A ‘free museum’ can come in a variety of forms in New York City – after all, there’s a big difference between museums that are always free and museums that have occasional free nights or special admission (like the MOMA‘s Target Free Fridays). Also, some museums are technically free but still suggest a contribution. For now, we’ll start with the first category: museums that are unique, accessible, and best of all – always free!
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology: Even those who claim to be uninterested in corsets and other apparel from the 1700′s will get a kick out of these exhibits, which rotate every six months. Photography, historical displays, jewelry, international inspirations and interpretations all lend a peek into a classy NYC history most people know very little about. There are 50,000 items in the permanent collection, a workshop, free lectures, panel discussions, and current displays of student and faculty work. Over 100,000 visitors come into this nook of high fashion annually, and for good reason. (Logistics: the NW corner of 7th Ave at 27th St, open Tues-Fri noon-8pm and Sat 10am-5pm, free tours, no photos.)
The Forbes Galleries in Greenwich Village: Below the headquarters of the magazine of the same name, visitors can see an eclectic sample from across the artistic realm, such as contemporary paintings, Monaco ballet photography, and century-old jewelry – right now, anyway; as usual, exhibits rotate. (Logistics: 5th Avenue at 12th St, normal hours are Tues-Sat 10am-4pm with Thursday visits requiring reservations for unguided group tours six weeks in advance. Check before you go, since these hours aren’t strict. No more than four children per adult, no strollers or photos.)
The Sony Wonder Technology Lab: An interactive, four-story exploration that seems to be out of another decade – that is, a future one. Visitors can create profiles and see where they are in relation to other guests as they move throughout the museum, as well as have a personalized experience with the exhibits based on data they input at the beginning. It’s full of intriguing things to see and touch, like dance motion capture, an animation studio, robot zone, music mixer, and, of course, educational opportunities throughout. (Logistics: Sony Plaza, Madison Ave and 56th St, open Tues-Sat 9:30am-5:30pm, closed on most holidays. It’s popular, and same-day tickets are prone to running out, so reserving tickets is highly recommended – this can be done from seven days to three months in advance. Also, avoid school breaks.)
The American Folk Art Museum: Open since the early 60′s, this collection of cultural aesthetics and works of art includes the 9/11 Tribute Quilt, with thousands of blocks from all 50 states and names of the victims surrounding a montage of the Towers. Paintings, sculptures and trinkets abound – deep interpretations, well, that’s up to you. (Logistics: Columbus Ave at 66th St, open Tues-Sat noon-7:30pm and Sun noon-6pm.)
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