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Thread: Cooper-Hewitt Museum - by Babb Cook & Willard/Expansion by Gluckman Mayner Architects

  1. #1

    Default Cooper-Hewitt Museum - by Babb Cook & Willard/Expansion by Gluckman Mayner Architects

    February 17, 2005

    Cooper-Hewitt Proposes $75 Million Expansion


    In a "case statement," officials at the Cooper-Hewitt say the museum has outgrown its space in the 1901 Carnegie Mansion on Fifth Avenue.

    eeking a higher profile and more visitors, the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is proposing a $75 million expansion that would create three new floors beneath the spacious gated garden of its home, the landmark Carnegie Mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

    A proposal circulated among a task force of staff members and trustees at the Cooper-Hewitt and its parent, the Smithsonian Institution, argues that a bigger "design campus" will be essential "if the museum is indeed to fulfill its national mission and create substantive programs with long-term impact."

    This so-called case statement, obtained by The New York Times, is based on a master plan by the Manhattan architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle, which drafted the first master plan for ground zero and is perhaps best known for its restoration of Grand Central Terminal. The Cooper-Hewitt and the architects declined to release any renderings of the proposed expansion.

    The outline makes clear that officials at the museum, which collects and exhibits design objects - from textiles to wallcoverings to architectural drawings - have grown frustrated with the limits of their building. Built in 1901 for the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, the Georgian-style mansion lacks the wide-open exhibition spaces needed for big shows. That makes it difficult for the museum to compete with other institutions for large-scale exhibitions, the report says, and periodically requires it to close the galleries for long periods to change shows; that necessity caused it to forfeit about $300,000 in potential revenue in 2004.

    "In visitation and profile, Cooper-Hewitt is struggling to gain traction in the competitive cultural environment of New York City," the document says, noting that the number of annual visitors is "stubbornly stuck" at 150,000. Because of a decline in federal financing and an "an immature fund-raising effort," it adds, the museum "lacks the depth of infrastructure, marketing support and sustained financial follow-through to score repeated successes."

    Asked about the outline, Paul W. Thompson, the museum's director, said, "It's no secret that, for the last decade, the board at Cooper-Hewitt has looked at the constraints in terms of exhibition space, storage space and teaching."

    "When exhibitions of 10,000 square feet and above are offered," he added, "Cooper-Hewitt is unable to accept shows from our sister institutions in Vienna, London, Paris."

    Paul K. Herzan, the president of the museum's board, emphasized that the plans were preliminary. "It's early days," he said. "There is nothing that is definitive. We're trying to figure out what we need to do."

    The expansion, as outlined, would create three new floors of the museum, about 60 feet below ground, for gallery space, exhibition preparation, conservation and a restaurant. The excavation approach closely resembles the one used at the Pierpont Morgan Library, whose expansion is currently under way on Madison Avenue. Indeed, Beyer Blinder Belle collaborated with the architect Renzo Piano on the Morgan design.

    The exterior of the mansion would not change - the building, like the Morgan, is protected by landmark status - nor would the overall look of the garden, Mr. Thompson said, although he added that he hoped to find a way to bring natural light down into the new galleries. Any expansion must be approved by the Smithsonian; the Cooper-Hewitt board is merely advisory.

    Ned Rifkin, the under secretary for art at the Smithsonian, who oversees the Cooper-Hewitt, declined to comment. "He's just not going to weigh in at this early stage," said Linda St. Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Smithsonian.

    Among the forthcoming exhibitions for which there is inadequate space, the report says, are this year's "Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance," which opens April 8 and includes a racing car and a sailboat. "To try to contain a show of such breadth in a house - that is constraining," Mr. Thompson said.

    "We need to be able to accommodate industrially designed products in our spaces," he added. "Huge nondomestic objects don't look good in a domestic environment. It's not the perfect backdrop."

    The museum also needs space for loading and storage; there is no freight elevator. "We pull the crates through the main mansion door," Mr. Thompson said.

    Still, more space will inevitably bring higher overhead costs, and the outline says the Cooper-Hewitt "must double its fund-raising goals if it is to double its exhibition costs."

    Founded in 1897 by Amy, Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt, granddaughters of the industrialist Peter Cooper, the museum was originally part of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. It was acquired by the Smithsonian in 1967 but retains its educational function, serving as a center for scholarly research in the history of the decorative arts. It operates a research library and offers a graduate degree in cooperation with the Parsons School of Design.

    Yet for years, the Cooper-Hewitt has been struggling to find its place in the constellation of New York City museums. The institution is small, compared with its Museum Mile brethren, with an operating budget of $10 million and an endowment of $7 million. By comparison, the Whitney Museum of American Art has an operating budget of $23 million and an endowment of $52 million. Unlike most other New York City museums, the Cooper-Hewitt is not its own institution; about half of its budget comes from congressionally appropriated funds and income earned from the Smithsonian Institution's endowment. The rest comes from admissions, store sales and contributed income.

    In addition to the total capital cost of $75 million, the museum will need to raise a minimum of $25 million to build an endowment fund, the document says. "It's going to be a big lift for a museum like ours," Mr. Herzan said. "But our board is committed." Last month, four new trustees were appointed: Elizabeth M. Ainslie, owner of Elizabeth Ainslie Interiors; Kurt Andersen, the author and radio host; Michael R. Francis, executive vice president of marketing for Target; and John Maeda, a graphic designer, artist and computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory.

    Mr. Herzan said there would be more to come. "We're going to have to expand our family," he said of the trustees.

    The museum has already expanded its fund-raising operation. "It was nascent," Mr. Thompson said. "We were not fund-raising in the way of our New York peers."

    The renovation would increase gallery space to 27,500 square feet from about 8,000, and education space to 6,900 square feet from 2,300, according to the outline. The museum's Web site,, would expand from an informational bulletin board to a "museum without walls," the document says.

    The outline also calls on the Smithsonian to step up to its parental role. "As steward," the document says, "the Smithsonian must reassert its New York presence and stake a leadership role for the Smithsonian in the field of design."

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  2. #2


    This so-called case statement, obtained by The New York Times, is based on a master plan by the Manhattan architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle, which drafted the first master plan for ground zero and is perhaps best known for its restoration of Grand Central Terminal.
    Bah, going against the current cultural trend of hiring big-name architects, this cultural institute commissions mediocrity.

  3. #3


    May 25, 2006
    Cooper-Hewitt Museum Chooses a More Modest Growth Design

    A year after exploring a $75 million expansion that would create three new floors underground, the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum has decided on a relatively modest $25 million renovation that involves little construction.

    Originally the museum's trustees had considered adding three subterranean levels beneath the stately garden alongside the Cooper-Hewitt's home in the Carnegie Mansion, a Georgian-style landmark on Fifth Avenue at 91st Street on the Upper East Side. Gallery space would have increased to 27,500 square feet from about 10,000. The new plan, by the architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle, will increase exhibition space to 18,000 square feet by moving the museum's library and administrative offices out of the mansion and into two town houses owned by the Cooper-Hewitt on East 90th Street, adjacent to the garden.

    The museum's main focus is on collecting and exhibiting design objects, including textiles, wall coverings, architectural drawings and furniture.

    Paul Warwick Thompson, the Cooper-Hewitt's director, said the new plan felt in no way like a letdown, even as other museums across the country pursue expansions by star architects that can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Big is not necessarily better, he declared. "There are a lot of people now who are mindful of building driving mission, rather than mission driving building," Mr. Thompson said.

    "This isn't a huge architectural extravaganza," he said. "You start with something that is the most efficient and functionally elegant and renovating the mansion is that option," he added. "Better to fix the car you have."

    Douglas McR. McKean, the architect with Beyer Blinder Belle in charge of the project, said the renovation would be impressive nonetheless. "The board did want something that — when the new space opened — would be a wow experience," he said. With this goal in mind, Mr. Thompson said that the museum hoped to create architecturally distinctive contemporary galleries within the period mansion.

    Built in 1901 for the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, the mansion has always been a mixed blessing for the museum. The building has a striking Old World elegance and the intimacy of a family home, but it lacks the wide open spaces needed for large shows.

    Nor does it have enough exhibition or storage space for its permanent collection. Museum officials have long debated how the Cooper-Hewitt could both maintain the mansion and meet its space needs.

    The new gallery areas will allow the museum to compete for big shows that typically bypass the Cooper-Hewitt because of inadequate space. The museum will also be able to avoid shutting down for long periods to remove and reinstall shows, Mr. Thompson said. It currently loses about three months a year doing so.

    "It has a huge negative impact on our public profile," Mr. Thompson said. "This will dramatically reduce those dark times."

    The museum plans to stay open during the entire renovation, which is to begin sometime in 2007 and to be completed by 2010.

    The master plan was approved by the Smithsonian Institution, the Cooper-Hewitt's parent. Ned Rifkin, the under secretary for art at the Smithsonian, said he expected the Smithsonian would contribute "several million" towards the Cooper-Hewitt's renovation, although such appropriations must be approved by Congress.

    Mr. Rifkin said the contribution "won't be anything like what we've seen in the past."

    The Smithsonian itself is struggling to come up with enough money to repair its other buildings, which have fallen into severe disrepair. But Mr. Rifkin insisted that the Cooper-Hewitt's decision against excavation was not dictated by the Smithsonian or by a financial shortfall.

    "We try not to tell them what to do," he said. "After much consideration, this feels like the way to enhance and augment the space that's available."

    "I think it's something you'll see more of as museums realize the limits of a physical expansion," he continued. "It's more about making the most of what you've got."

    The museum's new master plan calls for an additional $10 million for the endowment, bringing it to $17 million. Mr. Thompson said the $10 million already been raised. Last year's more ambitious proposal called for raising an additional $25 million for endowment.

    About 50 percent of the Cooper-Hewitt's permanent collection of more than 200,000 objects is to move to an off-site storage center at a still-undisclosed location in New York City. This center will have expanded conservation labs, a photography studio for digitizing the collection, and a study area for visiting scholars and researchers.

    Mr. Thompson said the museum was also thinking of its expansion in virtual terms, by recreating its Web site to put much of its collection online and to offer lesson plans for teachers. "It's a holistic approach," he said.

    For years the Cooper-Hewitt has tinkered with various expansion proposals. A 1984 plan was never acted upon. In 1998 the Polshek Partnership improved wheelchair accessibility and created the Agnes Bourne Bridge Gallery as a link between the mansion and the town houses on East 90th Street. The latest effort to hammer out a master plan got started in 2004.

    In 2003 the Cooper-Hewitt opened its first gallery dedicated to the permanent collection, on the first floor. One level below, the museum recently refurbished its education center and created a new 1,300-square-foot gallery, which opened this spring.

    In another effort to make room, the museum recently began moving parts of its archival collection from the mansion to other branches of the Smithsonian Institution. The decision has dismayed design scholars who prefer to have historical material accessible in one place.

    Mr. Thompson stressed that the Cooper-Hewitt is trying to use its existing space to its fullest capacity. "The whole of the mansion will be devoted to public functions," he said. "The priority is to increase our gallery space for visitors."

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  4. #4


    This place has always felt constrained. Looks like it will go on feeling that way.

    The underground gallery idea seemed better.

    Also, this is not such an architectural and horticultural gem that a modern pavilion would have been out of place,

  5. #5

    Default Cooper-Hewitt Museum Expansion

    The New York Times
    April 28, 2007

    Cooper-Hewitt Is Determined to Expand, Despite a Host of Critics


    Given the recent travails of its parent, the Smithsonian Institution, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum may seem relatively hardy.

    Just two weeks ago, senators at a hearing in Washington exhorted the Smithsonian Institution’s museums to raise more of their own money rather than rely so heavily on the government. As if in direct reply, the Cooper-Hewitt announced the very next day that it had raised $21.5 million to expand and renovate its mansion on Fifth Avenue — all of it from board members.

    A few days later the museum announced that it had hired Richard Gluckman, a prominent architect, for its building project, and Cara McCarty, a respected design expert at the St. Louis Art Museum, as its new curatorial director.

    In a positive sense, “we feel something of a poster child for the rest of the Smithsonian,” said Paul W. Thompson, the Cooper-Hewitt’s director. “We are aggressively fund-raising.” The $21.5 million amounts to half the cost of the museum’s planned $43 million expansion.

    Yet even in the middle of progress, the Cooper-Hewitt, which collects and exhibits design objects, has drawn criticism for what some art-world figures view as tepid ambition and lackadaisical collecting. In an independent report commissioned by the Smithsonian and released last month, a committee of experts said it was worried about the museum.

    “We remain concerned about the museum’s future viability, even with additional space and increased levels of funding, given the modest size of audience, limited programs and scope of collection,” said the report by the panel, composed of the leaders of seven prominent museums.

    Cooper-Hewitt officials counter that the report was based on outdated information and that while they welcomed some of its recommendations — like having some shows travel to the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum — its conclusions were misguided.

    “There is no question that was just wrong,” James Rosenthal, the president of the Cooper-Hewitt board, said in an interview. “By any business standard, this is among the most viable of the Smithsonian museums, the most financially independent.”

    To be sure, the Cooper-Hewitt’s financing structure seems more secure than that of the other 18 Smithsonian museums. While those museums get 70 percent of their money from the federal government and raise the rest privately, the Cooper-Hewitt does exactly the opposite, raising 70 percent privately and receiving 30 percent from the federal government.

    The report itself acknowledged: “Of all the Smithsonian’s art museums, Cooper-Hewitt has the highest proportion of funding from private sources and is the least reliant on federal funding.” And Mr. Thompson points out that the institution’s income has risen by 69 percent in the last five years.

    But the panel also homed in on a severe lack of space at the museum and holes in its collecting. The report’s tone echoed a prevailing view in the museum world that the Cooper-Hewitt is a sleepy institution hampered by its setting in the ornate turn-of-the-century Carnegie Mansion.

    Mr. Thompson conceded that “everybody recognizes that the mansion is a problem” and that there were serious gaps in the museum’s collection.

    While its holdings of wallcoverings and textiles — from 18th-century French laces to Arts and Crafts-style wallpapers — are relatively rich, museum officials say, it has failed to keep pace in areas like modern Italian lighting and the design of electronic gadgets.

    “The 20th century rather passed the Cooper-Hewitt by,” Mr. Thompson said. “We’ve had to accelerate our collections, particularly graphic design and product design.”

    “We have quite a bit of work to do,” he added.

    One of Ms. McCarty’s mandates is to bring the collection up to date. “I’m keen to build the modern and contemporary design collection, which I know is one of their weaknesses,” said Ms. McCarty, who assumes her post in July.

    “The Cooper-Hewitt’s collection is very much shrouded in mystery,” she said. “I don’t think the public has a strong sense of all the great collections that they have there.”

    This is partly because of the museum’s limited space for shows. Exhibition space will increase by 80 percent in the expansion, which calls for moving the third-floor library and administrative offices to two adjacent town houses that the museum owns on East 90th Street. That will allow for the creation of a big, open contemporary gallery space suitable for objects as large as automobiles and sailboats.

    “It takes a lot of pressure off the first floor, where the exhibitions constantly struggle with the paneling and architectural details of the late 19th century,” Mr. Gluckman said.

    The museum also plans improvements to the mansion, including the addition of a freight elevator. About 70 percent of the Cooper-Hewitt’s permanent collection of about 250,000 objects is to move to a storage center in the Bronx.

    “We need to organize the spaces more efficiently within the mansion, and pull things out of the mansion that aren’t as relevant,” said Paul Herzan, chairman of the board. “That’s what good design is all about.”

    Mr. Gluckman said he would complete a design in the next three months.

    Part of the task involves creating a new restaurant that exploits the potential of the Cooper-Hewitt’s garden, and a contemporary addition that also unites the museum’s disparate buildings.

    “There is too much disjunction between the town houses and the mansion,” Mr. Thompson said. Construction is expected to begin next winter and to be completed in 2010.

    Mr. Gluckman’s firm, Gluckman Mayner Architects, has become known for designing contemporary additions to existing buildings. For the Museo Picasso in Málaga, Spain, for example, which opened in 2004, the firm restored a 16th-century palace, inserted six new buildings and created a new public plaza.

    “He has a particular sensitivity to contemporary insertions in historic structures,” Mr. Thompson said. The firm Beyer Blinder Belle will be the executive architect on the project.

    To be sure, the turmoil at the Smithsonian, whose secretary, or top official, Lawrence M. Small, stepped down last month after allegations of improper and extravagant spending, could have implications for the Cooper-Hewitt. (The institution has an interim secretary in place and is searching for a permanent successor.) Even though its museums are in some cases dilapidated and short of money, Congress could decide to penalize the Smithsonian for poor management in its budget appropriation in June. But the Cooper-Hewitt appears determined to build on its progress.

    Income from museum memberships, the gift shop and donors increased to $8.7 million in fiscal year 2006 from $5.1 million in fiscal year 2000. The board, the Cooper-Hewitt’s fund-raising linchpin, has expanded to 33 members from 23 in 2000. A major gift came from the Target Corporation through Michael R. Francis, a trustee who serves as an executive vice president at Target. Other contributors included Connie and Harvey Kreuger; Barbara and Morton Mandel; Arthur and Janet C. Ross.

    Attendance at the museum rose to 206,745 in 2006 from 128,973 in 2005, partly because the Cooper-Hewitt began staying open on Mondays last May.

    Those advances have prompted some Smithsonian officials in Washington to dissent from some of the external review committee’s comments on the Cooper-Hewitt.

    “I’m extremely bullish about their ability to pull themselves forward,” Ned Rifkin, the under secretary for art at the Smithsonian, said of the museum. “They’ve certainly given us a clear indication that they’re determined and capable of reaching their goals.”

    And as the Smithsonian scrambles to address the problems of its institutions, its board of regents has sought to reassure the Cooper-Hewitt of its support.

    “Cooper-Hewitt is a viable and essential part of the national trust,” Roger W. Sant, chairman of the regents’ executive committee, wrote in an April 11 letter to the Cooper-Hewitt board. “The Smithsonian’s commitment to Cooper-Hewitt remains strong now and in the future.”

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

  6. #6
    Banned Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY


    There are three office trailers on the lawn behind the mansion. I guess expansion is moving ahead.

  7. #7
    Banned Member
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    Dec 2002
    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY


    RE:NEW Renovation

    Cooper-Hewitt is housed in the former residence of Andrew Carnegie, a National Historic Landmark. The campus also includes two historic townhouses on East 90th Street and the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden.
    The renovation will enable the Museum to:

    Expand Gallery Space by 70%
    Within the Museum, a spectacular, new third-floor gallery will be created, resulting in four entire floors dedicated to exhibitions and public programming. With 17,000 square feet of gallery space, Cooper-Hewitt will be able to present significantly more of its collection and host major, international touring exhibitions.

    Create a New National Design Library
    The National Design Library will move from the Museum to the townhouses on East 90th Street. The new Library will include elegant, quiet study areas, full Wi-Fi access, reference spaces, a workroom, open stacks, offices, and a rare-book room.

    Grow the Collection, Expand Conservation and Research, and Increase Access to the Collection via the Online National Design Museum
    The Museum will lease an off-site facility that will include collection storage, state-of-the-art conservation labs, and a fully equipped photography studio. This new facility will permit Cooper-Hewitt to grow its collection with fewer space constraints, improve collection care and research, and digitize the collection.


    From website:

    Phase One has begun with the renovation of the 90th Street townhouses, to be completed in 2010. Pardon the trailers in the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden, and look forward to the new Cooper-Hewitt!

    The Museum’s Design Architect Selection Committee unanimously chose Gluckman Mayner Architects, who have established a distinguished reputation for their work in creating art museums and galleries, to develop the overarching interior vision for the renovation. Gluckman Mayner will collaborate with Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, who will oversee the engineering, architectural, and historic preservation aspects of the project. Beyer Blinder Belle was responsible for the renovation of Grand Central Terminal in New York and partnered with architect Renzo Piano in the expansion and renovation of New York’s Morgan Library & Museum.

  8. #8
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    That view of the campus is gorgeous and the museum shop is wonderful.

    Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

    by Alan G. Brake

    The Cooper Hewitt campus includes the Carnegie Mansion and garden and adjacent townhouses. Courtesy Cooper Hewitt

    The nation’s design museum reopened in mid-December with a refurbished home and expanded programming. The new Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum looks a lot like the old Cooper Hewitt, only better, more efficient, and effective. The museum has gained an additional floor of galleries—expanding display space by 60 percent—as well as new service and support areas that will make the museum more functional year round (the museum used to have to close galleries and public areas during installations because it lacked a service elevator).

    An all-star roster of design teams worked on the project, including Local Projects, Pentagram, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Thinc Design, and Beyer Blinder Belle. Gluckman Mayner—experienced hands at museum projects and historic renovations—led the architectural piece of the puzzle. They made smart and subtle calls throughout, such as tucking a new elevator discreetly behind a pivoting paneled wall. On the third floor, the firm left one room of oak walls to create a small focus gallery, while stripping away the rest to flexible white box space. The Carnegie mansion, which often felt like an obstacle in the past, is very much in tact and present in the viewing experience, yet the galleries can now better accommodate contemporary shows and innovative exhibition design.

    The new galleries.

    The museum has gone all-in on the technology front. They have developed a much touted electronic “pen,” which will allow visitors to “collect” objects in an electronic library for further study later as well as to interact with digital displays on tables and wall screens. Unfortunately, the pen was not yet ready during the press preview. A small “immersion gallery” displays the museum’s 15,000-count wallpaper collection via digital projection. Viewers can enlarge or rotate the patterns or even redesign them using a table touch display. The approach runs the risk of being gimmicky or distracting, but the result is a delightful way to flip through this vast trove.

    The “immersion room” displays wall coverings through digital projections. (left). New service areas are tucked behind pivoting walls (right).

    Thankfully for those who want to see actual objects at the design museum they are on ample display, and all the technology is not overly intrusive. The gadgetry seems to have freed the curators to show some of the museum’s delightfully fusty, frilly, and downright odd objects, such as an alcove of exotic birdcages, collected by the namesake Hewitt sisters, with piped in birdsong. Those looking for a more butch experience can head upstairs to an exhibition dedicated to tools, pulled from numerous museums in the Smithsonian system, which includes a show-stopping installation of saws, scythes, screw drivers, and other implements suspended by nearly invisible lines so as to appear to be exploding from a central point.

    Left to right: The museum's garden entrance; the museum shop; an updated corridor.

    On its own terms the renovation is a success. But given another controversial museum expansion proposal 20 or so blocks south on Fifth Avenue at the Frick Collection, the Cooper Hewitt’s relatively modest approach seems all the more effective. Working within the constraints of their existing building, they relocated offices and the library to adjacent townhouses and moved collection storage offsite. The one thing noticeably lacking in the new Cooper Hewitt is a large flexible hall—typically used as a party space in most museums—making the press and opening events crowded affairs. The coat-check remains tiny. The museum prioritized galleries over visitor “amenities,” though they did get a better shop and a lovely looking new café that opens out into their lush garden, which is now open to the non-museum visitor through a new entrance along 90th Street. One off-note is the cheap-looking signage tacked on to the wrought iron garden fence. Thankfully the garden remains and is being slightly updated by Hood Design for a spring reopening.

    Opponents of the Frick’s expansion plan can rightfully point to the Cooper Hewitt mansion-as-museum to show what can be done within an existing building to bring an institution up to date. Maybe the Frick can learn to live with a cramped coat-check area or move the director’s office offsite. The Cooper Hewitt, a partially publicly funded museum, seems to have found a way—it’s a refreshing example of public stewardship, institutional self-reflection, and intelligent restraint.

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