Itís impossible to imagine New York City without a mass transit system, for our city relies on subways, commuter trains, buses, bridges and tunnels to move millions of people around each day. No other city in the United States has such an extensive system, and at the New York Transit Museum, your students will have the opportunity to learn about the intricacies of this network first-hand.
The mission of the New York Transit Museum is to collect, exhibit, interpret, and preserve the history, sociology, and technology of public transportation in the New York metropolitan region, and to conduct research and educational programs that will make the Museumís extensive collection accessible and meaningful to the broadest possible audience.
The New York Transit Museum is custodian of the most extensive collection of urban transportation materials in the United States. It is one of only a few museums in the world dedicated to telling the story of urban mass transportation Ė from the people who developed it and are served by it to the city and region it has helped to shape.
The Goal of the Education Department
The New York Transit Museumís educational goal is to use the Museumís resources, exhibits, and collections to develop informative and engaging tours and workshops for schoolchildren and teachers, community groups, families, and the general public.
Programs for school groups support classroom learning and statewide educational standards in the arts, language arts, science and technology, and social studies. Guided tours are tailored to specific age groups, encourage discussion, and can be adapted for students with special needs. Workshops are multidisciplinary and interactive and are designed to enhance the groupís learning experience. For more information on programs for school groups, please visit the Planning a School Visit
section of this site. For information on professional development programs for teachers, visit the Teacher Sharing and Learning section of this site.
Our Court Street Subway Station Home
The New York Transit Museum is housed in a decommissioned, but still operational, subway station in Brooklyn Heights. Opened in 1936 as part of the Independent Subway System (or IND), the Court Street station was the western end of a shuttle service to the Hoyt-Schermerhorn Street station, just three blocks away. Plans to extend the line beyond Court Street Ė as a potential route to the new Second Avenue Subway Ė were abandoned. Because of low passenger use and the availability of many stations nearby, the Court Street station was closed to passengers in 1946. The station was then used for training, supply storage, and commercial film shoots before becoming home to the New York Transit Museum in 1976.
A Brief History of the New York Transit Museum
On July 4, 1976, The New York City Transit Exhibit
opened to the public. Conceived and organized by New York City Transit employees and volunteers to commemorate the United States Bicentennial, the exhibit highlighted the role that public transportation played in the development of New York City and the nation. This temporary exhibition proved so popular that it was never dismantled. Instead, it formed the foundation on which the New York Transit Museum was established.
Over the years, the New York Transit Museum has grown in scope and popularity. In 1999 the Museum opened a retail store and gallery in newly renovated Grand Central Terminal, providing another venue to present changing exhibits that encourage the public to appreciate the history, impact, and future of mass transit. In 2001 the Museumís subway station home in Brooklyn Heights closed for a two-year renovation. The project included upgrading the facilityís infrastructure, creating a new education center with a computer lab, refurbishing the galleries, revamping existing exhibits and creating new ones. The result of the renovation project has been a broader programming focus and increased attendance, with over 100,000 visitors a year. More than half are schoolchildren.
In just thirty years, the New York Transit Museum has become one of the cityís leading cultural institutions and the largest museum in the United States devoted to urban public transportation. The Museum explores the development of the greater New York Metropolitan region through exhibitions, tours, educational programs, and workshops dealing with the cultural, social, and technological history of public transportation. With collections of over 6,000 artifacts and several hundred thousand archival items representing over 100 years of transit history, the Museum strives to share this rich and vibrant history with local, regional, and international audiences.
||New York City Transit Exhibit opens in Brooklynís old Court Street subway station, celebrating the Nationís Bicentennial|
||Nostalgia Special weekend train rides begin|
||New York Transit Museum Archives established|
||Public support helps Museum survive threat from statewide budget crisis|
||First Annual Bus Festival|
||Satellite Museum gift store opens in Grand Central Terminal|
||Friends of the New York Transit Museum established as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) affiliate|
||Museumís mandate expanded to all MTA operating agencies|
||New exhibition and retail space opens in renovated Grand Central Terminal|
||Major renovations at the New York Transit Museumís Brooklyn facility begin|
||The renovated Museum reopens to the public|
||The Museum leads the Cityís celebration of the subwayís centennial |
||The New York Transit Museum celebrates its 30th anniversary|
The New York Transit Museumís 60,000 square-foot subway station home in Brooklyn Heights accommodates permanent and temporary exhibit space on two levels. The exhibition philosophy is to engage a broad audience, offering multiple viewpoints; to be scholarly and collection-based but accessible to all; and to provide participatory, enjoyable and informative experiences. Brief descriptions of both permanent and temporary exhibitions on view at the Transit Museum are given below.
On the Mezzanine Level:
Steel, Stone & Backbone: Building New Yorkís Subways 1900 Ė 1925
This exhibit presents a look at the building of the New York City subway system nearly 100 years ago, with emphasis on the various methods of construction and the people who built it. The exhibition features historical photographs, artifacts, and videos of period film footage. The faces of the workers and images of the birth of the subway evoke a sense of awe and appreciation for the dedication, tenacity, and sacrifice of those who built the subway.
Show Me the Money: From the Turnstile to the Bank
MTA New York City Transit, the nation's largest transportation system, serves over 7 million customers each day. The fare collected from subway and bus riders travels from the turnstile to the bank through an interconnected complex of people and machines. This exhibit examines what happens to the money behind the scenes. Of special interest are the money trains - the fleet of armored cars used to collect money - and the top-secret Money Room, where fares were processed from 1951 to 2006.
The Triborough Bridge: Robert Moses and the Automobile Age
The Triborough Bridge opened in 1936 as the first of the city's major bridges specifically designed for the automobile age. Celebrating Triborough's 70th anniversary, photographs, architectural drawings, models, artifacts, original film footage, and special kid-friendly labels tell the story of the bridge, including a close look at each span of the complex -- suspension, truss, and lift.
On the Streets: New Yorkís Trolleys and Buses
Dedicated to the history of surface transportation in New York City for the past 175 years, On the Streets
focuses on above-ground traffic from the horse-drawn omnibus to the clean-air hybrid bus. Highlights include a simulated traffic intersection, refurbished bus cabs for students to ďdrive,Ē audio interviews with New York City Transit Department of Buses personnel, an informative graphic timeline that marks significant moments in the evolution and change of surface transit, and over 50 detailed models of trolleys that ran in Brooklyn. Clearing the Air, an interactive gallery, allows visitors to learn about the evolution of fuel and engine technologies and evaluate their environmental impact.
The Museum presents changing exhibitions of both contemporary art works as well as historical subjects in a gallery space on the mezzanine level. For information on the latest exhibition in the gallery, please click here
On the Platform Level:
Vintage Train Cars
The stars of the Transit Museum are the vintage subway and elevated trains. The twenty restored members of this fleet date from 1904 through 1963. On the Museum's platform level, visitors may board the train cars, observe a working signal tower in action, and get an up-close look at motor parts and equipment.
Moving the Millions:
New York Cityís Subways from its Origins to the Present
Accompanying the collection of vintage trains, exhibition panels present historical photographs, diagrams, cartoons, period maps, and newspaper clippings to provide visitors with an overview of the magnitude, complexity, and major issues that influenced the development of New York City's rapid transit system
Gallery Annex in Grand Central Terminal:
The Museum operates a gallery annex in Grand Central Terminal that presents changing exhibitions. The gallery annex, adjoined to our retail store, is located just off the Main Concourse in the Shuttle Passage, next to the Station Masterís office. For information on the latest exhibition in the gallery annex, please click here
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The New York Transit Museum's archives, located across the street from the Museum, includes collections of photographs, maps, film, historical documents, posters, artwork, and engineering and architectural drawings. All items in the archives relate to the history of public transportation in the New York metropolitan region.
Admission for researching primary sounces on the history of public transportation is by appointment only. Please call 718-694-1068, Monday through Friday, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, for more information or to make an appointment.
Hours, Admission, and Directions
Both the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn and the Gallery Annex & Store in Grand Central Terminal are wheelchair accessible. Please share information regarding the needs of your group when making your reservation.
The Museum store offers a wide variety of publications, gifts, and other unique transportation-related items. Proceeds help support Museum programs. There are three ways to shop for merchandise:
Teachers are invited to save 10% on the purchase of books and other transportation-related items to be used for classroom instruction. The discount is available only at the Museumís location in Brooklyn Heights, and individuals must show a valid school ID in order to receive the discount.
Public Programs for Adults and Families
The New York Transit Museumís programs address the multi-faceted story of public transportation Ė its social, cultural, economic, and technological impact on the urban environment. The Museumís exhibitions, lectures, excursions, walking tours, and film presentations explore neighborhood development and regional transportation facilities; the impact of New Yorkís transportation system on architectural history and city planning; the oral histories of transit workers; the architectural and ornamental elements of station design; and other transit-related topics.
Special events hosted by the Museum include summertime Nostalgia Train rides, an annual Bus Festival where the Museumís vintage buses are displayed, exhibit openings, poetry readings, and book signing programs.
The Museumís education center hosts workshops for families that include art, history, and science-based activities; presentations by authors, artists, and musicians; and technology-based programs in a computer lab. Family workshops are held each Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 PM, and a special Preschool Time for young transit fans is held every Thursday at 1:00 PM.
Click to see information on upcoming adult and family programs
. If you would like to receive the Museumís quarterly calendar of events, please click to be placed on our mailing list
. Indicate that you are a teacher to receive special mailings and invitations for educators as well.
There are many benefits to becoming a member of the New York Transit Museum, including free admission to the Transit Museum, free or discounted admission to over 400 participating science-technology and history museums and centers throughout the U.S. and abroad, advance notice to all Museum activities plus the option to register early for tours and events, discounts to museum-sponsored programs and the opportunity to participate in special members-only events, and invitations to exhibit opening receptions. See more information on becoming a member
of the New York Transit Museum.