If you’re thinking of ways to best commemorate the upcoming 9/11 anniversary with kids in tow, consider twin visits to the New York City Fire Museum and New York City Police Museum. Popular destinations prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center, both institutions share a similar mission — educating the public on their respective department’s history and using permanent exhibitions and programming to trace their development into their modern day structures. While both continue with their original mission in post 9/11 New York, they are also in the process of coming to terms with the losses suffered last September.
Housed in the former quarters of Engine Company No. 30, the New York City Fire Museum has always been a must-visit for legions of young children who gaze wide-eyed at every fire truck on the street, but there’s plenty here to intrigue older kids as well. The extensive collection of vintage pumps and engines, including horse-drawn vehicles and motorized fire trucks that required hand cranks to start, protective gear, prints, models and other fascinating items, offers a glimpse into New York City’s firefighting past and shows how the profession has evolved over the years.
Each year, more than 10,000 schoolchildren visit the renovated 1904 firehouse (along with a few NYU students who’ve been caught lighting candles in their dorm rooms) to participate in the museum’s ongoing fire prevention program which combines firefighting history with fire safety information. Museum director Joanne Kay notes that interest in the museum is on the rise. In 2000, the museum received 37,000 visitors. The number jumped to nearly 44,000 in 2001. A permanent 9/11 exhibit is currently under construction. It will consist of a glass-enclosed courtyard documenting the events of September 11, as well as artifacts from the site, along with an adjacent media room devoted to the more than 300 firefighters who perished.
Further downtown, the New York City Police Museum is settling into its new home at 100 Old Slip, a landmark building that served as the city’s first precinct house. The extensive collection on exhibit is one that young museum-goers will find fascinating — with its vintage weapons, badges, uniforms, and department vehicles (such as a 1972 Plymouth Fury, the last squad car to have been painted black, green and white before the department switched to blue and white the following year). Interactive components include a recreated crime scene and a jail cell.
After running a “Cops Are Tops” exhibit program that included a weekend program of fingerprinting and ID, the museum closed mid-August and is expected to re-open the first or second week of this month, with a 9/11 exhibit. Museum representatives say the exhibition will be a compilation addressing the rebuilding and response of the NYC Police Department after September 11. The special exhibit is expected to incorporate family programming and workshops.
• The New York City Fire Museum is located at 278 Spring St., SoHo. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-5pm; Sunday, 10am-4pm. Admission: $4 adults, $2 seniors/students and $1 children 12 and under. For further information, call (212) 691-1303 or visit www.nycfiremuseum.org.
• The New York City Police Museum is located at 100 Old Slip, off Water Street in Lower Manhattan. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-5pm. Admission: $5 general, $3 seniors, $2 children 6-18, children under 5 admitted FREE. For further information, call (212) 480-3100 or visit www.nycpolicemuseum.org.