The book you picked up in the airport bookstore says: These are Paintings and Exhibits You Need To See Before You Die. Travel Guides have everything about what museums to go into for a perfect cultural exposure that New York has to offer. But remember that books themselves are written by people too and are not infallible. They may miss one or two spots worth experiencing. Here are some curated experiences you might be missing that are outside the pages of the mainstream maps:

The Tenement Museum


New York has been the port-of-call for immigrants even way back during the city was established. The convergence point of immigrants are Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Their stay  and stories they have of their days in New York during their specific periods of immigration offer an insight into what values each one brought and transposed into this country. The Tenement Museum can be found in a building in Orchard Street. The establishment is rich in history since it was already around during the Civil War.

There are a lot of guided tours that help tourists navigate through the various apartments of the tenement which have been specifically restored for this purpose. Among the volunteers are the people who have in one time or another resided in these spaces. They provided details on the appearance of the said locations during their period of stay and these accounts have been helpful to restore the interiors to their old detail. What results are narrative that are driven as much by the spaces that held them and spaces that have been brought to life from the stories they were the settings of.

The tours usually center on the stories of families of different descent. In one of the tours, they feature the Moore Family who lived in the building in 1869. The tour focuses on their Irish roots and then proceeds on with the couple’s story of loss and mourning for a departed child. Another tour involves theatrics with an interpreter acting as Victoria Confino, a resident of the building in 1916. People can ask Victoria about life during that era. The items in the apartment can be held by visitors in a show and tell fashion.

Tours at the Tenement Museum do not necessarily just stay at the building at 97 Orchard. There are neighborhood tours wherein the guys try to bring the other ages of New York’s Lower East Side through the various architectures that hodge-podge it. It does not only provide an interesting history lesson but also provides insights into the leading architectural designs during a certain time in New York.

Aside from the tours, the Tenement Museum also holds talks on certain interesting historical personages or events that have shaped New York City. They have talks on people like the Howe and Hummel Firm who represented the city’s gallery of rogues during its Gilded Age. They also hold conversations with writers who write books about the New York landscape or with the Big Apple as part of the setting.

In order to go on a tour, it is best to walk in the establishment and check the particular time when the tour you’re interested will start. The neighborhood has a lot of restaurants and cafes to offer so killing in time while waiting for the tour of your choice is never a tedious thing.

Studio Museum in Harlem


Situated in the 125th Street of Harlem, this museum showcases African-American culture and art and history. The gallery shows art which is connected in the neighborhood and all the art done in its momentous history. There are a lot of pieces in the museum with a good representation coming from different kinds of media.

The curators of the Studio Museum of Harlem organize pieces according to specific themes which are important to the African-American community. Art which deals on memory, identity and history are clustered together. Presentations regarding the pieces are not theoretical and give the art works some depth without sacrificing intimacy.

The Studio Museum in Harlem does not just embody the art of the past but strive to help shape the art for the future through their Artist-in-Residence Program. This program enables a chosen artist to work within the confines of the museum and to worry about nothing except to produce her art while being supported by the establishment. There are also sessions when they invite authors to talk about the underlying messages of their books or explain the themes of their work which are important to the African-American community.

The museum offers a bevy of other cultural experiences such as screenings for documentaries which center on the African-American experience. The administrators and staff provide enriching lectures and there is always something scheduled in the museum’s docket. Aside from this there are several restaurants in the area and the Apollo Theater is close enough to walk to.

The museum is open the entire week from 10:30 a.m to 5:00 pm. Admissions are a suggested donation price of seven dollars.

Museum of the Moving Image

Although most movies these days are made in Hollywood, the pictures really got their start in New York City. The Museum of the Moving Image is a curated space which gives tribute to the beginnings and the golden age of American cinema and the many times New York has been used as the setting for movies.

There are various lectures about film culture and the movie making process. Aside from movies, the museum also deals with other media with moving images. There is also an arcade which features games and kinetoscopes. The arcade is a throwback to the old days of gaming and offers classic 8-bit games like Space Invaders and Pac Man. There is also a cinema which plays silent films and festival winners. There is also space where artists using video as mediums can display their pieces. Yoko Ono and Nam Jun Paik have installations in their gallery. Aside from the internal movie theaters, the Museum of the Moving Image also likewise offers outdoor screenings for some of the movies. They also have a club for children called Red Carpet Kids which showcases family entertainment movies.

The atmosphere in the museum deals with culture and openness. And despite the artistry of the films being presented, it never gets high-brow.

The Museum of the Moving Image is located in Astoria, Queens in the Kaufman-Astoria Studios. Aside from being a cultural melting pot,the neighborhood has a lot of great eateries. Go for the lesser know places where one can eat tacos from genuine Mexican taquerias or Mediterranean food in Greek restaurants.

The museum is open during Wednesdays to Sundays from noon to 6 pm.

The City Reliquary

The City Reliquary is a public space committed to preserving the little things that make up city life through the ages but are nonetheless taken for granted by the people who used them during their heydays. These are relics which bore the insignia of their times like a Chinatown newsstand and a section on Fannie Brice, the woman who inspired the Broadway musical and then later movie Funny Girl. Her career started in the neighborhood.

New Yorkers cannot help but feel nostalgic about the items in the City Reliquary. Various collections denote the evolution of the times through the changes as shown by the displays. There is a collection of subway tokens and the various changes applied on them as time went on. Aside from these there are also collections of artists whose art served distinct functions in the neighborhood like Stanley Wisniewolski who created sculpted shop signs for establishments there in the 1980s.

This museum has a storefront facade and is on the same street as the Spuyten Duyvil and the Knitting Factory. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the various entertainment options around the City Reliquary.

5 Pointz


5 Pointz is a sprawling building just a one ride on the train line going to Queens from Grand Central. Go above the ground and scope out the various graffiti on the walls of the industrial establishment.

Though 5 Pointz seems to be a throwback to the 5 Points, a historical slum that existed in New York from the 1820s to the 1850s, it is not haven for crime and gang violence like the former. 5 Points is a public space which permits urban artists to from around the world to draw their work on its walls. The once disused establishment now boasts of artists’ studios and galleries which can be viewed by visitors during Saturdays and Sundays.

The place doesn’t have official tours but artists give informal ones as long as you email ahead. 5 Pointz is the kind of place which allows you to experience how artists work and bear witness in the art making process which is something  passionate, disciplined and spontaneous.

This informal space is near another more formal one in PS1. Since it is in the Queens after all, the Museum of the Moving Image is also near the location. For fulfilling day, visit all three establishments. Afterwards go to Flushing and check out the various Oriental restaurants in the area.

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