Long Island Museum
|The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook is an eclectic collection of vintage horse-drawn carriages, decoys, artwork and special exhibits on a park-like setting off of Route 25A.|
The Long Island Museum is spread out over two main areas on either side of Route 25A. The parking and visitor's center are located on the west side of the road. From here, you can purchase admission and visit the main exhibit space as well as the gift shop and book store. The main floor in the visitor's center features a changing exhibit, it is currently showing artifacts, pictures and videos about the 1938 hurricane that hit Long Island.
The first of the permanent exhibits at the Long Island Museum's visitor center is the duck decoys. They are displayed as works of folk art -- utilitarian in nature and yet lovingly decorated to look as realistic as possible. As part of the exhibit, a baymen's workshop is recreated as well as a duck blind. Kid who are excited by ducks may find this of some interest, but it's a little esoteric for most children.
An adjacent gallery features miniature rooms that are of much greater interest to kids, especially girls who are into their doll houses. Windows on the walls allow you to look into these fascinating miniature rooms, as if peering through a mail slot. Each room has a different theme and they are incredibly detailed with period furniture and decorations. They are a bit high on the walls, but there is a step that goes around the whole area to help younger people get a look. If your kids are under four feet, however, be prepared to give them a boost.
Across the street is the big attraction at the Long Island Museum, the Dorothy and Ward Melville Carriage House. It's the largest collection of horse-drawn carriages in the United States, with over 100 carriages on display. To get across from the parking area, you need to walk to the corner where 25A merges with Stony Brook's North Main Street and wait for the walk signal. The push button for the signal is pretty responsive, so the wait time isn't long. We did, however, see several cars go through the red light to make a right hand turn heading east, so keep your eyes open when crossing with children.
The sheer variety of horse-drawn carriages is overwhelming. There are so many sizes and styles that while the subject matter as a whole may only hold limited appeal for kids, there is a lot to look at without being as repetitive as you might imagine in a museum dedicated to a single subject. After a trip to the Long Island Museum, kids will know what they're singing about when Jingle Bells pines for the fun of a one-horse open sleigh.
Fans of cowboys and the old west will be excited to see an actual stagecoach, and there are many different ones here. From the stripped-down cargo versions to period 'luxury' rides, it is remarkable how many different styles there are of the old western standby. These are, however, real antiques so some kids may have a difficult time with the no-touching rules.
There is a special display of carriages in kid sizes, as well as a few other smaller ones that are scattered throughout the museum. It's nearly impossible, in this age of car seats, bicycle helmets and airbags to imagine strapping your child into one of these things and hooking up a horse or pony to it. But the prospect is enough to draw the interest of young visitors.
There is a separate display of firefighting equipment, with various horse-drawn engines as well as uniforms and photographs. Also on the lower level is a Stony Brook town square display that simulates a nineteenth century village that kids can walk through and actually touch the carriage (but climbing is still a no-no).
The exhibits at the Dorothy and Ward Melville Carriage House are located on two levels. There are wide walkways for getting from one level to the next, making it easy to navigate with a stroller. There are also public restrooms inside this building. One caveat when traveling with a stroller -- none of the doors open automatically, they just feature call buttons for handicapped access so be prepared to handle the doors if you're visiting with a stroller.
A recreation of a workshop showcases the tools and technology that were used in the early 1900's to build carriages like the ones found here. The nearby displays illustrate the evolution of carriages, right up to a Studebaker horseless carriage that led to the end of the horse-drawn era.
Outside of the Dorothy and Ward Melville Carriage House are the park-like grounds of the museum that feature several outbuildings. An herb garden surrounds the beaux-arts fountain that once was the water supply for horses in New York City's Madison Square Park. There is a large patio with several tables that is an ideal spot for a picnic. While there is no food for sale at the Long Island Museum, there are vending machines to purchase a cold soda. The entire back area is fenced in, so children can explore without too much worry.
The Nassakeag one-room schoolhouse will be of interest to school-aged children, showing how kids attended school 125 years ago. Also fascinating for giggling youngsters will be the outhouse located next to the school. The grounds are also home to a blacksmith shop, barn, carriage shed and an old graveyard that has been on the grounds dating back to 1796. The American art museum is located at the back end of the grounds, but this will only be of interest to older and the most cultured of children...
The Long Island Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. They open at noon on Sunday. Admission is $9 for adults and $4 for children, kids under six years old are free. The size of the museum grounds and the variety of exhibits mean that a trip here is good for at least two hours, more if your kids are really interested in any individual area.
The Long Island MusuemOfficial Site: http://www.longislandmuseum.org/
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