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Best History Museums in New York

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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.

Rubin Museum of Art (RMA) is one of the few museums committed to preserving and promoting art from the Himalayas and surrounding regions. It caters to everyone; experts, professors, art enthusiasts, and young children. The museum is always conducting various public and educational programs and hosts several changing exhibitions. The main draw here is a rare collection of paintings, sculptures and textiles dating back 2000 years.

The building housing the Morgan Library & Museum and research facility was constructed by J.P. Morgan Sr., who was one of the richest men in the country. It opened to the public in 1924. A national landmark, the exhibition room showcases rare manuscripts and books - a grand variety of works by musicians, writers, artists and more, including Bach, Hemingway and Rembrandt. Differing programs are offered year round, plus there’s a small cafe, garden court, dining room and extensive gift shop.

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.

The Jewish Children's Museum, primarily geared towards elementary school-age children through the eighth grade, is a museum for children of all faiths. Visitors will experience Jewish history, values, and traditions in a manner that inspires an increased interest in Jewish culture. Permanent exhibits such as "Exploring Jewish Life" teach children about Jewish holidays and foods while "Exploring Jewish History" teaches children about the Land of Israel and the Holocaust. Kids can take a journey through Judaism on a miniature golf course where each hole represents a different stage of the Jewish lifecycle or test their Jewish knowledge in a Jeopardy-style game show quiz. School and youth group programs can be arranged.

The American Museum of Natural History is a popular attraction and one of the largest natural history museums in the world. The museum houses a vast collection of artifacts, displays and exhibits, all geared to reveal secrets of the beautiful natural world. The visit begins with skeletons and life-size replicas of elephants, dinosaurs and other extinct creatures, which welcome you as you enter the main hall. Other points of interest include the Hall of Human Biology and Evolution, the Hall of Meteorites, a vast collection of gemstones, an IMAX theater and the Rose Center for Earth and Space planetarium shows (at extra cost), as well as a research library. The museum offers a number of specially customized public and group tours as well as educational programs and trips, enabling visitors to explore the exhibits in detail.

Walk the deck of the 900-foot (274-meter) aircraft carrier Intrepid, best known for its role in World War II, and witness thought-provoking exhibits on aviation as well as deep sea and space exploration. Tour a submarine and take a virtual flight, in addition to viewing vintage and modern airplanes parked wing to wing. The interactive programs and events are designed for all ages and guarantee an educational yet fun experience. The stunning interiors and the panoramic views on the outside make The Intrepid a must-visit.

From its colonization by the Dutch up to the present day, the evolution of New York City is explained at this Manhattan museum. Established in 1923, the Museum of the City of New York houses hundreds of thousands of photographs, prints and paintings, as well as numerous special exhibitions on the city. Down in the basement, there are antique paintings, safety equipment and maps. Special tours can also be arranged for students and other groups. Check out the museum store to pick up cool merchandise like clothes, books, gifts and more.

As a memorial to the Holocaust, this museum contains a core exhibition of more than 2000 historic photographs and 800 historical and cultural artifacts, as well as 24 original documentary films. These exhibits educate people of all ages and backgrounds about the broad tapestry of Jewish life over the past century, before, during, and after the Holocaust. The Museum of Jewish Heritage includes its 82,000-square foot (7618 square meter) Robert M. Morgenthau Wing, which contains the state-of-the-art Edmond J. Safra Hall, Andy Goldsworthy's Garden of Stones as well as a catering hall, classrooms, and expanded gallery space for special exhibitions. Check website for more details on current and upcoming events.

Founded in 1904 at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the Jewish Museum is now one of the world's premier centers for Jewish heritage and culture. Housed in a former mansion on Museum Mile, the collection is impressive; it includes over 280,00 objects, from sculpture and paintings to photographs and archaeological artifacts. Rotating exhibits usually focus on a specific Jewish artist or a period of Jewish history.

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.

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.

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