When most people think of museums, their minds automatically go to New York: The Met, MoMA, Whitney. While these three museums, among the countless others that are in NYC, are amazing and definitely worth a visit, I started thinking about museums closer to home. Jersey City has several museums hidden within it, but it seems like few have appreciated them.
Jersey City Public Library (JCPL) Main Branch – New Jersey Room
472 Jersey Ave
Located on the third floor of the Jersey Avenue library is the New Jersey Room. Although it is not a museum, it is still filled with tons of history about New Jersey and Jersey City. This room contains old maps of Jersey City’s neighborhoods, yearbooks and names of Jersey City graduates dating back to the early 1900s, old newspapers and NJ periodicals, books about NJ as well as the changes in the law and other topics. It is free to enter, and a great way to explore the history of Jersey City on your own terms.
JCPL Greenville Branch – Afro-American Historical and Cultural Society Museum
1841 John F. Kennedy Blvd
On the second floor of the Greenville Branch Library lives the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Society Museum. Inside, there are galleries for lectures, rotating exhibits, as well as a permanent collection about New Jersey’s African-American culture. This includes information about the slave trade in NJ, the underground railroad, the NAACP’s presence in NJ, and much more. Visiting is an amazing way to learn more about African-American history in the US, and more specifically in our state and city.
Jersey City Museum
350 Montgomery St
Every time I passed this building on my way to or from school, it would always catch my eye. Unfortunately, this museum on Montgomery Street has been closed since 2010 due to financial difficulties. It is currently being used as office space for Jersey City Medical Center. However, as of 2018, another organization has been in the process of creating a new building for the Jersey City Museum in Journal Square.
380 Monmouth St
Another museum that I would frequently pass by and wonder about, Casa Colombo is located on Monmouth Street. It is home to the Italian Educational & Cultural Center (IECC) and Center for the Arts at Casa Colombo (CACC) and is a space that preserves the American-Italian culture in Jersey City. They hold monthly events in their space, and more information about these events can be found on their website: https://www.casacolombo.org/
On the third floor is a gallery that rotates once a month, displaying different exhibits that relate to Italian culture. Their newest exhibit by Kay Kenny called “The Stone Goddesses” is currently up for display until September 26.
On the fourth floor is their Italian Heritage Room and Italian Village exhibits. The Italian Heritage Room is a bedroom recreated right out of 1930s Jersey City. Filled with tons of historical objects that will transport you back in time. Their Italian Village exhibit is a visual comparison of early 1900s Jersey City and its Italian immigrants and the modern day Italian community that still remains. Plus, admission is free!
Liberty Science Center/Liberty State Park
222 Jersey City Blvd
Liberty Science Center is famous for many reasons, and is definitely Jersey City’s most well-known museum. Home to the largest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, LSC is a must visit. While LSC has several rotating exhibits, they also have plenty of permanent ones. The Touch Tunnel, where you have to crawl through an 80 foot, pitch black tunnel, relying on your other senses, as well as Skyscraper! where you walk across narrow beams 18 feet above the ground, are two classics that everyone will love. Besides exhibitions, they have rooms on every science topic possible – water, energy, insects, and more! Plus their amazing gift shop. General admission starts at $25 for adults.
Liberty Science Center is located inside Liberty State Park. The park covers over 1200+ acres of ground, has several historical monuments and is home to the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal.
Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration/Statue of Liberty
While Ellis Island is technically located in both Jersey City and New York City, the island is still super close to Liberty State Park and is home to the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. The museum explores the story of immigration in the US between the years of 1892 through present time. There are many different features inside the museum, including an interactive area called The American Family Immigration History Center, where you can look at old passenger records and try to see when your own family came to America, as well as The American Flag of Faces, a display of faces uploaded by individuals that make up a montage of the flag. There’s no way you can visit Ellis Island without seeing the Statue of Liberty, or vice versa, so make sure you put a whole day aside to exploring these two islands.
Museum of Russian Art
80 Grand St
Also known as MORA, this museum is located in the Paulus Hook area on Grand Street. It was founded in 1980 and started off as a way to introduce American audiences to Russian art, with an emphasis on Soviet Nonconformist Art. You can visit the museum on Saturday and Sundays between 1pm and 5pm, for a $10 donation. Their current exhibition features contemporary art by Korean, European and American artists and ends on September 27. More information about the museum and their upcoming exhibitions can be found at their website: http://www.moramuseum.org/
888 Newark Ave
Mana Contemporary is Jersey City’s largest modern art museum. Only a ten minute walk from the Journal Square Path Station, this museum offers several exhibitions that can be viewed through their daily tour. Tours start at 3pm Tuesday through Friday and on Saturdays select galleries are open from 11am to 5pm. Admission is free.
Throughout the tour you will see work from artists like John Chamberlain and Andy Warhol, as well as a quick walkthrough some of the artist studios located in the space. Photos of all the art is allowed except for the final exhibition on the tour by Kurt Hentschlänger, called SUB. You will have to part with your phone for this exhibit, but the experience is worth it.
Alongside these museums, Jersey City is also home to a lot of art galleries with rotating exhibitions of local and national artists. Sometimes it just takes a second glance at that building you have always walked by to notice the treasures it holds inside.