Best theme museums

Got a one-track mind? That's okay-so do these niche museums.

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  • Coney Island Museum. Photograph by Brad Paris

  • Portrait of Homer in a 12th century manuscript at the Grolier Club. 2009...

  • Gary Marlon Suson, Requiem at the Ground Zero Museum; Gary Marlon Suson

  • Fashion and Politics at the Museum at FIT

  • Museum of American Finance

  • Museum of Sex. Photograph by David Shankbone

  • Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl) transformation mask at National Museum of the American...

  • Nicholas Roerich Museum

  • The sculpture garden at Noguchi Museum

  • Rose Museum at Carnegie Hall

  • Skyscraper Museum

Coney Island Museum. Photograph by Brad Paris

City Island Nautical Museum
This tiny Bronx community has a long history of shipbuilding—a topic this museum surveys via thousands of pictures, artifacts and stories. Five America's Cup winners were built here, and parts of those triumphant boats are on display. 190 Fordham St between City Island and Kings Aves, City Island, Bronx (718-885-0008, cityislandmuseum.org). Sat, Sun 1--5pm; free.

Coney Island Museum
Memories of Coney Island's glory days are crammed into the second floor of this historic house. Some of the antiques are cool (vintage bumper cars!). Others, like the iconic Steeplechase Man, are downright freaky.

The Grolier Club
The members-only club dedicated to book arts hosts four free exhibitions a year in its ground-floor gallery. Whether it's on a particular author (like Rudyard Kipling) or culturally themed (like the current "Cuban Artists' Books and Prints 1985--2008"), it'll surely open your eyes to this undervalued art form.

Ground Zero Museum Workshop
Gary Marlon Suson began shooting photos at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, and was appointed the official photographer of the FDNY's Ground Zero relief effort. His intimate images, not published in newspapers until FDNY's work was completed, along with artifacts from the site, are viewable on a 90-minute tour.

Harbor Defense Museum
Like old guns? Get thee to New York's only U.S. Army museum, located in Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge. Don't like old guns? You'll still enjoy learning about the tactics we used to kick British ass in the Battle of Brooklyn.

The Museum at FIT
Far more informative than Project Runway, the Fashion Institute of Technology holds a collection of some 50,000 garments and fabrics dating from the 18th century to today. It also hosts exhibitions about the role of fashion in society, like the "Fashion & Politics" show, on view through November 7.

Museum of American Finance
Money, banking and financial markets are all explained and exalted by the voices of those in the financial industry. A timeline of the current credit crisis has also been added. Can you afford not to understand these matters?

Museum of Sex
This museum has just one thing on its mind—and we bet you know what that is. MoSex boasts an extensive permanent collection of sexual ephemera (including groovy old sex-booth tokens), as well as exhibits looking at kinky animals, erotic robots and futuristic love dolls.

National Museum of the American Indian
Contemporary art, traditional culture and an extensive permanent collection of more than 800,000 objects shed light on the native people of the Americas.

New York City Fire Museum
This museum boasts firefighting artifacts from the past two centuries (including a mad-old fire engine!), modern firemen's gear you can actually try on and a memorial to the firefighters who died in the World Trade Center attacks.

Nicholas Roerich Museum
Apart from showing more than 200 works by the Russian painter, peace activist and polymath, the museum also serves as a learning center, and aims to spread Roerich's noble ideas about the preservation of art and culture. 319 W 107th St between Broadway and Riverside Dr (212-864-7752, roerich.org). Tue--Sun 2--5pm; free.

The Noguchi Museum
You probably know Isamu Noguchi's Red Cube outside One Chase Manhattan Plaza, but have you seen his other sublimely simple sculptures or his modern furniture designs? This 1920s-era factory in Long Island City boasts a treasure trove of his famous lamps, as well as a calming sculpture garden.

 

Rose Museum at Carnegie Hall
Reliving the storied past of Carnegie Hall, the Rose Museum hosts special exhibits and displays memorabilia from its collection, which includes an autographed program from a 1964 Beatles concert. 154 W 57th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves, second floor (212-903-9629, carnegiehall.org). Daily 11am--4:30pm; closed through Sept 14. Free.

The Skyscraper Museum
Exploring every aspect of skyscrapers in New York and around the world, this museum revels in design challenges and the impact of reaching for the skies. The reflective polished-stainless-steel floors and ceilings mirror the exhibits into infinity, creating a sensation of towering height—not ideal for those who suffer from vertigo.


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