throughout the year. The collection has developed over the decades and is based upon several private assortments, beginning with that of the founder, Guggenheim.
The earliest works in the museum belong to modernists such as Pablo Picasso, Rebay, Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, and many more. Among some private collections, the Nierendorf, Thannhauser, Rebay, Giuseppe Panza, and Mapplethorpe are notable.
The Thannhauser Collection comprises pieces by Manet, Van Gogh, and Picasso and is largely in the Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and French modern styles.
11. Jewish Museum
Deemed to be the first Jewish museum in the States as well as the oldest to exist in the world, the Jewish Museum harbors the largest collection of art and Jewish culture, apart from the Israeli Museums, with over 30,000 objects.
The art museum is housed in the former Warburg House at 1109 Fifth Avenue, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City. The museum was not opened to the public until May 1947, after the widow of Warburg, in January 1944, donated the mansion to the Seminary as a permanent home for the museum, following Warburg’s death in 1937.
The collection that brought up the museum began with a gift of Jewish ceremonial art objects from Judge Mayer Sulzberger to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. The collection later grew by major donations. In light of World War II, in 1939, Poland sent about 350 objects to NYC to preserve them.
The museum currently has almost 30,000 objects that include paintings, sculptures, artifacts, Jewish ceremonial art, and many other pieces essential to the preservation of Jewish history and culture.
Collections from artists include those of George Segal, Marc Chagall, James Tissot, Eleanor Antin, and Deborah Kass. This represents the largest collection of Jewish art, and Judaica outside of museums located in Israel.
12. New York Transit Museum
The New York Transit Museum, also known as the NYC Transit Museum is a museum dedicated to displaying the historical artifacts of the New York City subway. One of the city’s leading cultural institutions, it is the largest museum in the States devoted to urban public transportation history.
New York City’s resilient transportation system is one of the world’s busiest and oldest and visitors can take a trip down memory lane exploring vintage subway cars in a subway station. It is housed in a momentous 1936 IND subway station in Brooklyn Heights.
The museum is an exposure to the development of the greater New York metropolitan region through exhibitions, tours, educational programs, and cultural programs dealing with aspects of the history of public transportation in NYC. It is one of the best museums in NYC for kids to explore.
13. The Tenement Museum
Located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City, the Tenement Museum is a National Historic Site. The museum was previously home to almost 15,000 people from over 20 countries, between 1863 and 2011, living here as immigrants. The museum advocates a historic perspective on the immigrant experience.
The Tenement Museum preserves the history through personal accounts of those who resided in the Lower East Side. The exposure includes visiting restored apartments from the 19th and 20th centuries, a walk around the historic neighborhood, and interactions with residents to know stories of the generations of immigrants.
The exhibit comprises shops open daily for public tours, showcasing the lives of immigrants who lived here between 1869 and 1935 and from the 1950s to the 1980s. The museum also offers a documentary and provides tours with costumed performers for portraying the building’s former residents, tastings of their communities’ typical foods, and neighborhood walks. The museum also harbors an extensive collection of historical archives and provides a plethora of educational programs.
14. The Frick Collection
Founded by industrialist Henry Clay Frick, The Frick Collection became accessible to the public when Henry granted his art collection as well as his Upper East Side residence to the public for the amusement of future generations.
The Frick Collection is an art museum located in Frick Madison, 945 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, New York City, and its permanent collection features Old Master paintings, and exquisite and decorative European arts, including works of Turner, Vermeer, Velazquez, and many others.
The collection has increased two times more since its opening to the public in 1935. The Frick is also home to the Frick Art Reference Library, a chief research center for art history established in 1920.
The Frick is one of the prominent art museums relatively small in the States, harboring an exquisite assortment of old master paintings and features some of the best-known paintings by European artists as well as ample works of sculptures and porcelain.
15. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Opened in 1982 at Pier 86 at 46th Street alongside the Hudson River on the West Side of Manhattan in New York City, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is an American military and maritime history museum with a collection of museum ships.
The museum is a nonprofit, educational establishment that features the legendary aircraft carrier Intrepid, the world’s first space shuttle that paved the way for America’s successful Space Shuttle Program, Enterprise, the cruise missile submarine Growler and the fastest jets of the world.
The museum welcomes almost a million visitors annually, belonging to all ages and abilities and they are taken on an interactive journey through history to learn about American bravery and innovation.
The objective is to spread awareness of history, science, and service through its collections and exhibitions to honor the heroes and educate the masses.
16. MoMA PS1
Founded in 1971 by Alanna Heiss, as the Institute for Art and Urban Resources Inc., it was an organization to transform abandoned and less utilized buildings in New York City into artist studios and exhibition spaces
The MoMA and PS1 Contemporary Art Center announced their institutional merger in 1999 and since 2000, MoMA PS1 has been affiliated with the MoMA. The institution is situated in the Long Island City neighborhood in the borough of Queens, NYC.
Apart from its exhibitions, it also curates the Sunday Sessions performance series, the Warm Up summer music series, and the Young Architects Program with the MoMA. The museum so far has featured works of artists like that Janet Cardiff, David Hammons, Hilma af Klint, Dennis Oppenheim, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Alan Saret, Katharina Sieverding, Keith Sonnier, Maria Lassnig, Judy Rifka, and several others.
17. The New Museum
Located at 235 Bowery, on Manhattan’s Lower Side, the New Museum is a museum dedicated to new and contemporary styles of art, and new ideas by artists who are yet to achieve significant exposure.
Since its inception, the institution has aimed at challenging the rigid institutionalization of an art museum by bringing on new ideas to the world of art and connecting it with the public.
The museum showcases works of undermined artists, and surveys of Ana Mendieta, William Kentridge, David Wojnarowicz, Paul McCarthy, and Andrea Zittel before they gained widespread public recognition.
In 2009, The Generational: Younger Than Jesus, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, was organized by the museum, which went on to become the first edition of its exhibition series, the “New Museum Triennial”. And subsequently, more editions have been curated over the years.
18. Museum of Jewish Heritage
The Museum of Jewish Heritage, located at Battery Park City in Manhattan, New York City, is an establishment acting as a living memorial to all those who died in the Holocaust.
The museum has welcomed more than 2 million visitors since its opening in 1997. The objective of the museum is to educate people, irrespective of age and background, about Jewish life in the 20th and 21st centuries, before, during, and after the Holocaust.
19. Neue Galerie
Established in 2001, the Neue Galerie in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC, is an art gallery exclusively dedicated to German and Austrian art and design comprising paintings, sculptures, photographs, and more.
The collection of the Neue Galerie is divided into two sections, the second floor was home to fine art and decorative art from early 20th century Austria, including paintings by Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, and decorative objects by the artisans of the Wiener Werkstaette and their contemporaries.
The third floor showcased several German works belonging to the same era including art movements such as The Blue Rider, The Bridge, and the Bauhaus. Some featured artists on this floor include Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.