5 OF THE BEST HISTORY MUSEUMS IN NEW YORK CITY
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5 OF THE BEST HISTORY MUSEUMS IN NEW YORK CITY

I absolutely love museums; I think it’s important to learn about new things, different cultures and histories, and about the places we visit. You can find out a lot about a place through its food, its people, its architecture – but I also like immersing myself in historical museums to also understand a bit more about the places I am visiting.

1. Museum of the City of New York

This was an amazing museum. There is an incredible exhibition which traces 400 years of NYC’s history. Starting in 1609 as a Dutch trading colony, through to becoming an English Imperial Port from 1664-1775, to the American revolution and tackling the challenges of growing population density, alongside constant waves of immigration from Europe, New York’s early history was one of constant change. In to the 1900s and the makeup of immigrants changed again – with more from eastern and southern Europe; tenements grew and whole neighbourhoods like Chinatown developed. In to the 1920s New York roared, with an economic boom and the skyscrapers and greater New York area starting to take shape – until the 1929 Wall Street crash abruptly ended the period of prosperity and NYC entered a depression. But yet again the city rebuilt, worked hard, fought in a world war and by the 1950s was again the capital of he world. The museum then talks through the civil rights movement, women’s rights, the Vietnam war, the growth of Hip Hop, the new immigrant economy from South America – and the atrocities of September 11th 2001. The Museum tells the city’s history in fact, through people’s stories and items. Ultimately the museum considers what New York actually is, what it means, and what the future holds.

2. American Museum of Natural History

This museum is located in the Upper West Side, and so is perfect to combine with a visit to Central Park. The museum is dedicated to cultures, the natural world and the known universe – it is absolutely incredible and again, you could easily spend a whole day here.

3. Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Traditionally, the Lower East Side was an immigrant, working class neighbourhood. Originally New Amsterdam covered this area, with the bulk of early settlers being Dutch. Then in the late 19th/early 20th century, again the bulk of immigrants to the city came to the Lower East Side, moving into the crowded tenement buildings there. Part of the area became Kleindeutschland (Little Germany), and this was followed by groups of Italians, Hungarians, Poles, Eastern European Jews, Russians and Ukrainians. By 1920, the Jewish neighbourhood was one of the largest of these ethnic groupings, and this heritage can still be found in the area today.

4. 9/11 Memorial and Museum

What is there to be said about this museum that hasn’t already been said. Visit it, be moved, be shocked, cry – and most importantly pay your quiet respects to the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001 that shocked the world. The museum and memorial are beautifully done as a tribute to ensure those who lost their lives are never forgotten. I was teary the whole way round and also learned a lot about the politics and the build up to the attacks that I hadn’t really appreciated before. Given everything going on in the Middle East at the moment, I really worry about where we will end up again.

5. Museum at Eldridge Street

Learn about New York’s Jewish community at the synagogue on Eldridge Street. This Synagogue, opened in 1887, is one of the  first in the USA by Eastern European Jews, and one of the founders was Rabbi Eliahu the Blessed who was previously Head Rabbi of St Petersburg in Russia.

My ultimate takeaway from all of these museums is that New York is a melting pot- of cultures, people, creativity and diversity. Where I live in the UK, things stay pretty stable. My partner’s family have lived in the same 10 mile radius for 8 generations, and that’s pretty common. But in New York it’s constant change, constant innovation, constant hard work and changing population dynamics.

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