Transit Tuesday – The New York Transit Museum

Transit and Museums? Two of my loves rolled up into one.

Visitors to New York want to see the Empire State Building, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty. I try to coax them off the beaten path.

New York Transit Museum, platform level. RL Fifield, 2010.

The New York Transit Museum is as much a social history museum as it is one of technology. The creation of public transportation was a catylyst for growth – without it, the city jams up. It also gave people the opportunity to spread out a bit: much of the upper reaches of Manhattan, Queens, and outer reaches of Brooklyn experience unprecedented building booms after the subway was built. It allowed people to work in one place, and come home somewhere a little less congested.

Walker Evans Few Are Chosen tribute pic. 2008.


The Transit Museum is housed in a decommissioned, stub-end subway station in Brooklyn, near the Borough Hall station. On the Mezzanine floor are exhibits about the construction of the station, as well as a changing exhibition space. There’s also a giddy chronology of turnstiles laid out on the floor. Below, the platform level stores a history of public transit technology, from cars that ran on the elevated railways to specially painted cars for the World’s Fair. The Transit Museum hosts tours to Coney Island and other destinations using their old equipment. See my post on the December Vintage Subway Ride.


Check out The New York Transit Museum site for more information. And if you enjoy subway porn, check out Beautiful, incredible repository of many photographers’ efforts to capture the history of the subway on film. The 1980s images of grafitti covered trains and deteriorating stations are really poignant. Click, click, click.

RL Fifield, 2011.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.