100 New York City Museums: Milestone Post

So. 100 New York City museums in the past 160 days.  Hitting the century mark is extremely satisfying.  Places keep surprising me, and largely for the better.  I’m not doing so well as I hoped in terms of time, but I’m doing far better than I expected in terms of money.  I’ve seen a lot of art, and a lot of maritime, um, paraphernalia, and recently much Judaica.  The Asia Society made me grumpy, while Louis Armstrong’s house filled me with delight.

Museums Visited ChartWhile it feels great to be 53 percent of my way done (tally of currently open museums:  189), there’s still a long 47 percent of the way to go.  Hopefully, like a roller coaster, now that I’ve crested the top of the hill, momentum will help carry me the rest of the way.

Let’s talk stats for a moment, shall we?

Time and Money

Since I started this craziness in March, I’ve averaged 0.625 of a museum every day.  Cumulatively, I’ve spent almost 99 hours at museums — totally by accident, my average visit works out to just a little south of one hour per museum. That doesn’t count time spent writing reviews or travel time to and from museums.  I could cook up an estimate of that, but I’m almost afraid what it would say about me.

By strategic deployment of my ID-NYC card and picking free days for visits, I’ve managed to keep my expenses for this project very low.  In fact, my average cost per museum visited works out to $1.93.  This makes museums an incredibly cost-effective form of edification and entertainment.  To be clear, that’s just admission price, it doesn’t include travel, like the Zipcar I rented to visit the Maritime Industry Museum, Fort Totten, and the Bayside Historical Society. And it also excludes provisions and refreshments like the fried oysters and pina colada from Jimmy’s Reef on the day I visited the City Island Nautical Museum.

$1.93 - Average Cost of Museum Visit
A buck ninety-three.

Museum Quality

My museum averages are regressing nicely to the mean.  Across the first 100 New York City museums I’ve seen:

  • Average edification:  3.03
  • Average entertainment:  3.00
  • Average “should you go?” score:  3.21

I consider that a good thing. I’ve tried to hold myself to a solid “meets expectations, doing well according to the museum’s own mission statement” kind of notion for a “3.” I suppose it might be better if every museum in New York earned solid 5s, but I’d suspect my methodology, impartiality, or sanity if that happened.

That said, I like that the “should you go?” stat breaks a bit high. I’ve generally found New York’s smaller and more offbeat museums more worth the time than I expected.

100 New York City Museums: Ratings by BoroughExcept for Staten Island, where I’ve only seen three museums, my sample sizes across the boroughs now allow for some comparison. 

  • The borough with the most edifying museums is the Bronx, with an average of 3.30. 
  • The most entertaining museums reside in Queens, with an average of 3.29.
  • In terms of my enthusiasm for visiting, Staten Island scores best currently, with an average of 3.33.  That score is dramatically affected by my enthusiasm for the Noble Maritime Collection.  After Staten Island, Queens hosts my most warmly recommended museum collection, with a “should you visit?” score of 3.29.

Composite Scores:  Hooray for Oversimplification!

At the midpoint, I think my three-score rubric has held up well.  I’m becoming fluent at it; I walk out of museums now thinking things like, “well, that was a solid 3-4-3.”

I’ve also built a simple weighted average composite score.  I gave the “should you go?” stat double the weight of the other two.  Because at the end of the day, if this blog does anything useful, it should help set expectations about whether an unfamiliar museum is worth your time.

Of course, boiling everything down to a simple 1-5 score way oversimplifies the complicated question of whether a museum is serving its purpose or achieving its mission statement well.  But it facilitates comparisons, and we all love top-ten lists.

Based on composite score, Manhattan and Queens currently tie as the boroughs with the “best” museums (or at least, the museums I’ve liked best), at 3.14 apiece.  The Bronx is right up there, though, at 3.13.  Staten Island hits at 3.00.  And Brooklyn’s museums score a composite 2.93.

100 New York City Museums: Overall Museum Ratings, by Borough

100 New York City Museums: The Bestest

Without ado, here are the ten museums that scored the highest (so far), based on the composite score formula I described a moment ago.  Actually there are 11, due to ties. It pleases me that along with the usual suspects several places I’d never visited before broke the top, um, eleven.  Project justified!

The Frick Collection  5
The Cloisters  5
Museum of the City of New York  4.75
The Morgan Library & Museum  4.75
Whitney Museum of American Art  4.75
Hall of Fame for Great Americans  4.5
Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum  4.5
New York Public Library  4.5
Noble Maritime Collection  4.5
Noguchi Museum  4.5
Rubin Museum of Art  4.5

Admittedly, this is going to change — still to come are the American Museum of Natural History, MoMA, and of course the Metropolitan itself, all of which should score at least a 4.75.  But even if the “top ten” ends up tilting toward the big guns, the top scoring museums, defined as those 4.5 or higher, will continue to reflect some unexpected institutions.

100 New York City Museums: The Worstest

Since it’s sometimes more fun to see what didn’t work well, here are the museums that I’ve gotten the least out of so far.  Maybe I’ll go back and re-review some of these…maybe.

Korea Society 1
Swiss Institute/ Contemporary Art New York 1.25
Ukrainian Museum 1.75
Tibet House 1.75
Newhouse Center of Contemporary Art 1.75
New York School of Interior Design Gallery 1.75
Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space 1.75
Fort Totten Visitor Center 1.75

Adventures Abound

And that’s 100 museums down.  90-ish to go.  I’m still planning to finish this project by the end of the year.  Someone asked me what I plan to after that — start looking at Westchester or New Jersey museums?  Maybe.  Or never go to another museum in my life. Or go back and start over again — like they do when painting the Golden Gate Bridge.  I’ve already got a re-review coming, as Columbia’s Wallach Gallery has moved into snazzy new space in a Renzo Piano-designed building at the university’s new campus.  And of course new museums are always opening, too.  Jackie Robinson is getting one in Tribeca in, I think, 2019. I’m sure I’ll keep myself out of mischief.