Monday, September 7, 2009


If you've never been to the Museum of the City of New York, it's definitely worth checking out. It's not a huge overwhelming place like the Met but a small quiet museum dedicated to the history of our fair town. It's located at 103rd street and Fifth Avenue, on the north end of Museum Mile.

They have a few permanent exhibits including some beautifully decorated period rooms. Also, there's a short film you can watch that explains the evolution of NYC from a forest in the New World to the world's greatest metropolis.

Speaking of which, you must see the special exhibit on now called Mannahatta/Manhattan. This is a multimedia exhibit that explores the ecology and topography of Manhattan island and how it evolved and changed after Henry Hudson discovered it 400 years ago this month.

It's amazing to see how Manhattan island went from being an isolated, wooded refuge for the Lenape Indians to the headquarters of the world. You see some of the original maps that the Dutch and later the English made of the island, and you see how they built in and around the island and changed it into what we know as Manhattan today. There were lots of huge forests and fields where the Lenapes grew their corn. There were also streams and rivers and little islets within and around the main island. You also can understand where neighborhoods like Kips Bay and Turtle Bay got their names.

Also, down around what is now Foley Square, there was a huge lake called the Collect Pond where the Lenapes got their fresh drinking water. This pond/lake actually existed until around 1809 when it became too polluted and was filled in with concrete. (One of the prices of progress I guess.)

This exhibit has a huge model of the original, unspoiled island where various graphics pop up on it and you see where all the forests were, where the Lenapes had camps, what kinds of soils and animals existed here back then, and on and on. They have also some computer monitors where you can sit down, type in your address (not just those in Manhattan but anywhere in New York City) and see what your place of residence looked like in 1609 (both of the places I've lived in NYC were in the middle of thick forests. Cool.).

This exhibit runs through early October so I urge you to go now. You'll literally see the world's greatest city in a whole new way.

P.S. As some of you may know, "Manhattan" means "Island of Manhattan Hills" in the language of the Lenapes. And boy, did Manhattan have lots of hills back then! Also, it sheds some light on the myth that the Dutch bought this island for $24 or 600 Guilders. Some money was exchanged but also some goods were exchanged too. While this still remains a hell of a good real estate deal, it wasn't quite as cheap as history has made it out to be.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a great exhibit, thanks so much for posting it! I'm guessing this would be a great museum to hit along with the Guggenheim and the MET for a 6 hour museum day, maybe some lunch in the middle?

    Can't wait to check it out, thanks!


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