CMA Stories

6 NYC Museums That Explore Identity and Community

Our current exhibition Home Sweet Home: Is a Home a Sanctuary? prompts us to reflect on the idea of “home” in relation to the neighborhoods, cultures, and communities that form the basis of our identities as New Yorkers. Read on to learn about six New York City museums that explore ideas of home, community, and identity all year long!

1. As New York City’s leading Latino cultural institution, El Museo del Barrio showcases the rich artistic landscape of Latino, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures. El Museum was founded more than 50 years ago by artist and educator Raphael Montañez Ortiz and a coalition of Puerto Rican parents, educators, artists, and activists who committed themselves to celebrating and promoting Latino culture that is often ignored by mainstream museums. El Museo’s permanent collection of over 8,000 objects spans more than 800 years of Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino history.

2. Collecting New York’s Stories: Stuyvesant to Sid Vicious at the Museum of the City of New York offers a singular glance at New York history throughout the 20th century sourced from photographs, artifacts, first-hand accounts, and more. Founded in 1923 and originally housed in Gracie Mansion, the future residence of the Mayor of New York, the museum collection contains approximately 750,000 objects marking the thrilling history of life in the Big Apple.

3. Located in the heart of Chinatown, the Museum of Chinese in America has shared the 160-year-history of people of Chinese descent in the United States through exhibitions and research since the 1980s. Recently, the museum’s vast archive was comprised in a devastating fire. Fortunately, the museum’s exhibition space at 215 Centre Street was not affected, which means it’s a great time to visit the museum and check out their current exhibitions about how Chinese-Americans have shaped American culture and infrastructure!

4. Developed by Broadway Housing Communities, an organization that pioneers solutions to generational poverty and homelessness in the underserved communities of Upper Manhattan, Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling is located in the heart of the legendary Sugar Hill historic district, home to the Harlem Renaissance. With a target audience of ages three to eight, Sugar Hill provides opportunities for children to engage with the work of accomplished artists and storytellers through artist residencies, exhibitions, story time, and more. 

5. Located on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side, the Tenement Museum celebrates our nation’s ongoing legacy of immigration to the United States, preserving the history of those who came here to build a new home for themselves. The former tenement house remained untouched for almost 60 years before it was re-discovered, and still houses many personal belongings and other domestic items left by its former tenants. Today, the Tenement Museum hosts tours of the renovated space that allows visitors to view and experience life in New York City from 1860s to 1930s. 

6. One of the most dynamic multi-disciplinary museums in New York City is Weeksville Heritage Center. Located in the present-day Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant, Weeksville was one of the largest, independent, free black communities of the pre-Civil War era. During a peak in interest in reclaiming African American history, local activists fought to rehabilitate the property, turn it into a landmark, and create a contemporary space for education, arts, and civic engagement. Since then, Weeksville has represented a space of self-reliance, resourcefulness, transformation, collaboration, celebration, and liberation of Black persons in America with a plethora of community-centric events. 

Pictured Above: Archival images courtesy of Museum of the City of New York.

Home Sweet Home: Is a Home a Sanctuary? is on view until May 3, 2020 in the Cynthia C. Wainwright Gallery at Children’s Museum of the Arts.

More in Exhibitions

Sign up to get updates and special invitations