I love small museums and galleries. They are a great way to enjoy art or history, without being overwhelmed. On a recent day I had a chance to visit three interesting small museums in Brooklyn. Each offered a unique view of art and history.
Brooklyn Art Library
Take the L train to Williamsburg and you will find a truly unique museum. The Brooklyn Art Library is the only user-sourced museum that I know of. It is a collection of over 45,000 sketch-books created by people who just want to contribute to art in the world. That’s right, even you can add your creative touch to their library. Anyone can purchase a 30 page blank book for $30 and create your own work. When done, just mail your book back to the library. It will be added to the collection.
When you visit the Brooklyn Art Library, it can be a little overwhelming. The walls are filled, floor to ceiling with books that people have created. One place to start is with the 10 or so “staff picks.” Or you can head to one of the tablets perched around the room. You can use them to search through the catalog for books by subject, genre or author. Make your choices, take a seat at a table, and one of the staff will bring the books to you. There is a plethora of art to look at.
The City Reliquary
About a half-mile away you will find a wonderful museum that is an amazing collection of NYC memorabilia. The City Reliquary Museum.
In 2002, Dave Herman began displaying his collection of NYC souvenirs in the ground floor window of his apartment in Williamsburg. He even set up a system where a passerby could push a button and hear a recorded description of the items on view. As his collection continued to grow, he created the City Reliquary Museum as a not-for-profit community organization. It opened in a former bodega storefront, even keeping its iconic red and yellow awning.
Today the City Reliquary consists of three rooms packed with New York City ephemera. It includes a large collection of Statue of Liberty figurines, seltzer bottles, subway memorabilia, and item celebrating both the 1939 and 1964 Worlds Fairs. It also includes a new community based project every year. These projects usually involve one of the local elementary schools.
Building 92 @ The Brooklyn Navy Yard
Travel two miles south-west and you will get to one of New York City most storied places, the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Navy Yard was established in 1801, and it served as the primary naval ship-building facility in the United States for 165 years. It was here that the USS Monitor, Missouri and Arizona were built and its dry-docks were always busy carrying out repairs..The Navy Yard was in service until 1967, when operations were moved to Norfolk Virginia.
While it was largely abandoned for several years, in 1981, New York City began the process of rehabilitating the buildings to bring in new industries. Today, the Navy Yard is home to the Steiner Studios, many small and medium industrial companies, and now, it even has NYC’s only Wegmans.
Building 92 was built as the Marine Commandant’s residence. Marines were used as guards for the Navy Yard through-out its military history. The building has been fully restored and renovated. It now includes a Brooklyn Roasters Company Cafe, an employment agency and a three story exhibition space dedicated to the Navy Yard’s past, present and future.
North Brooklyn is home to many cultural instituions, some large, some small. But they are all interesting, and worth the time it takes to explore them.
Nuts and Bolts:
Brooklyn Art Library - Admission is free to visit. If you wish to contribute a sketch book, prices start at $30.
City Reliquary - Admission $7 adults/ $5 seniors, students, educators
Bldg 92 -Admission is free