Monday, July 21, 2008

Museum of the City of New York

After living in New York for most of my adult life, I finally made it up to the Museum of the City of New York ten days ago. This is particularly odd because I’m so fascinated with New York City history. I also highly recommend the bookstore; I made out like a bandit at the sale table.

I’m sure that the Museum’s theatre collection is excellent, certainly judging from their website and picture collection. What of it was displayed was disappointing, and with very little context. The toy collection is quite extensive. I thought that I’d like the dollhouses best, but the toys from the first half of the 20th century were at least as good, if not better. I found a toy from my childhood that I’d forgotten. It was a metal dog covered with fur that sat on a stand. In the front of the stand were keys that looked like typewriter keys. The dog made a different move (head turns right, tail wags, etc.) for each different key. I saw that dog, and I was five years old again, sitting on the windowsill in my grandmother’s dining room.

One of the special exhibits is Catholics in New York, 1808-1946 (runs until December 31st). If I knew anyone who was raised Catholic in New York and old enough to remember 1946, I think they would have really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I don’t. This show was less famous Catholics (other than the clergy) than the Roman Catholic experience in the five boroughs. The main audio component was a long video loop of Frank Macchiarola (who looks old and tired) reminiscing about growing up in an Italian parish in Brooklyn. It is exhaustive and exhausting, for which I blame the editor, not Macchiarola.

The other special exhibit is Campaigning for President: New York and the American Election, which is fascinating (runs until November 4th). You thought all that cheesey political marketing is a post-World War II phenomenon? No! There were commemorative buttons given out at Washington’s inauguration; paper hats supporting James Monroe; John Adams’ torch-carriers; even a Teddy Roosevelt dolly. So go see this intriguing exhibit, that bears witness to the good-old-days being pretty much the same.

1 comment:

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