Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages

I’ve lived in Stony Brook, NY for a couple of years, and let’s just say that Stony Brook is a small town, so there really isn’t too much to do, especially if you don’t have a car.  It does have a museum, which I’ve never been to, for a variety of reasons. Well, the chance came a few weeks ago, and I jumped on that opportunity, and took myself and a friend to…

Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages, located in Stony Brook, NY
(Sorry, no picture of the building, you’ll see why soon)

The Long Island Museum is very easy to miss if you are not looking closely. (I wasn’t, so I missed the turn for the museum and had to double back.) There are two reasons for this: 1) Museums are typically big buildings with in your face displays of the museum name, but what I saw was a small one story building, with a moderate sized display, that sat about ten feet from the road, thus making it slightly harder to find (Also, I didn’t have a GPS); 2) Museums are typically big buildings that are a few stories high with all the exhibits inside, however the Long Island museum’s design is different. The small building that I saw was the visitor’s center, where the admission desk and the gift shop are located. The actual museum galleries are located across the road from the visitor’s center, and spread out on a couple of acres. Hence, the atypical design of the Long Island museum makes it slightly more difficult to locate for city dwellers like me.

The Long Island museum is open on Thursday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm; Sunday, from noon to 5pm. Regular admission is $9, however if you visit on a Thursday, they have a two for one deal. After you pay, they give you a little clip to gain entrance into the other galleries (so make sure not to lose it). After you exit the visitor’s center, you must either cross the street to see the other exhibits, or drive your car to the other side (I suggest you drive your car over, there is parking on the side, and it seems safer to be in the car than trying to cross the streets).

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First stop was the carriage house. The carriage house could easily be its own museum with the vast amount of carriages on display. It also fits my description of a typical museum, big name display and three floors of exhibits housed in one building. From everyday use carriages, to luxury carriages, to motorized carriages, the carriage house is a carriage enthusiast’s dream come true. I am no carriage enthusiast, but I had a good time at the carriage house; my first time seeing so many various carriages in one place. In addition to carriages, there is an exhibit on carriage-making, showing the process via a short video and some original equipments used in a carriage workshop. The carriages were organized by type, such as luxury carriages and parade carriages, so each gallery of carriages had its own theme. The carriage house was a nice experience, but I think it would be better if they had a floor guide because it makes navigating the exhibits easier. (Also, it’s easier for me to remember what I saw.)

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Next stop, American history (pertaining to Long Island). The American history portion of the museum consists of several historical buildings originating from several parts of Long Island. These historical buildings are as follows: Beaux-Arts Fountain, Nassakeag One-Room Schoolhouse, Outdoor Privy, Samuel H. West Blacksmith Shop, Williamson Barn, Smith Carriage Shed, and Smith-Rudyard Burial Grounds. The blacksmith shop was fascinating, as I’ve always thought that blacksmiths only forged weapons, but turns out that make everything that can be made with metal. The schoolhouse was another memorable building because of the setup of the classroom. The chairs and desks face the teacher’s desk as is typical of modern classrooms, but the blackboard is located in the back of the room, so how do the students copy the notes? Plus, on all the students’ desks were little portable blackboards, very similar to students today taking notes with tablets.

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Last, but not least was the Art museum. According to the map of the museum, the art museum features changing exhibitions of American art and history. When we visited, the exhibits on display were “A Painter’s Studio is Everywhere: Paintings by William Sidney Mount” and “Coney Island and Jones Beach: Empires by the Sea”. The gallery “A Painter’s Studio is Everywhere” is very typical of what you will find in most art museums, paintings on the wall. The “Coney Island and Jones Beach” gallery was very fun, plenty of memorabilia from the past relating to the two beaches, such as historic beachwear, photographs and prints. (No pictures allowed in this gallery.) One video captured my attention for its entirety. It was a video recorded in Coney Island (I think in the 1920s) featuring some of the whimsical rides of the time. The rides were simple with lots of spinning involved, but I have never seen rides like those before, there were no straps, no belts, nothing to prevent people from getting hurt. (The speed was probably not enough to cause any serious injuries, though.)

We spent about an hour visiting the whole museum, and the carriage house alone was worth the admissions, so many carriages, but the history and art bits were nice additions. The museum was actually one of the emptiest ones that I have ever been to, the whole time we were there, we saw less than five other visitors. It may be due to the location, the fact that we visited on a Friday afternoon or the default travel vehicle no longer being a carriage. The Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages was different from most museums that I have been to, but it was a good experience. If you happen to be in Long Island, a carriage enthusiast, or whatever other reason, drop by the museum and take a look, there are not many other places that can boast such a large carriage collection.

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