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Best Local History & Culture in New York

By: Cityseeker
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National September 11 Memorial Museum (9/II Memorial Museum)

This museum explores the history and stories surrounding the terrorist attacks that destroyed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. Located at the 9/11 Memorial site, the National September 11 Memorial Museum offers a location to learn not only about that fateful day, but also about the men and women who lost their lives in the tragic events. The underground museum has a wide range of artifacts and exhibits, including multimedia displays, radio broadcasts from the day and interactive displays where visitors can record their own stories. Perhaps the most touching exhibit is the Foundation Hall where you can see the remaining wall from the Center as well as the "Last Column," which was covered by missing posters and remembrances.

New York, NY, United States
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South Street Seaport Museum

This museum is located within the historic South Street Seaport, site of New York's bustling, 19th century shipping area which now includes many trendy eateries, boutique shops and some preserved architectural gems. Inside the museum, ship lovers and wannabee seafarers will delight in the photos of the historic schooners, port and paintings of the era. Additionally, the museum presents children's interactive exhibits that detail the difficulties of life at sea and there is also a working print shop and a shipbuilding studio for visitors.

New York, NY, United States
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Museum at Eldridge Street

A prominent landmark of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe to the United States, the Eldridge Street Synagogue houses the Museum at Eldridge Street. It is the founders of this museum who took the initiative of a massive renovation and restoration project on the synagogue, and are solely responsible for the majestic glory in which it stands today. The museum tells the tale of how the synagogue came to be founded, storing vast collections of artifacts and documents that are valuable to the Jewish history in the country. There are walking tours and other programs organized by the museum which take visitors through the various aspects of the synagogue's existence. See the website or call for more information.

New York, NY, United States
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National Museum of the American Indian George Gustav Heye Center

The George Gustav Heye Center is the New York division of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. The Heye Center occupies the first and second floors of the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. The museum hosts a selection of changing exhibitions that present and reaffirm the ways, languages, literature, history, and art of Native Americans. The museum also features dance and music performances, children's workshops, family and school programs, and film festivals and video screenings that present the diversity of the Native peoples of the Americas and the strength of their cultures from the earliest times to the present.

New York, NY, United States
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New York City Fire Museum

The New York City Fire Museum is an ode to those at the forefront of the city's safety. Having shifted base a number of times since its inception, the museum now occupies a refurbished firehouse dating back to 1904. The collection on display features steam engines, model fire trucks, cutting edge fire-fighting equipment and gear from the late 18th Century to the present day. The fire related artifacts and memorabilia celebrate the trajectory of the FDNY and honor its heritage. Pay your respects to the 343 firefighters that lost their lives in the 9/11 terror attacks and view objects recovered from Ground Zero. Engage yourself with stories of courage narrated by retired firemen as well as a fire safety education session.

New York, NY, United States
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Tenement Museum

The Tenement Museum was founded in 1988 by historians Ruth Abram and Anita Jacobson to commemorate the country's immigration culture. This unassuming apartment building on the iconic Orchard Street is home to inspiring stories. These stories speak of the persistence of generations of immigrants who came to New York City starting in the 1800s to build their lives from scratch with limited resources. Take a guided tour to get a glimpse of the life new immigrants experienced in Chinatown, Little Italy and Manhattan's Lower East Side through photographic exhibitions, displays of personal belongings and memorabilia.

New York, NY, United States
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Merchant's House Museum

The very beautifully preserved Merchant's House Museum shows how New York's merchant class lived in the 1800s. The brick townhouse was built in 1832 in the Greek-Revival style. Three years later, a successful merchant by the name of Seabury Tredwell bought the property, and it housed his family for generations. Today, visitors can see just how the family lived in the 19th Century. The kitchen and the fixtures are original, and in fact, all the furniture was used by this family.

New York, NY, United States
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New York Transit Museum

The New York Transit Museum is housed in an authentic decommissioned 1930s 60,000 square foot bi-level subway station in Brooklyn Heights. It is the custodian of the most extensive collection of urban transportation materials in the United States. The New York Transit Museum, is one of only a few museums in the world dedicated to telling the story of urban mass transit, from the people who developed it and are served by it to the city and region it has helped to shape. The Museum boasts a collection of vintage subway trains, along with a wide array of exhibits, programs, film screenings and workshops.

Brooklyn, NY, United States
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Ground Zero Museum Workshop

The Ground Zero Museum Workshop was established in 2005 by Gary Marlon Suson to commemorate the memories of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 tragedy, and also honors those who helped rebuild the site. Marlon Suson was the official photographer at that time and remained at the site to record the recovery process. The museum houses his collection and documentaries on the tragedy as well as remnants from the site. Lucky visitors can even have Mr. Suson himself recounting his experience. This museum, which is open daily, is a true memorial to the innocent lives lost, making it a must visit. Advance reservations are required.

New York, NY, United States
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Ellis Island Immigration Museum

Ellis Island is the second island in New York Bay, Liberty Island is the most famous one, where you can see the majestic Statue of Liberty. Between 1892 and 1954, over 12-million immigrants disembarked upon Ellis, thus pioneering the immigration movement that is of significant importance to the country's history. The Main Building has architecture reminiscent of the Beaux Arts style, and though the establishment fell into decay in the mid-20th Century, most of the buildings were restored to their original splendor. Spanning over three floors, it is home to a well-preserved collection of photographs, videos, artifacts and interactive exhibits that reflect American heritage. Explore the Wall of Honor that is engraved with a partial list of names of processed immigrants.

New York, NY, United States
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Old Stone House

The Old Stone House is an archetype of a Dutch stone farmhouse with a very rich history. The exhibit at the Old Stone House tells the story of The Battle of Brooklyn, which was the largest battle of the Independence War, and of the heroic acts by the Americans involved. OSH prides itself in being a part of Brooklyn's history and is involved in serving the community by conducting family friendly events. It also hosts cultural events like readings by young and emerging writers, acts by theater groups and concerts by jazz and rock bands. It is also used as an education resource and museum. The Center exhibit, the Battle Of Brooklyn, 1776, is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays and to groups by appointment. They also rent their Great Room which is on the second floor for kids’ parties, weddings, concerts, lectures, bar mitzvahs and more. You can visit the website for more details.

New York, NY, United States
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The Paley Center for Media

William S. Paley played a significant role in shaping radio and television broadcasting in the 20th Century. The Paley Center for Media is at the forefront of the ever-evolving global media and examines its effect on society. They are curators of over 150,000 television shows, radio productions and commercials, as well as key events in history like Neil Armstrong’s voice clip from the moon. Listen to radio programs from back in the day or watch re-runs of I Love Lucy, a feat that promises a nostalgic experience for entertainment history buffs and television junkies. Visitors can also glance through their collection on their online database.

New York, NY, United States
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