This is the eighteenth in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours!
New York history lovers will be beside themselves when exploring the brand new permanent exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY). The exhibition, aptly titled New York at Its Core in reference to the city’s international status as the Big Apple, will open to the public on November 18. Archtober tour-goers got a sneak peak of the design and construction of the 6,600-square-foot space today in a special walk-through led by Sarah M. Henry, the museum’s chief curator.
Ennead Architects recently completed a nine-year renovation of the museum’s landmarked Joseph Freedlander building on 5th Avenue. With newly restored galleries and better-organized program areas, MCNY’s latest exhibition takes up the entire first floor, revealing the museum’s new modern image as visitors enter the building. New York at Its Core is five years in the making and will be the first and only exhibition in the city’s history to provide an in-depth tour of New York’s progression from a small Dutch settlement to the metropolis that we live in today.
The exhibition is divided into three phases: “Port City, 1609-1898;” “World City, 1898-2012;” and “Future City Lab,” an interactive space that focuses on New York’s present and the challenges it may face in the future. Henry explained the exhibition is meant to answer the question: What makes New York New York? The answer revolves around the four themes of money, density, diversity, and creativity.
“Creativity signifies the quality of New York and how it draws in more money, more diversity, and more density,” she told the group. Henry took us into each of the three gallery spaces, which are still being constructed and branded to designers at Studio Joseph, Local Projects, and Pentagram.
More than 400 objects are displayed in the two black-box galleries that delve into New York’s history. State-of-the-art interactive maps and digital totems allow visitors to get both a bird’s eye view of the city’s growth and insights into lives and minds of some of the city’s prominent and lesser known past residents. Rare artifacts, like the Lenape chieftain’s club that’s been held in Sweden since 1660 and was just installed in the museum this morning, give viewers a deeply personal view of the beginning of our history.
In the Future City Lab gallery, visitors engage in imagining a future city and thinking about how our current choices determine various outcomes in the future development of New York. In this last gallery, the largest of the three, visitors step into an airy, light-filled room—a stark contrast to the previous dark, more introspective galleries of the exhibition. You could say that while viewers travel back in time at the start of their visit, they project themselves into the future at the end—a future that’s hopefully a bit brighter.
About the author: Sydney Franklin is a content producer at the NYC Department of Design and Construction. She recently graduated from Syracuse University with a master’s degree in architectural journalism.