The newly-opened Statue of Liberty Museum is the latest offering on the already packed New York City museum scene. But where else can you explore the history and heritage of late 19th century NYC?
Here’s our list of the best New York City museums to explore what was happening in the city when the Statue of Liberty was erected.
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum
While the Statue of Liberty was being dedicated in 1886, things didn’t look so grand on the Lower East Side. This museum, dedicated to the experiences of immigrants to the area, is a heartbreaking testament to the area’s unexpectedly inspiring heritage. The museum includes three remarkably preserved and minimally restored 19-century tenements and the cramped home and garment shop of the Levine family from Poland. There are numerous tours visitors can take that include in-depth explorations of many different lives that were lived in these buildings and the surrounding area.
Top tip: check the website in advance for all the tour options as new ones are added frequently.
Merchant’s House Museum
This red-brick mansion in SoHo was built in 1832 and purchased by merchant Seabury Tredwell three years later and it remains the most authentic Federal house in town. The museum explores the city’s mercantile past but it’s also packed full of 19-century high-end domestic furnishings. This is the place to see what money could buy, from the bronze gasoliers and marble mantelpieces to the elegant parlor chairs.
Top tip: Keep an eye out for the ghost of Gertrude Tredwell – Seabury’s youngest child and the building’s last resident. Apparently she makes cameo appearances in late evenings. There are ghost tours if you want to introduce yourself.
New York City Fire Museum
An ode to New York City firefighters is housed in a firehouse dating back to 1904. Including a fantastic collection of historic equipment and artifacts, this museum teaches visitors about the development of the New York firefighting system dating back to the late 19-century. Look for the horse-drawn firefighting carriages and early stovepipe firefighter hats.
Top Tip: The heavy equipment and friendly staff make this a great spot for kids. They can even learn about Chief, a four-legged firefighting hero from Brooklyn.
The Morgan Library and Museum
In 1890 wealthy financier Pierpont Morgan started collecting tapestries, manuscripts and books (including three Gutenberg Bibles). Eventually he had a special library built in Midtown Manhattan to house his extraordinary collection. The vaulted space houses three stories of walnut bookcases, a 16th-century Dutch tapestry and zodiac-themed ceiling. Morgan's son, Jack opened the library up to the public just a few years after his father's death. It has been growing its collection and public offerings ever since.
Top Tip: Audioguides are free and the center’s rotating exhibits are often superb.