Adventure #83: The City Reliquary Museum

I was the one who discovered the next stop on our Brooklyn excursion. I knew Bushwick was one of the locations on Rooster’s go-to-places. I did a search online for an intriguing site to visit near the art murals. The City Reliquary Museum’s page popped up on my computer screen. I could tell it was our kind of place when I clicked on the pictures. Rooster and I have stumbled across many quirky adventure destinations. We’ve visited the International Circus Hall of Fame, a Statue of Liberty Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the Indiana Medical History Museum, where we witnessed human brains floating in a jar. The Reliquary began when a collection of memorabilia and relics first appeared in Dave Herman’s apartment window in 2002. A Passerby could push a button and listen to Herman explain to them the history associated with the items they were viewing. The museum moved to its current location,370 Metropolitan Avenue in Brooklyn, in January of 2006. After I read about this odd little museum online, I knew it was the sort of spot Rooster, and I would enjoy making part of our New York City adventure. I worried Richard and Chris might not find it as exciting. Williamsburg is a hip, trendy neighborhood in New York City, but I wondered if they might consider the City Reliquary Museum a corny place to spend a few hours. The reviews I read about the exhibits were mixe, so I knew this museum wouldn’t appeal to everyone. It seems to be an acquired taste.


I didn’t investigate this tiny Museum’s hours before we made the trip. They are open Thursday-Sunday from noon until 6 p.m. This would have been a good piece of information to know because we walked through the doors of this unusual find on a Friday afternoon. If we had delayed coming until Monday, we would have missed the unique display we encountered inside this quaint museum. The items crammed into the two-room storefront told a unique history of New York City’s past. The sort of artifacts that might be buried in a landfill and forgot if someone didn’t make a valiant effort to rescue them. There was a small fee to enter the main room where most of the relics were displayed. I believe Rooster and I received the senior citizen’s discount. There are a few advantages to getting old. Discounts are one of them. The other is you can blame almost every human failure on the fact that you are old. People don’t expect much out of elderly folks.

The first thing to catch my eye was the Jackie Robinson picture hanging near the ceiling on my right. He was the first African American baseball player to gain a spot in the Major Leagues. Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1949 until he retired in 1957. The year the team moved to Los Angeles. He decided not to go with them. His playing helped the Brooklyn Dodgers win the World Series against the New York Yankees in `1955. Chris became fascinated with a display, which looked like a phone booth. When you pressed a button, a lady wearing what looked like a gold bathing suit top appeared. The words Little Egypt was written on what seemed like an amusement park attraction. I did research on the origin of the weird booth after I returned home. “Little Egypt” became a stage name for the street dancers in the “Streets of Cairo” exhibit at Coney Island. These dancers were supposed to conjure up images of snake charmers, belly dancers, and fortune tellers performing a “hootchie coochy” routine. It was a risqué form of entertainment as a Coney Island sideshow act back in the day.

We looked over countless relics from the New York Public School and subway system. The most memorable of these for me was the girl’s one-piece gym clothes. I remember having to wear something similar when I was in middle school. The dunce chair was comical. I wonder if it was ever used. Maybe they should bring back this practice to be utilized on politicians, but I doubt forced public humiliation would be allowed for them in today’s politically correct climate. Of course, they somehow manage to embarrass themselves even without the dunce chair. A collection of metal straps people hold onto in the subway to keep from falling over was on display. Figurines of the Statue of Liberty were scattered throughout the museum in varied colors and sizes. A replica of the Empire State Building occupied a dark corner of the room. A giant plastic chocolate cake set on top of a glass display case. It was donated by a local bakery when it closed famous for having a pastry with melting icing in their front window. The light from the sun would reflect off the glass and disintegrate the icing.

Due to a lack of space, many small museums like the City Reliquary appear to be a collection of clutter. It’s is hard for the visitor to understand the relevance of the object they are looking at. I have a feeling this tiny facility will outgrow its present space.  I hope their next building will have room for them to have areas sectioned off where visitors can press a button and hear a recording, which explains the significance of the article they are seeing. The young woman who was working the day we visited gave us a lot of historical information, but there were still gaps that needed to be filled.

The City Reliquary Museum turned out to be a one of a kind adventure destination. The museum has several exciting annual events, which include collector’s night, Bike Fetish Day, and the Havemeyer Sugar Sweet Festival. They also host other special events such as block parties, backyard concerts, and movie viewing.  The sun was slipping from the sky. It was getting dark, and we had a train to catch. I’m glad a part of our visit to New York City was spent in Brooklyn. I was sorry to leave Bushwick and Williamsburg behind. I found this section of New York City to have a powerful creative vibe. From the pool table at the Bushwick Public House, to street art painted on brick and mortar canvases, to the antiques at the Bushwick Market, and a museum that started in someone’s front window. I found this section of Brooklyn filled with distinctive, ingenious energy, which I found appealing.


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