National Lighthouse Museum

 

Edification value
Entertainment value
Should you go?
Time spent 47 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned The largest Fresnel lens in the U.S. was installed at Makapu’u Point Lighthouse on Oahu in Hawai’i in 1909.  It was made in France and was featured at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

The National Lighthouse Museum is a museum in its infancy.  Located a short stroll from the ferry terminal in St. George, Staten Island, the museum describes the history, technology, and design of lighthouses. Continue reading “National Lighthouse Museum”

Newhouse Center of Contemporary Art

Edification value
Entertainment value
Should you go?
Time spent 11 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned The building’s stained glass is a treasure of nautical and celestial themes.
Sailors’ Snug Harbor

The Newhouse Center is a challenge to review.  Like its neighbor the Noble Maritime Collection, its name creates a very wrong impression.  You think gallery, permanent collection, and with a name like Newhouse, it’s probably good stuff.  No, wrong, and not quite.

Continue reading “Newhouse Center of Contemporary Art”

Noble Maritime Collection

Edification value
Entertainment value
Should you go?
Time spent 57 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned John Noble made his art in a houseboat studio that he cobbled together, Frankenstein’s Monster-like, out of sundry boat bits and bobs over years.  The Collection acquired his studio, restored it beautifully, and moved the whole thing into a room in the building, where you can peek inside.

Sailors’ Snug Harbor

This museum suffers from a misleading name.  I walked into the Noble Maritime Collection expecting a dark basement full of dusty old nautical stuff, with a stuffy aristocratic bent. Instead, the collection occupies three light-filled, airy, beautifully restored floors of Building D at Sailors’ Snug Harbor.

It covers four main topics:

  • The life and art of John Noble, for whom the collection is named and who primarily made prints and drawings that captured the life of the harbor.
  • The founding and establishment of Snug Harbor in the early 19th century
  • The lives of sailors who retired to Snug Harbor
  • Robbins Reef Light, and Kate Walker, the remarkable woman who served as lighthousekeeper for over thirty years.

Continue reading “Noble Maritime Collection”

Transit Museum at Grand Central Terminal

Edification value
Entertainment value
Should you go?
Time spent 16 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned The Elevateds were built in the late 1890s and much of the signage was done in beautiful glass with floral decorations. I think of them as just big and hulking, but they must have been rather beautiful as well.

New York’s main Transit Museum is in Brooklyn, and it is very worth visiting.  When they restored Grand Central in the early 2000s, they opened a tiny branch (or “gallery annex”) of the museum there.  I’m tempted to say skip it — the exhibit space is very small, it’s more gift shop than museum, and there’s so much else to see at Grand Central.

And yet, I’ve seen some really good shows in that little space, so I wouldn’t dismiss the museum out of hand.

This year, the transit system is celebrating the construction of the new Second Avenue Subway.  In a brilliant bit of counter-programming, the current show at the Transit Museum’s GCT branch is about a bit of deconstructing, showing photos of the dismantling of the Third Avenue Elevated in 1955.

The pictures were all taken by Sid Kaplan, now a rather well known printer and photographer, but then a 17-year-old kid.  They are beautiful, great slices of life and times long gone. Even with the High Line and the remaining Elevated lines outside Manhattan, it’s still hard to imagine a time when Second, Third, Sixth, and Ninth Avenues were overshadowed by train tracks.

Sometimes when I ride the subway I imagine the future moment when a train rolls down those tracks for the last time.  It’ll probably be because of some calamity.  Flooding of the tunnels, giant monster attack, zombies.  Or maybe the subway will be obsolete someday due to self-driving cars or teleportation. So it resonated with me to see a sign announcing to riders, in a matter-of-fact way, the end of the Third Avenue El.

If your time at Grand Central is limited and you have to choose between seeing the Transit Museum there and, say, having a half dozen oysters at the Oyster Bar, or strolling through Grand Central Market, or just seeing the building itself, I  recommend you prioritize any of those other things.

But if you have a spare 15 minutes, the Transit Museum’s small, well conceived shows are worth the time.  And it is a fantastic gift shop, too.

For Reference:

Address Grand Central Terminal, main level, west side
Website nytransitmuseum.org
Cost Free
Other Relevant Links

 

Center for Architecture

Edification value
Entertainment value
Should you go?
Time spent 29 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned The 1997 redesign of the lounge of my freshman dorm at Columbia is a noteworthy recent project of an African American architect/designer.  Feels like damning with faint praise.

The Center for Architecture claims to be “the premier cultural venue for architecture and the built environment in New York City.”  I can’t say that I was all that impressed with it. 

The main exhibit on when I visited was a prime example of a show that would’ve been far, far better as a monograph or website than something you have to go see in real life.  In theory, a show about post-colonial African architecture could be really interesting.  Projects that worked well versus ones that failed, ones by African architects versus Euro-American ones.  There are lots of interesting things to say.  This show doesn’t do any of that.  It just throws something like 80 projects at you, arranged roughly by country.  Each project gets summed up in a brief text and some photos, put into a shallow wooden box and hung on the wall, along with all the others. Continue reading “Center for Architecture”