The Best Little Dollhouse in New York

I like museums and this city is bursting with them. The downside is that the massive ones give me museum-head (which is when you feel like the way you look when you have bed-head). So while I dutifully go to the big names in the big cities when I travel, whether it is the Louvre in Paris


or the Met here,


I prefer the smaller ones that are tied closely to their city and their neighborhood, like the Mussée de Montmartre in Paris

or the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée in Brussels

The smaller space feels more interesting, less intimidating, and certainly kinder on my feet (and hip, which starts aching like an arthritic seventy-year old’s after about 2 hours of museum wandering).

So when I was trying to decide between the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of the City of New York this morning, the smaller inevitably won out. Both currently have exhibits related to food/agriculture, a topic that is professionally interesting to me at the moment; MCNY won out due to its relatively compact size and because I convinced myself that there would be fewer people willing to trek to 103rd street (just north of the Upper East Side edging into East Harlem) on a Sunday morning than to 79th.

I wasn’t far off the mark. The Museum had a fair number of visitors but there were no pounding feet or chattering hordes. The exhibit I was keenest to see was a cute mix of anthropology and the socio-political history of the fastest-growing of the five boroughs–Staten Island.

The highlight of the visit, however, was a permanent display of a dollhouse in the basement section. Titled the Stettheimer Dollhouse, after its creator and developer, Carrie Stettheimer, it’s an exquisite little artifact, made even more special by the fact that its interiors house miniature art by greats like Duchamp and Bellows. I confess that my pleasure has little to do with them, however, and more to do with the tiny windows, little tables and chairs, and meticulously rendered objects of everyday living (albeit for the slightly upper crust).



There is a snug little café right off this space where I grabbed a muffin to keep me going for another half hour. It was just the boost I needed to peek at the Activist New York and the Currier and Ives exhibit, where I was charmed by this old-fashioned dress and “sledding coat”:



After a speedy check of the gift shop, where I picked up a couple of postcards (as is my habit in museums stores), I was out of there–in just over two hours. My hip thanked me as a strolled back to the subway and took the 6 train down to Kips Bay for a well-earned sushi lunch with a friend. More on that later…

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