Common Experience One – Museum of the City of New York


Common Experience: Museum of the City of New York

I was not prepared for how much of an impact the Museum of the City of New York would have on me. Between gaining a new perspective on the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy and the pride I felt in seeing the activist city, the museum was full of information and brightly-lit pieces of history. With the tour guide explaining how “citizens of [New York] have banded together on issues as diverse as historic preservation, sexual orientation…and civil rights”, we weaved our way through testaments of women’s suffrage and gay rights. Even as I regarded the exhibits with growing interest, I felt the frustration of the female tour guide when she explained that the ERA (Equal Right’s Act) is still not in position. Because of this, I felt as trapped as the women in the photos with the signs pinned across their dresses. I am stuck in the past, as are they.

The Hurricane Sandy exhibit was every bit as moving as I had anticipated it would be. My favorite part of the exhibit was when our guide directed us to a large book filled with photographs, explaining that this was a family that had documented their day-to-day life during the disaster. What I loved about this was the raw familiarity of looking at a family, one that had suffered, not edited by a professional photographer, but a father taking pictures simply to preserve the memories of his family’s experience. I wish that we could have spent more time in this particular exhibit – I was surprised by how much it resonated with me, but I was very excited to watch the media coverage (as I had written my final Hurricane Sandy research paper on media coverage). In actuality, the trip was over far too soon for me. I wish that we could have spent ten minutes more at each exhibit.

I enjoyed the graffiti exhibit, called “City as Canvas”, but I was a bit torn between the two views. I like the look of the “clean subway cars”, but I would rather have art painted on than have them plastered with advertisements. I believe that it is a true expression of urban creativity, and I completely romanticized the “writers” as though they were truly perfect, censored artists that were being persecuted (but I romanticized The Godfather, as well, so I’m not the best person to ask). I wish that we could have spent time looking at the Gilded Age of New York. I would have loved to “explore the visual culture of elite New York in the late 19th and early 20th century” – when we passed by the dollhouse before entering the activism exhibit, I was completely captivated. This exhibit might be enough for me to go back. Even without the gilded age, the museum was a perfect way to spend a morning.


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