8 fun and offbeat museums in BK

The City Reliquary. Photo by Eric Bartholomew.
The City Reliquary. Photo by Eric Bartholomew.

There are many reasons to visit The City Reliquary: 1) It’s a tiny Williamsburg museum crammed full of forgotten and unseen treasures from NYC’s past, and 2) The 370 Metropolitan Ave. attraction could soon become a relic itself. The museum’s president, Dave Herman, has announced that the Reliquary needs $10,000 by the end of March to keep the doors open. What we’d lose if the money isn’t raised? Two cozy, cluttered, jewel-box-like rooms, filled with everything from early burlesque memorabilia to New Yorkers’ private unicorn figurine collections to geological samples from the bosom of Mother BK herself.

Admission’s free, but there is a donation box, which we’re sure the place would like to see full right now. You also can help out through the Reliquary’s Kickstarter page, at a couple of Knitting Factory benefits and by buying the museum’s $30 membership card, which also will get you discounts at other Williamsburg establishments.

While we’re on the topic of great, off-the-beaten-path gems, the Reliquary is just one of many Brooklyn cultural must-sees on a slightly smaller scale than giants like the Brooklyn Museum, Botanic Garden and BAM. Here’s what else is around the borough.

Photo by Katie Hargrave
Photo by Katie Hargrave

International Paper Museum
No bigger than the Reliquary, The International Paper Museum (31 Grand St., Williamsburg) mounts only one show a year and is open only one day a week (Thursdays, from 2 to 6). This year, you can learn about the origins of paper making in China, with some handmade paper from the Ming Dynasty on-hand. Free.

Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art
MoCADA is a medium-sized museum in Downtown Brooklyn/Fort Greene (80 Hanson Place near BAM) with a big social mission: to use art and educational programming to present the history and culture of people of African descent and to address issues that affect them. Now through May 16 you can see The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks. Wed. to Sun., 11 to 6, $4 suggested donation for adults, $3 for students and seniors, free for children under 12.

Coney Island Museum
For evoking a certain old-time Brooklyn, nothing can top the aroma of sweet nostalgia (with top-notes of seediness) clinging to the Coney Island Museum. Grab a few swell guys and gals, cough up the 99-cent admission some weekend between noon and 5, and glory in the vintage bumper cars, antique souvenirs and other oddities. You’ll find it all on the second floor of 1208 Surf Ave. near West 12th St. Hours may be extended in the summer.


Williamsburg Art & Historical Center
Not the tiniest of the bunch, The Williamsburg Art & Historical Center is housed in the historic Kings County Savings Bank Building at 135 Broadway.  Founded by artist and philanthropist Yuko Nii, the WAH center’s mandate is broad—to present both art and historical artifacts. Starting February 26, you can check out Other Painting II: 3rd Annual Emerging Artists from Japan. Open weekends from noon to 6. Free.

The Harbor Defense Museum
This is the place to learn everything you’ll ever need about Brooklyn Revolutionary War history. The Harbor Defense Museum is housed in the the last army fortification in New York City, Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge, so you’ll need to show ID just to get in. The exhibit itself is rather small but the free tours are surprisingly stimulating, and the view of the inner harbor alone is well-worth the trip. Official hours are 10 to 4, Mon. – Fri., and 10 to 2, Sat., with hourly tours. Just show up, or call ahead to speed up the process and schedule your tour.


BRIC Rotunda
The BRIC Rotunda Gallery is the contemporary art exhibition space of BRIC Arts Media (33 Clinton St. in Brooklyn Heights). In keeping with BRIC Arts Media’s focus, this is the place to see multimedia art shows with a multicultural outlook. The space is free and it’s open Tues. through Fri., noon to 6.

Water Front Museum
The Water Front Museum is a floating museum on a historic river barge—the only surviving covered wooden barge of its kind. The current exhibit lodged in the deck house, Showboat: ‘Round the Bend, details the history of water-born vaudeville. With such nice views, it’s the perfect place to take a hot, handlebar-mustachioed date—or the female equivalent. Tours are free during open visiting hours (Thurs., 4 to 8 and Sat., 1 to 5). The barge, called Lehigh Valley Railroad Barge Number 79, docks at Redhook Pier 44.



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