There are many ways to look at a city. One can get a view of it while walking down its avenues, flying through its airspace, or gazing from afar at its distinctive skyline, an unmistakable fingerprint. The curators of The Skyscraper Museum, however, view New York through its history, exploring the personalities that shaped the skyline along with the stories of the buildings themselves. Their exhibits delve deep into these stories, examining, for instance, the economic circumstances and technological advances which allowed the Woolworth Building—sometimes called the "Cathedral of Commerce"—to sprout from New York's fertile pavement.
Even the very bones of the museum support its subject, with displays set into stacked cases that rise from floor to ceiling. The stainless steel ceiling and floor extend the verticality, making guests feel as if they're striding through the skyline of a city as giants, caught between the perspective of man and skyscraper. The narrow passageways of the museum feature long strips of lighting, the stacked panels along the walls and streaks of light creating the sensation of driving down a bustling boulevard at night.
Housed in a former speakeasy, the Museum of the American Gangster isn’t obvious on a casual stroll down St. Mark’s Place. If visitors know to look for number 80, though, they pass through a black gate and up a flight of stairs, where a plethora of artifacts and exhibits awaits. The museum focuses on American organized crime through the decades, which includes profiling mob bosses, Prohibition-era gangsters, serial bank robbers, and dastardly Scooby-Doo villains. The New York Times praised co-owner and tour guide Lorcan Otway as "so encyclopedic that touring the rooms takes an hour," as he expounds upon America's unique relationship with hedonism and straight-laced morality. In the Wall Street Journal, correspondent Alexandra Cheney mentions noteworthy finds including the museum's genuine Tommy guns, vintage whiskey bottles, and old copper stills.
Standing at the intersection of contemporary art and design, The Museum of Arts and Design explores the way that artists and designers from around the world translate ideas in masterpieces that range from traditional to bleeding-edge. At its stunning Columbus Circle headquarters, visitors marvel at its glass-and-terracotta exterior before exploring a rotating collection that ranges from jewelry and delicate glass works to ceramics to architectural designs and furniture. This meshing of masterpieces has attracted more than a million visitors to the museum since it opened in 2008. The jewelry collection illustrates the transformation that took place in the world of studio jewelry from post–World War II to today, while woodwork by generations of well-known artists charts the evolution from handcarved pieces to astonishing works of machine-aided art. Other rotating exhibits the museum hosts explore topics such as glassworking, scent, and sculpture.
After organizing the colonies' debts in 1792, the United States’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, issued a historic document—a bond made out to George Washington for $182.95. It wasn't the amount that lent the bond historic importance, or even the fact that it was signed by Washington, but that its value was expressed with a dollar sign, the symbol's first appearance on a federal document. At the Museum of American Finance, this bond is displayed alongside other artifacts from similarly historic moments throughout the history of American economics, giving visitors a unique perspective on the country's financial foundation. Juxtaposing this historical perspective are the museum's rotating exhibits, which offer insight on more recent financial affairs such as the credit crisis and the campaign to put Snoopy's face on the dollar bill.
Travel back to experience New York’s past as a home for dinosaurs, Native Americans, and eventually art critics at the Staten Island Museum. Founded in 1881, the museum encapsulates the area’s geological and cultural history with more than two million artifacts. Exhibits showcase relics from prehistoric Staten Island residents; fossil, geological, and wildlife taxidermy samples; and the spark that lit the Statue of Liberty’s torch. Art collections from historical painters and contemporary artists provide a workout for right brains and scan-happy eyes. As part of an ongoing dream to make the exhibits bigger and better, the museum is expanding into the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, a 19th century dormitory for “aged, worn out and retired seamen.”