Two weeks ago, my husband and I decided to go for a walk around our neighborhood. We took a slightly different route that day and found ourselves passing by a mansion on the corner of 37th Street and Madison Avenue. And then we soon realized, it's actually the Morgan Library & Museum. So we spontaneously decided to go and check it out.
(Note: The Morgan Library & Museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10:30 am to 5 pm. You can visit the museum from 2 to 5 pm for free every Friday; reservations are required). For more information, visit their website: https://www.themorgan.org/.)
(Photo: Happily Ever Style)
Although Morgan Library & Museum isn't exactly a "hidden gem," it's definitely lesser-known amongst the many museums in Manhattan. Both my husband and I were so happy that we decided to visit because the museum has now topped our list of "New York favorites." We have since then recommended it to all of our friends in the city.
When I posted a TikTok video about the historic site, it received over 150k views within a few days; despite many being aware of the museum, it seemed like a good amount of people haven't heard about it or have yet to visit.
Out of the many things we learned from our visit, I'm sharing 5 that stood out to me. Read on to see if you were aware of any of them!
1. J. Pierpont Morgan wasn't just an influential financier
I knew J.P. Morgan was one of the most influential financiers in US history, but I was never aware that he was also a voracious collector. His astonishing collection grew so large he decided to build a home for it! And he wasn't just collecting any ordinary item; his collection included rare books (some so rare, they're locked in a vault in the study room), manuscripts, ancient artifacts like cylinder seals, paintings, and many more.
Charles Dicken's original manuscript of A Christmas Carol, for instance, is amongst his collection. It had handwritten notes and markup from the author himself.
2. Nearly 8,000 pieces at the MET were once part of Morgan's personal collection
After J.P. Morgan's death, his son donated much of his father's collection — between 6,000 and 8,000 objects, to be exact — to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In fact, for almost 10 years, J.P. Morgan served as a supportive and influential president at the MET from 1904 to 1913.
3. The architect of the original structure also designed the former Pennslyvania Station
Because of the recent opening of the new Penn Station, a lot of people have been talking about the former train station and the original architect McKim, Mead & White. So the name stood out to me when I saw it mentioned at the Morgan Library & Museum.
While today, the museum is a combination of different buildings constructed during different time periods, the initial palazzo-like structure was designed by Charles Follen McKim, one of the founding partners of McKim, Mead & White.
The same architectural firm also designed other iconic sites in New York, including the arch at Washington Square Park, Brooklyn Museum, and several branches of the New York Public Library, too!
(Photo: Happily Ever Style)
4. Morgan's musical manuscript collection is the second-largest, only behind the Library of Congress
Amongst the manuscripts that Morgan had collected, a huge portion was a fine collection of musician's letters and first editions of scores. In fact, it has the world's largest collection of Gustav Mahler's manuscripts! You can also find autographed scores from notable musicians including Beethoven and Chopin. One of the highlights was Mozart's Haffner Symphony in D Major from the late 1700s.
5. The quality of the printing press in the 16th century was extremely high
I didn't realize how well-developed the printing press was back in the 16th century. I was very surprised to find rare books that are more than 500 years old to remain extremely legible. Through the protected glass cases, I was still able to clearly read the words in some of the displayed books, despite them being so old. A number of books amongst Morgan's collection were from the 1500s.
If you're not in New York, you can also visit Morgan Library & Museum virtually at https://www.themorgan.org.