The Met.  The Museum of Natural History.  The MoMA.  Those are all iconic New York City museums.  But what about those that are lesser-known?  Even if they don’t have the brand of the bigger names out there, these smaller museums, often devoted to niche subjects or local interests, are no less amazing.  I recently came across an article that mentioned a few of these off-beat museums.  Here are a couple of these:

The tenement museum

The Tenement Museum: In the early 20th century, over one million immigrants a year landed in New York City and were processed through Ellis Island.  Many immigrants stayed in New York, living in crowded tenement buildings.  The Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side exists in one of these former buildings, a living testament to the working-class culture that once characterized the region.  The museum offers tours and costumed actors, who teach visitors about the lives of these immigrants.

the noguchi museum

The Noguchi Museum: The 12 galleries of the Noguchi are dedicated to the life work of celebrated artist Isamu Noguchi, serving as a break from the chaos of New York.  Alluding to his Japanese heritage, Noguchi’s work captures the harmony of modern sculpture with natural elements.  It’s located in a part of Queens where there are plenty of other great museums, including the Socrates Sculpture Park, MoMA PS1 and the Museum of the Moving Image.  

Torah animal world

The Torah Animal World: Apart from sounding like the title of a Wes Anderson film, the Torah Animal World is the largest “Hasidic taxidermy museum” in the world.  It was built by a rabbi in his Brooklyn brownstone, it was meant to bring the stories of the Torah to life with an immersive real-life diorama.  In addition to ancient Jewish artifacts, the museum more famously features taxidermied specimens of over 350 different animals mentioned in the Torah and Talmud.  

museum of the american gangster

The Museum of the American Gangster: Thanks to Hollywood, the gangsters of the 20th century have captured the imagination of Americans.  Yet the true story of organized crime in America, as told by this museum in the East Village, is a lot more complex and darker than what Martin Scorsese has shown us.  Visitors get a look at life for these criminals in Prohibition, with help from photos, newspapers and original documents from that time period.  


Museum of Mathematics: Even if you hate math (and there are plenty of people out there who do), this place makes it fun.  Here, interactive exhibits make the formulas you learned in school suddenly come to life.  It’s as much of a visual experience as it is educational, and might just make you enjoy math in a way your tenth grade algebra teacher couldn’t.  

NYC fire museum

New York City Fire Museum: New York’s fire department is arguably the most famous in the world, and this museum is dedicated to its history.  It offers an in-depth look at how New York’s fire department has evolved over the years since its beginnings in the colonial era.  It boasts a collection of various artifacts, including alarms, tools and vehicles from every era.  They also boast a memorial dedicated to the 343 members of the FDNY who died on 9/11.  

morbid anatomy museum

The Morbid Anatomy Museum: Like the Torah Animal World, this one’s a little out there.  The main theme here is centered around death, funeral ceremonies and medicine; the perfect place for anybody interested in the morbid details of daily life and the cultural practices around death.

Hamilton grange national memorial

Hamilton Grange National Memorial: Can’t get tickets to see “Hamilton”?  That’s okay, you can still visit his house and see how he lived!  Before his death, the founding father built a home in what is now aptly named “Hamilton Heights”.  The home has been preserved over the years, and now serves as a museum to Hamilton’s legacy.

City Reliquary

The City Reliquary: A small non-profit museum, the City Reliquary serves as a reminder of New York’s history in a neighborhood that has undergone rapid and shameless gentrification.  With old souvenirs of the past, it offers a unique snapshot of the daily life of New Yorkers of the past.  It might be small, but this is a museum that has a whole lot to show off.  

NY transit museum

New York Transit Museum: For over 100 years now, New York’s metro system has connected all five boroughs to each other with a complex system of underground tunnels.  The MTA’s museum celebrates this heritage, commemorating the subway with educational exhibits, old artifacts and subway cars from various eras of New York history (including contemporary advertisements and subway maps).