It’s easy to joke that New York has a museum for everything, but I didn’t realize how true this is until I started to compile the ultimate list of free museums in the city. While researching for that list, I noticed that some of the most eccentric museums can be found in my home borough of Brooklyn. The five below are the ones I thought were too quirky not to share.
Museum of Food and Drink Lab
62 Bayard Street
It’s a little surprising to hear that we have a museum centered around culinary history. But when you think about it, it should be surprising that no one thought of doing this before 2005. MOFAD prides itself not only in educating the public about food and our connection to it, but it also describes itself as “a new kind of museum,” one that encourages you to taste, touch, and smell the exhibits. Not many museums can say they give you something to snack on. The catch: it’s only opened on the weekend.
290 Conover Street
There’s no better place to learn about NYC’s maritime heritage than on a boat. Floating off Pier 44 in Red Hook is a 100-year-old wooden barge that carried goods from ocean vessels to the train tracks of Brooklyn and New Jersey in its past life. Today it serves as the Waterfront Museum, educating visitors about NYC’s reliance on its waterways for commerce, commuting, and recreation. Visitors go to the Waterfront Museum for the history, but they stay for the view of the Statue of Liberty, especially at sunset. Hop aboard Thursdays and Saturdays.
House of Wax
445 Albee Square West
Part bar, part house of horrors, House of Wax is the perfect place for a Halloween-themed date. This Downtown Brooklyn bar doubles as a miniature wax figure museum with 100-year-old wax models of body parts, death masks, not to mention wax depictions of body parts infected with diseases like tuberculosis and syphilis. How did a bar end up being home to this display of macabre? It turns out Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League thought that the collection he scooped up from an oddities dealer in 2016 would be a nice draw to his chain of movie theaters/ restaurants. Draw or repellent: you decide.
Bonsai Museum at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
990 Washington Avenue
Everyone knows about the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, but did you know about its funky collection of bonsai? With over 350 bonsai grown in several styles (think: a sideways-growing tree), BBG’s Bonsai Museum is the largest collection of bonsai on display outside of Japan. It would take several trips to the botanic garden to see them all, however. BBG only displays about thirty of these tiny trees per season.
Torah Animal World
1601 41st Street
The title of Brooklyn’s wackiest museum might have to go to Torah Animal World in Borough Park. Packed inside an unassuming townhouse in the tree-lined neighborhood is the taxidermy of every animal mentioned in the Torah. According to a Vice profile of the place, that amounts to more than 350 stuffed critters from giraffes to camels to tiny insects. The best part (or the freakiest part, depending on who you are) is that you are encouraged to touch the animals. Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, who runs the museum, believes that touching the animals is the best way to gain meaning from the experience. The aforementioned Vice article quotes him as saying, “I believe if you touch history, history touches you.”
Visited any of these unusual museums in NYC? What was your experience like?