Doubtless, you’ve heard of museums in New York City before, who hasn’t? But on our most recent trip to the big apple we discovered one full of very old books and letters that was very new to us. We found The Morgan Library and Museum because of some very good advice from our new friends from New York.
You’ve probably heard of the incredibly wealthy J.P. Morgan before, but perhaps you haven’t heard of Pierpont Morgan (his son, and possessor of my favorite snooty and cliched rich-guy name). While good ol’ dad was the one who began the tradition of collecting rare books and pieces of art, Morgan Jr. was the one who opened up Morgan’s library and galleries to the public in the 1920s, and, boy, am I glad he did.
Morgan’s museum, in what was once Pierpont’s home, now preserves several spaces from the original home (including the library and study) as well as some galleries for new and exciting exhibitions making their way through.
The library took my breath away when I walked in. The high painted ceilings and rows and rows of books would make any book-reader, art-lover, or architecture-groupie feel a little faint. There are even places in the bookshelves where you can see a beam of light shining though, letting you know that these places could once be opened to reveal a secret staircase. Within the room there are cases of rare books and letters from famous authors and musicians from Thoreau and Hemingway, to Mozart. My favorite piece is a charming little letter in which Hemingway drops the F-bomb upwards of five times. Funny that you can find that word scribbled in graffiti out on the street and also enclosed in a glass case, in a fancy mansion, guarded by motion sensors.
There is so much to see in this library and museum. We were also fortunate enough to see the Winston Churchill Exhibit (which is impeccably done with audio and written documentation of some of his greatest speeches), and Josef Albers paintings (I can’t say I completely understand all the boxes painted over and over again, but I’m sure he is a really big deal because they kept that room really stinking cold).
- Although we didn’t go at the “free time,” there is a two hour slot on Fridays from 7-9PM when you can get in for free. I chatted with the woman at the desk about the crowds during that time, and she told me that (as long as there are no special events) the number of people is very manageable. In fact, she said she used to go to the museum exclusively at that time before she became a volunteer.
- You can’t take big bags into the exhibit, but they have a spot to check them.
- Bring a sweater, it’s chilly.
Where: 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, New York, New York
When: 7PM-9PM Friday (free hours)
Which author’s handwriting would you love to see in person??
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