There are many great art museums in New York. Yet this one is not like any others – it is dedicated to the history of the city itself, and runs a number of amazing temporary exhibitions on different social, historic and other cultural issues of New York. It was established in 1923, and has been residing in a beautiful Neo-Georgian building on the 5th Ave and 103rd street, on the Upper East Side, which was designed and completed for the museum in 1930.
Among its top exhibitions, the permanent one called “NY At Its Core” located on the 1st floor is one of the most interesting. It is focused on the history of the city, from its early days when it was just a newly established Dutch port city in the early 1600s, to the modern post 9/11 days. And to give you an even better understanding of the city’s 400-year history, there’s a 30-minute narrated film, named “Timescapes” which runs every 40 minutes on the lower floor. It overviews the history of the city, with the help of numerous drawings, illustrations, maps, and photographs. The two upper floors are mainly used to run various temporary exhibitions, based on different topics dedicated to New York.
The museum was originally located in Gracie Mansion, where available space was limited. One of its first major exhibits was “Old New York”, presented in the Fine Arts Building on West 57th Street in 1926. The success of the project led to a search for a new, permanent headquarters for the museum. A design competition was held between five invited architects, and the Colonial Revival design by Freedlander was selected. The city donated a site on Fifth Avenue, and funds for construction of the museum building were raised by public subscription.The original plans for the museum’s building were scaled back as a result of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, nevertheless, the building was dedicated on January 11, 1932.
On January 24, 1967 the museum building was designated a New York City landmark.
In 1982, the Museum received The Hundred Year Association of New York’s Gold Medal Award “in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York.”
In 2000, the administration of mayor Rudy Giuliani told the museum that it could relocate to the historic Tweed Courthouse near City Hall in Lower Manhattan. El Museo del Barrio would then have moved across the street to occupy the current Museum of the City of New York building. This decision was overturned by the incoming administration of Michael Bloomberg, which decided to use the Courthouse as the headquarters for the new New York City Department of Education, causing MCNY’s then-director Robert R. McDonald to tender his resignation. McDonald was replaced in 2002 by Susan Henshaw Jones, who was at the time the president of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
There was also an attempt to merge the museum with the New-York Historical Society, which did not come to fruition, and the museum was passed over for space at the World Trade Center site.
The Museum’s former director, Susan Henshaw Jones, recommitted MCNY to its East Harlem neighborhood by planning an extension to the Museum. The groundbreaking for this extension, which included renovation of existing gallery space, as well as a new pavilion, took place on August 2, 2006, and it was completed in February 2008 with a ribbon cutting later that same year.
The pavilion gallery, designed by the Polshek Partnership, is 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) glass addition, which has two levels for which to display artifacts. The original 1932 Georgian Revival building was also restored during this project, as well as additions including a vault for the museum’s silver collection, a research room and a room for the handling of artifacts. The total costs for the first phase of refurbishments came to $28 million.
In late 2011, the Museum temporarily took over operation of the South Street Seaport Museum which reopened in January 2012
Free WiFi access is available throughout the building as well as on the Front Terrace.
Feel free to text, post, and share what you see during your visit. As a courtesy to other visitors, please set your phone to vibrate and take all voice calls outside of the galleries.
Pencils, sketchbooks, and notebooks are permitted. However, pens, paints, and easels are not permitted.
Coat check is currently closed in order to help us reduce the spread of COVID-19. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
Still photography for personal, noncommercial use is permitted unless otherwise noted. Tripods, selfie sticks, and flash photography are not permitted.
Single strollers are permitted in the galleries, at the discretion of gallery guards. The Museum will not hold or store luggage. All bags are subject to inspection.
Can I donate objects to the Museum’s collection? We cannot accept materials without prior approval. Please send a description of your proposed donation, as well as photographs or scans, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will timed tickets be required?
Timed tickets purchased in advance are highly recommended. Building capacity is limited and if we reach capacity, your entry time may be delayed. Walk-in visits are possible, but we strongly recommend purchasing timed tickets in advance.
Will complimentary admissions passes/discount codes/Groupon passes be honored?
Yes, but we cannot process discount passes online. Please present your discount pass in person to use.
Will all entrances be available?
Visitors may enter at 5th Avenue. Ramp access is available on East 104th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues.
Will restrooms be available to the public?
Will water fountains be available to the public?
Will hand sanitizing stations be available to the public?
Will elevators be open to the public?
Yes. Stairs access is also available to all floors.
Will there be any group tours?
Yes, tours must be scheduled in advance. If you are interested, please email email@example.com. In addition, virtual field trips are offered for groups interested in a guided experience from home.
Will there be audio tours?
Yes – audio tours are available to download on your own mobile device. Please bring your own headphones.
Will all exhibitions be open?
Will there be public programs?
Will there be public programs?
What new measures and safety precautions are you putting in place?
Please view the Museum's Courtesy Code here, and our enhanced cleaning plan here
How is the building being ventilated?
The Museum has a state-of-the-art HVAC system that was installed with our recent building renovations, completed in 2016. Our HVAC system runs 24/7, both for the health and safety of visitors and to protect all of the historic objects in the Museum. While we have always circulated outside air, we will be increasing ventilation rates and the percentage of outdoor air that recirculates into the system. Outside air will be recirculated at a minimum of 20%, and up to 100% outside air when possible. All outside and indoor recirculating air is always being filtered. Our central air and other HVAC filtration system uses a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 14 Filter, which exceeds the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers guidelines.
Is there parking available near the Museum?
Yes, there are several parking garages nearby as well as street parking available. Garages: Mount Sinai Parking – 14 East 103 street (next to NYAM) MPG Parking – 10 East 102 Street – 212-490-3460 MPG Parking – 1568 Madison Avenue (106 Street) – 646-739-0403 Icon Parking (Merit Parking LLC) – 12-14 East 107 Street – 212-722-9498 Street Parking: Along Fifth Avenue – Metered parking (up to 2 hours) from 8:00am to 7:00pm, except Sundays. No Parking 7:30am-8:00am except Sundays (street cleaning). 104th Street between 5th and Madison South Side – No Parking 11:30am-1:00pm Tuesdays and Fridays. North Side – No Parking 11:30am-1:00pm Mondays and Thursdays. 103rd street between 5th and Madison South Side – No Parking 11:30am-1:00pm Tuesdays and Fridays. North Side – No Parking 11:30am-1:00pm Mondays and Thursdays.
What are the closest subway and bus stops for the Museum?
6 train at 103rd 2/3 trains at 110th St./Central Park North M1, M2, M3 M4 and M106 bus at 104th St.