Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration

Edification value  
Entertainment value 4/5
Should you go?  
Time spent 213 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned Ellis Island National Immigration Museum, New York

Ellis Island’s mental health tests were simple puzzles designed to be as culturally and linguistically neutral as possible. In theory, they quickly weeded out anyone who needed a closer cognitive look.

The classic twofer of New York Harbor is typically viewed as nerdy little brother Ellis overshadowed by big sister Liberty, who enlightens the world.  But from a museum perspective it is the reverse.  Ellis Island’s outstanding National Museum of Immigration tells the story of a unique era in American history, in the space where that era unfolded.  Twelve million people got their starts in the United States right here.

Ellis Island National Immigration Museum, New York Continue reading “Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration”

Statue of Liberty Museum

Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value  4/5
Should you go?  4/5
Time spent 123 minutes (not counting time going through security, waiting for the ferry, or on the ferry)
Best thing I saw or learned I’d never given much thought to the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. So the story of its design — and the near failure of the effort to raise the money to build it — fascinated me. Yes, it’s like choosing frame over the painting, but still.
Statue of Liberty, New York HarborThink how different she’d look if they’d gone with a stepped, Aztec-looking pyramid as her base.  Or something Egyptian revival.

There aren’t all that many museums built to honor a single work of art. Right? I assert that and now suddenly I’m unsure of myself. In New York, there’s Walter de Maria’s Earth Room. And I think of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans as a single, unified whole, even though many busts of great men (and a few women) comprise it. And the Statue of Liberty Museum makes three.

Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor
Lady Liberty

The Statue of Liberty Museum occupies a substantial space in Liberty’s pedestal. It tells the story of the genesis, engineering, construction, and gifting of the statue, as well as her absolutely iconic role as a symbol of freedom, democracy, New York, and the United States. Among other treasures, it includes the statue’s original torch, glass and lit from inside. Continue reading “Statue of Liberty Museum”

Governors Island National Monument

Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value  2/5
Should you go?  3/5
Time spent 48 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned A plaque (reproduced just below) visualizes how New York’s historic harbor defenses overlapped to protect Lower Manhattan and the Hudson.  With the actual harbor spread majestically before you, it’s phenomenally effective.
Harbor Defenses, Governors Island
Historic Harbor Defenses, Plus Harbor

I’ve seen three forts (Totten, Schuyler, Clinton) in the course of this project so far, with several more yet to come. Governors Island features a twofer, which (like the others) speak to changing military technology and adaptation to new uses.

All the extant fortifications around New York Harbor and Long Island Sound have two things in common. The military never had to use them to defend the city, and advances in military technology very quickly rendered them obsolete. Not that it was necessarily money down the drain; the mere existence of the chain of forts around the city may well have helped deter attacks from, um, pirates or Canadians? They almost certainly helped ensure New York remained unmolested by the British during the War of 1812. Continue reading “Governors Island National Monument”

New York City Police Museum

Edification value 3/5
Entertainment value  2/5
Should you go?  2/5
Time spent 20 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned New York City Police MuseumFrom the 1940s until the 1970s, policewomen in New York received these combination makeup and weapon holsters.  So practical!

New York City Police MuseumThe Police Museum is currently in flux.  Formerly housed near City Hall, it’s been homeless since Sandy.  For the moment, it’s found space on Governor’s Island, where a scaled-down version tells a few selected stories of Gotham’s police force.

It’s in Pershing Hall, a beautiful, well-preserved, historic building, with two odd flags outside.

  • The green, white, and blue one is the flag of the NYC Police Department — five stripes for the five boroughs, and 24 stars for the 23 towns and villages that make up NYC, plus one for the city as a whole.  I’m not making that up. Continue reading “New York City Police Museum”