Museum tour of hidden places and secret spots in NYC museums

Go behind the scenes with this museum tour of cool hidden spaces inside New York museums.

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Photograph: Michael Bodycomb

Bowling alley at the Frick Collection

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Photograph: Courtesy the Merchant's House Museum

The servants' quarters at the Merchant's House Museum

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Photoraph: Dean Kaufman/Courtesy the New Museum

Shaft Space at the New Museum of Contemporary Art

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Photograph: Jonathan Blanc/NYPL

Wooden chairs in the former Children's Room at the New York Public Library

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Photograph: Brooklyn Museum

The Visible Storage/Study Center, The Luce Center for American Art at the Brooklyn Museum

Sometimes the coolest things in New York museums aren’t even on view to the public. This museum tour of hidden spots within NYC museums, such as the Frick Collection, the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Museum, will show you secret places—and, in some cases, how you can take a peek yourself.

RECOMMENDED: Museums in New York

The Frick Collection

This tasteful assemblage of items from Henry Clay Frick’s private art holdings shares space with a more common recreation site: a bowling alley. The financier built the rec room—which is off-limits to the public—as part of his family home in 1914 and used it to entertain dinner-party guests. After he passed away in 1919, his daughter Helen turned it into a catalog room. But original details remain, including the lanes, the scoreboard, and old bowling balls and pins.

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Merchant's House Museum

On the fourth floor of this 19th-century family house, you’ll find the servants’ quarters, which reopened to the public last year. The top story served as the home and work space for four Irish maids and still contains its original furnishings, including clothesline hooks over the doors, the call bell by the stairs and a coal stove.

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East Village

New Museum of Contemporary Art

The Shaft Space is an oddly shaped gallery—the narrow room is five feet wide and eight feet high. It was created from leftover space between the third and fourth floors, after the architects realized they could carve out more gallery space by moving building ducts. Site-specific installations and general exhibits fill the space.

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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

One of this institution’s most impressive artworks isn’t even on view: Hidden behind the wall at the first bay near the rotunda is a ceramic tile mural done by Joan Miró. The work was commissioned by museum trustee Harry F. Guggenheim in 1963 to honor his late wife, Alicia. But the red, black and blue composition is tucked away behind a false edifice—curators are afraid it will detract from the rotating series of exhibits in the bordering gallery. The last time the public could see the piece was 2003.

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Upper East Side

The New York Public Library

The main branch on 42nd Street opened a new children’s room in 2008, after the old one was closed for nearly 40 years. The first children’s room is now home to administrative offices and still contains the original chairs meant for kids—the short wooden seats are built into the wall. With the impending renovation of the main building, these artifacts will be incorporated into a newlt expanded children's room.

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Midtown West

Brooklyn Museum

Way up on the fifth floor, the Luce Center for American Art’s Visible Storage/Study Center is a less obvious destination than the museum’s other art-filled room—but those who find it have the chance to check out at least 2,000 paintings, sculptures, furniture, and Native American and Spanish colonial artifacts—a small fraction of the museum’s extensive permanent collection.

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