New York’s other museums

A new book by Wendy Lubovich, "111 Museums in New York That You Must Not Miss," spotlights lesser-known institutions in NYC. 
A new book by Wendy Lubovich, "111 Museums in New York That You Must Not Miss," spotlights lesser-known institutions in NYC.  Photo Credit: Crosby Bar/Simon Brown

 Sure, New York is home to MoMA and the Met, but did you know there’s also a museum of tattoos and a museum of dirt? And a gallery for self-taught geniuses? And a museum of harbor defense and a repository of Harry Houdini artifacts?

These are some of the institutions in Wendy Lubovich’s book, “111 Museums in New York That You Must Not Miss.” The book features photographs by Ed Lefkowicz.

Lubovich is a for-hire museum tour guide by day who has worked in both the Guggenheim and the Frick.

Her tips for the major museums, which are included in the book, too: carve out four or five works and spend some real time looking at them.

“I think it can be exhausting to try to hit all the highlights,” she says.

Many of her groups frequent the larger museums, so she says she was excited to introduce readers to the smaller ones “that people don’t know about.”

That includes one of her favorites, the Brooklyn Art Library in Williamsburg. Its floor-to-ceiling shelves house tens of thousands of sketchbooks that were  sent blank to participants around the world. The participants filled them with their private musings and drawings and sent them back for safekeeping in Brooklyn.

It’s one of the “little jewels” to be found in the five boroughs. “New York City is so marvelous in that way,” says Lubovich.

Here’s a few of her other selections:

The Alice Austen House

This Staten Island cottage was once home to Alice Austen, one of America’s earliest female photographers, writes Lubovich. Austen, who was born in 1866, photographed Lower East Side street life and was known to carry her heavy camera equipment on her bicycle, according to the book. The museum’s website cites Austen’s decades-long “loving and devoted relationship” with another woman and posits that Austen was the first woman on Staten Island to own a car.

The home, nicknamed “Clear Comfort,” exhibits Austen’s “independent spirit,” writes Lubovich, plus views of New York Harbor out the window.

The Mossman Lock Collection

Located in the Manhattan building of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York, Lubovich notes that you may have the “exquisite room” to yourself.

Within, she says there are more than 370 locks, keys and tools to investigate from the collection of a 19th-century lock maker. The locks date from 4000 B.C. onward and some have “elaborate mechanisms that only open at a certain hour, day, or year.”

The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space

This museum honors the New York tradition of squatting, and the East Village’s history of urban activism. Lubovich writes that a small brick-walled basement includes artifacts from all sorts of protests – from bike lane actions to Occupy Wall Street (she mentions that the exhibit even has a generator from the Occupy movement).

The museum’s site says it also offers walking tours of the area’s squats, community gardens, and famous moments from the Civil War Draft Riots to Tompkins Square anarchism in the 20th century. Harder to find at the Met.

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