The great thing about having a spreadsheet with every museum in the city on it is it opens the door to all kinds of analysis! At least, that’s the great thing about it if you’re me. Museum statistics may not be your cup of tea, but I’ve culled some hopefully interesting findings from the data on where New York’s museums are and what they cover.
My first question was, of the 188 museums and cultural institutions currently open in New York City, how many have I visited? As of the start of the Museum Project, I had visited 62 of the of places on the list, which works out to just about one-third of them. I feel bad about that. I wish it were higher. What have I been doing with my time in New York? But truth be told, it’s about where I expected.
I also wondered about location. I’d expect museums to be concentrated in Manhattan, with relatively fewer in the outer boroughs. Was I right?
The short answer is yes. 115 of the museums, or 61%, are in Manhattan. Brooklyn has 23 and Queens has 22, almost a tie (and about 12% apiece), The Bronx has 15, and Staten Island has 12. And there’s one museum, the Filipino American Museum, that does not have permanent space, but somewhat to my surprise it DOES have an exhibit going on that one can visit. For my next trick, I created a (daunting!) Google map, which took some time but which I decided would be invaluable for planning purposes.
The other thing that my museum statistics database facilitates is a look the types of museums the city boasts. The Wiki list helpfully categorized them and a spot check suggests it works at least for a high level overview.
In short, art. Lots of art. 70, or about 37%, of the museums in New York City deal with art. (that includes the 2-3 “encyclopedic” museums, most notably Brooklyn and the Met).
History comes next. I’ll be visiting 27 historic houses or other buildings, and the list encompasses 21 history museums of other sorts. Cumulatively, that’s about 25% of the total.
Not exclusive with either art or history, this project will also be good for my knowledge of Jewish art and culture. Having lived in this city for more than half my life, I like to think I’m just a little bit Jewish by osmosis, but the 9 Jewish museums in New York will be a good reinforcement of that.
One sobering note, for me at least, is the paucity of science museums. My database categorizes only 4 museums in New York as either “science” or “natural history.” One might count the Intrepid or some of the maritime museums in the science category. And of course the American Museum of Natural History is so good at what it does, it could count for 5 “normal” science museums.
But the market might well support five normal science museums, where we have only one AMNH. Now I understand why the crowds descend on weekends. I believe there’s a market opportunity if anyone wants to open another science museum. As opposed to another gallery or art museum, of which we have more than plenty.
Finally, jumping back to other cultural institutions, I note that New York City has specialist museums devoted to the following cultures:
African and African American: 7
Native American: 1
Filipino American: 1
Rather than rattle down any more numbers, I’ll close this post by posing myself two questions (and then answering them):
What am I most excited about?
What am I least excited about?
As a slightly dark individual, I do love the opportunity to visit what you might call the goth museum trifecta: Green-Wood Cemetery, the Edgar Allan Poe House and the Morbid Anatomy Museum. But I’ve been to all of them.
In terms of places I’ve never been, I have been meaning to go see the Hall of Fame of Great Americans in the Bronx for ages, and the Hispanic Society probably has the most important art collection of the places on the list that I’ve never been to. Somehow I’ve never been to Gracie Mansion, it will be good to finally take that tour. And Louis Armstrong’s house! The Nicolas Roerich Museum is literally three blocks from me, and I’ve never been there. In short, there’s a lot I’m really looking forward to.
In terms of the “dread” end of the spectrum, well, the Times Square museums rank pretty low for me. I’ve avoided Madame Tussaud’s and Ripley’s Believe it or Not for years, but their day will come during this project. I’m not super excited about the Caruso Museum, though I expect it will be charming and I do like opera. And I can’t say I’m looking forward to the City’s three museums devoted to 9/11. They are hard places to visit, emotionally.