The Museum of the Moving Image
One of the best museums in New York is the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. I first visited when I was in middle school when I was new to the city. I went again on a field trip while at Pratt, and then for a third time with my husband this year. I’ve loved it every time.
The museum takes up three floors in a warehouse on the Kaufman Astoria Studios lot, which has been used for filming television and movies since the Silent Era. In the 1940s it was taken over by the US Army to make training films for WWII soldiers, and through 1970 it was named the Signal Corps Photographic Center. After the army vacated the building, it fell into disrepair until a consortium of filmmakers, union representative, and government officials got together in 1977 to form the Astoria Motion Picture and Television Center Foundation to restore the property to its former glory. Within a year, the space was once again usable for production and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1980, George Kaufman was selected to run the studio. That same year, Rochelle Slovin became the Executive Director of the Foundation, guiding the board to commit to bringing a museum dedicated to moving image to the complex. In 1988, that museum opened in one of the studio’s original buildings. Since then, it has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and undergone a $67 million expansion.
The first floor is a sleek, modernist lobby with two theatres, a cafe, and gift shop. The second floor houses a temporary exhibit space (we saw the excellent Jim Henson exhibit) and the beginning of the permanent exhibit. The latter begins with prosthetics, models, miniatures, and costumes, and ends with promotional material-- action figures and posters. One of the most interesting features of the museum is Tut’s Fever, which is a 35-seat working folk-art version of a Golden Age Egyptian cinema (if you take the back hallway, pull the lever to open James Dean’s sarcophagus).
Upstairs, the permanent exhibit continues with interactive stations, from stop-motion to ADR to sound effects. Props are on display, including the robotic Linda Blair who turned her head 360 degree in The Exorcist, set next to videos of the scenes they were in. There are rows of old TV and film cameras, followed by a wall of antique TVs. It’s a wonderful museum for those who love film, are interested in the behind-the-scenes, and for those who want to learn more. I’m already fantasizing about bringing our future children there someday.
Wednesday and Thursday 10:30 am to 5:00 pm
Friday 10:30 am to 8:00 pm*
Saturday and Sunday 10:30 am 6:00 pm
$15 adults (18+)
$11 senior citizens (65+)
$11 students with valid ID (18+)
$7 youth (3-17)
Free for Museum members and children under 3
*Admission is free every Friday, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.