The plants are terrific, but I will pick this tucked-away sundial.
It was a gift from Queens-based Bulova Watch Company, and a garden resident since April of 1951!
I still wonder whether I was right to include botanical gardens in my definition of museums. However, I did it, and I haven’t undone it. So another garden it is. I didn’t even know the Queens Botanical Garden existed when I started this project. However, it does bill itself as “a living museum,” so its staff seem to agree with me. It also calls itself “a place of peace and beauty for the quiet enjoyment of our visitors.” Please reserve your noisy enjoyment for places like the American Museum of Natural History.
Captain King’s great-grandsons, twins Ernest and Charnley Murray, also became sailors. Bearded and beret-ed in 1898, they’d fit in perfectly with the hipster denizens of today’s Bushwick or Williamsburg.
The small “Victorian” garden hosts a couple of bird feeders, a grape arbor (they freeze grapes and make grape juice for visitors all year round), a patch of lawn, and even a teensy koi pond.
I didn’t believe that they could squeeze a museum, bird sanctuary and Victorian garden onto a residential lot in Queens. I mean, two of those things, maybe. But then, I’d never been to the Voelker-Orth House.
Latimer’s work on the lightbulb made him (slightly) famous, but he patented many other things. He invented a method of cooling a room by dampening fabric hung in a window. And a rack that could safely lock your hat, coat, or umbrella, for use at offices or restaurants. And finally, a better train toilet, details of which I’m probably happier not to know.
Lewis Latimer, the son of escaped slaves, helped patent the telephone, refined the design of the light bulb, and ended up a Grand Old Man of the General Electric Company. He also painted and wrote poetry.
He’s sort of a footnote to history — but a good footnote, and a meaningful one, not one of those ones you just skim over. It’s therefore fantastic that his home in Flushing today serves as a museum to his memory.
We didn’t even discuss it on the tour but this vintage washing machine (definitely later than 1661) evoked for me all the artifacts from hundreds of years of Bowne family life in this house– the stories they could tell!
Imagine the year 1661. Charles II was crowned King of England. Sweden and Russia wrapped up a war. The Netherlands ceded the territory of New Holland to Portugal (nowadays it’s a chunk of Brazil). A kid named Isaac Newton enrolled at Cambridge. And Englishman John Bowne and his wife Hannah settled in a small farmhouse in the Dutch village of Vlissingen, in the hinterlands of New Amsterdam.
356 years later, that modest house (with several additions and alterations) still stands on its original plot of land. Today we call Vlissingen the neighborhood of Flushing in the borough of Queens. Continue reading “Bowne House”
Milanese designer Silvia Giovanardi’s samurai dress. Her work incorporates natural fibers and a lot of Japanese influence. I don’t recall ever seeing a fashion riff on samurai armor before!
The Queens College Art Center occupies a glassed-in hallway on the sixth floor of the fairly depressing, blocky library building on Queens College’s campus in the far reaches of Flushing. This building doesn’t want to be Brutalist and standoffish, but its efforts to be welcoming are so forced and artificial that it ultimately feels even less welcoming than if the architects hadn’t tried in the first place.
The guard at the front desk may not exactly know that the library even houses an Art Center on its sixth floor. But based on my experience, if you’re nice about it and confident about where you’re going he will happily wave you on into the library, no need to show an ID or sign a guest register or anything. Continue reading “Queens College Art Center”
This picture book of famous men who loved cats. Beautifully illustrated and funny and reminded me how much I don’t want to be one of those single guys with cats.
The entry on William S. Burroughs begins, “In a gentlemen’s club such as this, there are bound to be a few scandals.”
Queens College started collecting art in the 1950s, and today holds a collection that, according to their website, encompasses over 5,000 objects from across history. That makes the Queens College art collection more comprehensive than that of the Queens Museum, and the most encyclopedic in the borough.
As that collection grew, the college eventually decided to create a venue to curate and display it. Founded in 1981, the museum takes its name from its founders: art historian Frances Godwin and art restorer Joseph Ternbach. The Godwin-Ternbach Museum today consists of a medium sized space in the very institutional-looking Klapper Hall. The museum has a flexible, open floorplan, with super high ceilings and a small mezzanine level overlooking it on three sides. With its pretty parquet floor, the space reminded me oddly of a basketball court for art. Continue reading “Godwin-Ternbach Museum”
The Hall of Science boats a small outdoor rocket garden, with a Gemini Titan 2, a Mercury-Atlas D, and a reproduction Saturn V engine.
Very big science, and a reminder that we sent the first astronauts to space strapped to the top of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park is strewn with relics from New York’s two great World’s Fairs, in 1939 and 1964. While the Queens Museum is the last building still around from 1939, the nearby New York Hall of Science is a notable survivor from 1964. Today, the Hall of Science is sort of a patchwork of old-school science museum and hip, modern, interactive experience. To wit, it kinda wants to be called “Ny-Sci,” though I don’t want to call it that. Its home is a similar patchwork–at times I couldn’t figure out what parts of it are midcentury versus later additions.
The Queens Museum could install the Mona Lisa on loan from the Louvre and the Panorama of the City of New York would still be the best thing at the Queens Museum.
Each of New York’s outer boroughs has a showpiece, namesake museum. They range from the huge and ambitious Brooklyn Museum to the quirkier, but still ambitious, Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Queens Museum, in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, has something unique in all of New York City’s museums making a visit mandatory for anyone who loves New York City.