14 Of NYC’s Lesser-Known And Alternative Museums

Caitlin Horsfield Caitlin Horsfield

14 Of NYC’s Lesser-Known And Alternative Museums
Everyone knows about the Met and the MOMA but what about some of New York’s lesser known museums? Check out this list of 14 of the best places to visit for a bit of elevated culture. Performance art? Got it. Japanese sculpture? Got it. A museum dedicated to trash? Got it. After leaving these places, you’ll basically be the artsiest person you know.
1. Museum of the Moving Image
photo: Museum of the Moving Image
photo: Museum of the Moving Image

The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens is one of the most underrated museums in the city. Their mission is to “advance the understanding, enjoyment, and appreciation of the art, history, technique, and technology of film, television, and digital media” and they do so by presenting exhibitions and programs related to moving-image arts. The museum also screens more than 400 classic and contemporary films every year.

Address: 36-01 35 Avenue, Astoria, Queens

HoursWed-Thu: 10:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Fri: 10:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m., Sat-Sun: 10:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

More info: their website.

2. Hispanic Society of America

hispanic society

The Hispanic Society Museum and Library is actually the hidden gem of Upper Manhattan. Tucked away right off Riverside Drive, this research institute boasts some of the most impressive works of Spanish and Portuguese art in the entire country. At the moment the building is under renovation so the art is on loan all over the world, however you can schedule a 45-minute tour with an educator free of charge on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am to 3 pm, and Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm.

Address:  613 W 155th Street

Hours: currently closed for renovations but works are on loan all over the world

More info: their website.

3. The Noguchi Museum

3. The Noguchi Museum

The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City has been open since the 1980’s and works to advance the understanding and appreciation of the art of Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi. A combination of permanent and temporary exhibitions as well as a slew of live programs are on throughout the year.

Address:  9-01 33rd Road, Long Island City, Queens

HoursWed-Fri: 10 am–5 pm, Sat & Sun: 11 am–6 pmMon- Tue: Closed

More info: their website.

4. Torah Animal World
photo: vice.com
photo: vice.com

Okay, Torah Animal World is most definitely a… unique experience… for lack of a better description. A Brooklyn town house is literally stuffed to the brim with hundreds of taxidermied animals that are referenced in one way or another in the Old Testament. Visitors have the opportunity to “live through the sacred text” by getting to know the animals and even touch them.

Address: 1601 41 Street, Brooklyn

Hours: Sun- Thurs: 9 am to 9 pm  By appointment only.

More info: their website.

5. The Trash Museum


This is a weird one. And it’s not exactly accessible to the public. New York’s Trash Museum was founded by a city sanitation worker and for three decades, a garage in East Harlem has been accumulating distinct treasures from the garbage of New Yorkers themselves.

Address: 343 East 99th Street

More info: email, tours@dsny.nyc.gov to schedule a viewing

6. American Folk Art Museum


The American Folk Art Museum is devoted to the appreciation and preservation of traditional folk art and contemporary self-taught artists. A vast permanent collection includes photographs, furniture, textiles and sculpture while temporary exhibits showcase a breadth of lesser known craft and folk artists.

Address: 2 Lincoln Square between 65th and 66th

HoursMon–Thurs11:30 am–7:00 pm, Fri12:00–7:30 pm, Sat11:30 am–7:00 pm, Sun12:00–6:00 pm

More info: their website.

7. Museum of Illustration 
photo: Society of Illustrators
photo: Society of Illustrators

While the Society of Illustrators was founded in 1901, the actual Museum of Illustration wasn’t established until 1981. There you can check out year-round themed exhibits as well as art education programs. The permanent collection is expansive, it houses over 2,500 pieces that are displayed periodically. In 2012, the Museum created the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Gallery with a focus on curated exhibits of this type of illustration.

Address: 128 East 63rd Street

HoursSun-Mon: closed, Tue: 10 am- 8 pm, Wed: 10 am- 5  pm, Thurs: 10 am- 8 pm, Fri: 10 am- 5 pm

More info: their website.

8. Mmuseumm
photo: Mmuseumm
photo: Mmuseumm

Mmuseumm is definitely the most hipster of the museums on this list. According to their mission statement, they are “dedicated to exploring modern humanity and current events through objects from around the world.” Some of the objects on display are the types of things most people go their whole lives without thinking much about (for instance the bread clip that closes the bag of Wonderbread) but, the presentation and explanation of it all makes it quite interesting. That and the fact that the space is so inconspicuous you might just pass it right by.

Address: 4 Cortlandt Alley

HoursSat & Sun: 12 pm- 6 pm, Thur & Fri: 6 pm– 9 pm

More info: their website.

9. Museum of Food and Drink
photo: mofad.org

The Museum of Food and Drink brings food and the processes behind it to life at this space in Brooklyn. At the moment, they have one exhibition- Chow- on view. One highlights of this museum is that you can actually taste some of the dishes, prepared by well known chefs.

Address: 62 Bayard Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Hours: Fri-Sun 12 pm- 6 pm

More info: their website.

10. Museum of Chinese In America
photo: sites.google.com
photo: sites.google.com

The MOCA was founded in 1980 and focuses on the experiences of people of Chinese descent in the United States. Among some of the interesting things going on at this museum are a ton of exhibits and multimedia productions as well as festivals, workshops, conferences and resources on Chinese American history.

Address: 215 Centre Street

HoursTueWedFriSat Sun, 11 am – 6 pm, Thursday, 11 am – 9 pm

More info: their website.

11. The National Museum of the American Indian
photo: mountainsoftravelphotos.com
photo: mountainsoftravelphotos.com

The National Museum of the American Indian in New York is one of the two Smithsonian museums focused on the culture of indigenous Americans in the country. They focus on historical, artistic and anthropological exhibitions.

Address: Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, One Bowling Green

Hours: Open 10 am–5 pm daily, Thurs until 8 pm

More info: their website.

12. Museum of the City of New York


The focus at the Museum of the City of New York is to highlight and learn about urban life in NYC from the past, present and future. Exhibitions range from scientific expos to photography to sociological explorations of protest and activism in the city. You can really learn a lot here and because the exhibitions cover so many different themes, there’s bound to be something on for everybody’s taste.

Address: 1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd Street

Hours: Open daily, 10 am- 6 pm

More info: their website.

13. El Museo del Barrio
photo: museumenvironments.com
photo: museumenvironments.com

El Museo was founded over 50 years ago by a coalition of Puerto Rican and other Latino artists, community members, parents and educators. Their goal is to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret the art and artifacts of Caribbean and Latin American cultures for the future. Their permanent collection is home to over 6,500-objects while their temporary exhibits focus on a range of themes. (One particularly good exhibition is the Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photographyon until January 2019).

Address: 1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street

Hours: Wed- Sat: 11 am – 6 pm, Sun: 12 pm – 5 pm

More info: their website.

14 . Universal Hip Hop Museum

The Universal Hip Hop Museum is set to open in the Bronx by 2022. Their mission is to celebrate and preserve the history of local and global hip-hop music to inspire, empower, and promote understanding. We’re excited to see what it’s like when it opens!

Rendering, uhhm.org
Rendering, uhhm.org

Address: tbd

Hours: tbd

More info: their website.

Looking for more?

Make sure you check out the New York Public Library’s new Culture Pass to gain entry to some of NYC’s best museums for free.

These 26 museums have free admission on Saturday.

New York’s budget for culture just increased by $43.9 million since last year.

Featured image: artnews.com