Explore New York’s Hidden Museum Gems

Explore New York’s Hidden Museum Gems


New York City is home to some of the largest, and most-visited museums in the world, with the four most popular being the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

While these well-known institutions draw a combined attendance of over 15 million visitors each year, there are many lesser-known museums in New York City that celebrate their own unique brand of art and history to delight the savvy museum enthusiast.

If you are looking for an enriching museum experience off the beaten path, we have uncovered some NYC “hidden gems” of culture and history, just waiting for you explore.

New York City Fire Museum

Dedicated to collecting and preserving the rich heritage and history of fire-fighting in New York City, the New York City Fire Museum sees more than 40,000 visitors annually. Occupying a former firehouse from 1904, the museum has artifacts, equipment, and documents that chronicle New York City’s proud fire-fighting history – from the first fire brigades of Manhattan all the way through to modern fire-fighting techniques. Particularly moving is a special 9/11 memorial tribute to the firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11. Children will enjoy and learn from the museum’s simulated fire scenario too.

Photo: Marvel Architects

Studio Museum in Harlem

Devoted to promoting and supporting artists of African descent and works impacted by black culture, The Studio Museum in Harlem is a vibrant and exciting venue. The museum has not only many exhibits, educational programs and performances representing local and international artists, but through its artists-in-residence program, it has propelled the careers of many notable artists of African and Latino heritage.

Photo: NPS

The Tenement Museum

The Tenement Museum offers a unique perspective on immigration in New York City. The story unfolds in a renovated 1863 tenement building at 97 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that formerly housed over 7,000 immigrants in its heyday. Step back in time to see first-hand what life was like for people of all nations that streamed through Manhattan’s ports in the 19th and 20th centuries to build a better life for themselves and their families.

New York Transit Museum

Occupying an entire city block in an unground 1936 subway platform in Brooklyn is the New York Transit Museum. With over 20 vintage subway and elevated cars dating back to the early 1900s, many exhibits and collections, you’ll take a trip through the marvels of a mass transit system that shaped the communities, technologies, and history of this great city.

Photo: Macaulay

Museum of Chinese in America

The newly-expanded Museum of Chinese in America at 215 Centre Street recounts and celebrates 160 years of Chinese-American culture and people. Through its state-of-the-art interactive exhibits, presentations, collections and cultural programs, the museum is dedicated to not only preserving and presenting the history and future of Chinese-Americans, but also to promote communication and understanding between people of all cultures and nations.


Perhaps one of the most unique museum experiences in Manhattan can be had at Mmuseumm – the tiniest museum in the city. Housed in a former freight elevator, this rare space is located (literally) down an alley in Tribeca. Started by two filmmakers, the museum runs in seasons, with the self-proclaimed mission of exhibiting objects about “the world we live in”. Its popularity has led to an additional space – Mmuseumm 2, and even The Met displaying one of Mmuseumm’s former exhibitions – Sara Berman’s Closet.

Museum Of The American Gangster

For a look at a less-than-virtuous slice of American culture, head on over to 80 St. Mark’s Place in the East Village – an area frequented by the likes of Al Capone, John Gotti and Lucky Luciano – to the Museum of the American Gangster. Located above an actual former speakeasy, this two-room museum holds many fascinating documents, artifacts and objects both gruesome and educational regarding organized crime, prohibition, and historical notions of female temperance.

Photo: RueBaRue

The Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology

The three galleries at The Museum at FIT feature elaborate and award-winning exhibitions designed to educate and entertain visitors about the historical and artistic significance of fashion, with modern, avant-garde fashion at the forefront. The museum is one of only a select few specialized fashion museums in the world, and features over 50,000 articles of clothing and accessories. Its educational programs feature lectures, discussions, and guided tours.

The Noguchi Museum

Isamu Noguchi was a revolutionary sculptor and activist who believed in, and practiced, the social importance of sculpture on the world-wide stage. Along with his work as a sculptor, Noguchi designed beautiful furniture, gardens, sets, architecture, fountains and more, becoming a well-respected and highly sought-after artist in America and around the globe. The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City celebrates the artist and his impact on the world, with its exhibitions and public educational presentations and programs.

Photo: Baruch

The Morgan Library & Museum

Financier Pierpont Morgan’s extensive collection of creative works of all kinds by the world’s masters are contained in a collection of buildings including the original library – the neo-classical McKim building (a National Historic Landmark). This unique museum’s expansive holdings include rare books, manuscripts, drawings, music and more, along an international research center and cultural center.

A True Melting Pot

New York City history and culture has been created and shaped by people: immigrants, laborers, civil servants, artists, sculptors, fashion designers, curators, and even gangsters. These museums will give you a different perspective and understanding not only of New York City, but the diverse and beautiful world in which we live.

In the mood for the obscure and odd? Check out this list of “weird” museums in New York City.