Museums are a wonderful way to explore new facts about heritage. Whenever school lets out, set aside a day for exploring culture. Learn more about your family’s ethnic background or discover new ethnicities together. Here are some great places to start, including a few museums located right here in Staten Island.
National Museum of the American Indian – This branch of the Smithsonian is home to one of the world’s largest collections of Native American artifacts, including objects, photographs, archives, and media covering the entire Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego. The impressive collection represents over 12,000 years of history and more than 1,200 indigenous cultures throughout the Americas. Located at One Bowling Green, Manhattan. www.nmai.si.edu
Museum of Chinese in America – MOCA brings 160 years of Chinese American history to life through its exhibitions and educational and cultural programs. MOCA’s Collections and Research Center currently houses more than 65,000 artifacts, photos, memorabilia, documents, oral histories, and art work. Located at 215 Centre Street, Manhattan. www.mocanyc.org
Sandy Ground Historical Society – The oldest continuously inhabited free black settlement in the United States, a major stop on the Underground Railroad, and possibly containing the only intact 18th-century cemetery African cemetery in the country, Sandy Ground is more than a museum – it’s an actual piece of African American history. Located at 1538 Woodrow Road, in Rossville, Staten Island. www.sandygroundmuseum.org
Garibaldi Meucci Museum – The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum was the home of Antonio Meucci, the true inventor of the telephone, and a refuge to Giuseppe Garibaldi, the legendary hero who championed the unification of Italy. Owned by the Sons of Italy Foundation, this museum seeks to preserve the legacies of these men and to promote understanding of the Italian-American heritage through cultural, artistic and educational programs and classes. Located at 420 Tompkins Avenue, Staten Island. www.garibaldimeucci.org
Jewish Museum – The Jewish Museum was the first institution of its kind in the United States and is the oldest existing Jewish museum in the world. It houses 30,000 works of fine art, Judaica, antiquities, folk art, ceremonial objects, and broadcast media which reflect the global Jewish experience over more than 4,000 years. Located at 1109 5th Ave at 92nd St, Manhattan. www.thejewishmuseum.org
Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art – Featuring Tibetan and Himalayan art and ritual objects, this small but scenic museum sits on Staten Island’s Lighthouse Hill and resembles a Tibetan mountain monastery. Special programs including films, musical performances, lectures and travel talks, traditional Tibetan crafts, family activities and more. Located at 338 Lighthouse Avenue, Staten Island. www.tibetanmuseum.org
El Museo Del Barrio – This museum covers a wide range of Puerto Rican, Latin American and Caribbean art and culture. Its collection includes over 6,500 objects, spanning more than 800 years. It was founded by coalition of activists who felt that Latino artists were not well represented in mainstream museums. Located at 1230 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. www.elmuseo.org.
Always call ahead or check the website to confirm museum hours and confirm availability of tours.