Don’t get me wrong: the Brooklyn Museum is one of our city’s finest cultural institutions and it deserves all the renown it has acclaimed, but in a borough as big as Brooklyn we’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t explore all the other best museums in Brooklyn that have their own unique perspectives on this borough’s story.
New York Transit Museum
99 Schermerhorn St
I’ve been that dufus who mistakes this museum for a subway station… multiple times. But in my defense, this museum is actually a defunct subway station from 1936 that houses mass transit exhibits, as well as vintage subway cars, buses, and many more cool things that tell the cultural, social, and technological story of our mass transit system.
Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum
5816 Clarendon Road
This museum holds the honor of being the oldest building in NYC and the site of my first field trip in grade school. This 1.5 acres of undeveloped farmland was occupied by the Wyckoff family and their workers from 1652 until 1901. The museum details the family history, along with providing insight into what life was like in Dutch New Amsterdam. The museum also hosts events around agriculture and immigration.
80 Hanson Place
This is a small museum with a mouthful of a name (the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts), but it’s the go-to place in the borough to find thought-provoking exhibitions on the political and social issues affecting members of the African Diaspora.
Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont St
Brooklyn history buffs, this is your place. Brooklyn Historical Society has a knack for taking interesting topics and giving them a local spin. Past exhibition topics have included the abolition movement in Brooklyn, the history of Brooklyn’s coastline, and health in the borough. Don’t forget to check out the reading room! It has tons of resources for people interested in researching BK history.
The City Reliquary
370 Metropolitan Ave
Although the city has many museums dedicated to telling its history, no one does it quite like the City Reliquary. This storefront museum has a massive display of “New York City artifacts,” such as subway tokens, paint chips from the L train platform, and fragments of landmark buildings (How did they get their hands on that?!). It goes to show that it’s the little things that make NYC so unique.
Weeksville Heritage Center
158 Buffalo Ave
Before Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy, there was Weeksville, one of the first communities for free black people in the 19th century. Although much of this community has been lost to time, Weeksville Heritage Center is dedicated to preserving what remains and sharing the history of the community with others. During your visit to Weeksville Heritage Center you’ll get a look at the four houses activists were able to save from destruction, along with other exhibits like “Utopia,” where artists Mendi + Keith Obadike explore what could have been going through the minds of the African Americans who founded Weeksville and communities like it.
Old Stone House
336 3rd Street
If you’re curious about what went down during the American Revolution’s Battle of Brooklyn, you should pay a visit to the Old Stone House. This replica of a Dutch stone farmhouse has a permanent exhibit that delves into the Battle of Brooklyn and the British Occupation of New York City during the Revolutionary War. OSH and the adjacent Washington Park also serve as the site for many community gatherings such as farmer’s markets, music series, and Brick Oven Brooklyn meetups, where you get to bake in the Old Stone House’s outdoor brick oven.
The Harbor Defense Museum
230 Sheridan Loop
Located on the grounds of Fort Hamilton, New York City’s only army base is the city’s only army museum. As the name suggests, a good portion of this museum is dedicated to describing what it takes to protect NYC’s coastline, but the museum also displays military artifacts from the Revolutionary War to World War II.
Caution: While you are welcomed to take pictures inside the museum, put your cameras away once you step out of the museum, as you’re within an active military base.
63 Flushing Avenue
This shipbuilding facility-turned urban manufacturing hub has quite a story and BLDG 92 is devoted to telling it. Check out the three floors of exhibitions that explore the past, present, and future of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, or join a tour for an inside look at the Yard’s happenings. Don’t forget to stop at the gift-shop for a Yard-made souvenir!
Have you visited any of the best museums in Brooklyn? Which one is your favorite?
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