Brooklyn Museum

I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t entirely know what the Brooklyn Museum was until I visited. (Yes, yes, I knew it was a museum.) Brooklyn history? Modern art? Who knew?

So here’s your answer: it’s an art museum in the vein of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a sizeable collection of antiquities — meaning it’s as much about history and culture as it is about art per se. (My favorite kind of art museum!) It also feels cozier than the Met, though it’s still enormous (according to Wikipedia, about 500,000 square feet to the Met’s 2 million).

In the time I spent there, I didn’t come close to being able to take in everything the museum has on display (and I skipped the current special exhibition, on Georgia O’Keeffe). I enjoyed, far more than I was expecting, the exhibit on the first floor called “Infinite Blue,” which was — you guessed it — a collection of (partly) blue things.

The Egyptian galleries of the museum had a small special exhibit called “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” as well as a wide-ranging permanent selection of artifacts — including several mummies and displays about the process of mummification, which was both fascinating and uncomfortable. The exhibit tried to acknowledge the problems inherent to displaying human remains, but the fact remaining that it was displaying human remains.

One of my favorite things about the museum wasn’t an exhibit at all, but an app! Ask Brooklyn Museum allows you to open a live chat with museum experts and ask them your questions. (Only while you’re on the museum grounds.) I used it several times, though I was frustrated that the functionality to upload a photograph wasn’t working.

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I wanted to identify this writing system, but wasn’t able to share the photo through the app. (Answer, if anyone was wondering: Cuneiform.) Hopefully, just a temporary blip.

Other good thing to know: like the Met, the Brooklyn Museum’s stated admission price is “suggested”: you don’t have to pay the full amount to enter. (Ticketed exhibits are the exception.) And, entry is free the first Saturday of every month, from 5 PM to 11 PM.

This was my first visit to the Brooklyn Museum, but it certainly won’t be my last — or my last post about going there!

-Ellen

Location: 200 Eastern Parkway, corner of Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue
Nearest Public Transit: 2/3 at Eastern Parkway–Brooklyn Museum; 2/3/4/5 and S at Franklin Av; 2/3 at Grand Army Plaza; B/Q and S at Prospect Park.
Cost: Suggested Admission $16 adults; $10 students and seniors; ages 19 and under free. Free 5 PM – 11 PM first Saturday of every month.
Website

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Favorite St. Patrick’s Cathedral fact: when the cornerstone was laid, in 1858, the church was so far outside the “city” that it was ridiculed as “Hughes’s Folly.” If I ever have access to a time machine, my first stops will be to various points in New York’s past; I’d like to see the time when Midtown was nothing but wilderness and no one thought the city would ever extend so far north.

Now, of course, St. Patrick’s is the epitome of an urban church, sandwiched between Rockefeller Center and Madison Avenue, surrounded by luxury shopping. (The Manhattan flagship location of Burberry is a block away.) Unlike downtown Trinity Church — only a decade or two older than St. Patrick’s — which sticks out like a 19th century oasis among the modern buildings, the imposing, almost ostentatious cathedral seems to fit right in with its surroundings and the Midtown crowds.

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Unsurprisingly for a church with a ~150-year history and many wealthy patrons, St. Patrick’s is stuffed with ornate art, from stained glass windows to elaborate altars lining the north and south walls to sculptures, such as a reproduction of Michelangelo’s Pietà (according to my tour guide, 3 times the size of the original, necessitating some changes in the figures’ arrangements). There are altars dedicated to a number of saints, including one with an unorthodox aesthetic commemorating Elizabeth Seton, an early American saint (and a New Yorker).

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Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, known as the first American saint
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The Pietà

St. Patrick’s is open to visitors every day, including public masses. They also offer guided tours on most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (check the schedule), or by appointment for larger groups. If you can time your visit for a guided tour, I recommend it, since guides can take you into the high altar and the crypt — both otherwise closed to visitors.

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A view of St. Patrick’s from the high altar, looking west
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“In this crypt lie the remains of the archbishops of New York – Requiescant in pace”

So — worth a visit? If you’re Catholic and the cathedral is personally, religiously meaningful to you, definitely. If you’re going more for the history or art, there’s certainly plenty of both to be had. For a short-term trip to New York, though, I don’t think this is a necessity on your schedule.

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Ellen

Location: 5th Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets
Nearest Public Transit: E/M at 5 Av/53 St; 6 at 51 St; B/D/F/M at 47-50 Sts – Rockefeller Ctr
Estimated Timespan: Tour takes approximately 1 hour
Cost: Free ($5 suggested donation)
Website