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by Helen Rosengren Freedman


Deirdre Cossman, who grew up in Great Neck, could be a great interview subject for an article on “how to parlay a library science degree into several interesting jobs.” Even in these high-tech times.

How about doing the research legwork for famous authors, or being a producer of the hit TV show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Cossman is a great example of the concept of doing what you love, and the rest will follow. At Millionaire, she was in charge of question research and accuracy; someone else would come up with the questions and Cossman and her staff would have to get the answers absolutely correct. This was high-stakes stuff. “I had a lawyer practically attached to me!” she remembers. Not to mention that she landed this job after a conversation at a dinner party with the program’s creator, who was then just thinking about the show but never forgot Cossman’s adamant stance on accuracy in television — the gist of their spirited conversation.

Switch now to Cossman’s latest project, the intricately researched handbook, Museums of New York City: A Guide for Residents and Visitors (Westholme Publishing, $14.95). Every museum you thought you knew about and many more you’ve never heard of can be found in Cossman’s book. Each listing gives the nuts-and-bolts info: location (with additional reference on a handy map); hours; admission; closest bus and subway — and then devotes one to two pages on each museum’s raison d’etre and its offerings. Some even include “Highlights” — the not-to-be-missed features — like the worn stairs of the servants’ back staircase at King Manor Museum in Jamaica, Queens; or one of George Washington’s false teeth, which can be seen at Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan.

Cossman’s Top 10
Zagat-style, at back, Cossman lists 10 places under “Museums for Children”. We asked her to list each and tell us what impressed her in particular. In alphabetical order . . .

American Museum of Natural History: “The dinosaurs! It’s a combination of old-fashioned museum and slick, high-tech Planetarium. There’s something for all kids there.”

Brooklyn Children’s Museum: “It’s fun, and very child-oriented. It’s the first museum designed just for kids, and it recognizes that the museum-going experience is going to be different for children.”

Children’s Museum of the Arts: “Hands-on, a place where kids create the art. The opposite of a museum where kids can’t touch the art!”

Children’s Museum of the Native American: “At most museums, Native Americans tend to be lumped into one entity; not here. You can become immersed in the culture, group by group.”

Children’s Museum of Manhattan:
“There are different activities here for different ages. It’s interactive and almost like a playground.”

New York Hall of Science (pictured): “An amazing place, where they make science accessible and fun and put into perspective how science relates to everyday life.”

Prospect Park Audubon Center: “The first urban Audubon Center in the country. It’s free, and the grounds are great for wandering.”

Queens County Farm Museum: “Life-on-the-farm experience for NYC kids. It’s the largest piece of farmland left intact in NYC. They have great seasonal events, like their corn maze, and apple and pumpkin festivals.”

Sony Wonder Technology Lab: “It’s free, but it tends to get crowded. It’s all about media and is very high-tech — the exact opposite of the Farm Museum!”

Staten Island Children’s Museum: “A little known museum, but everyone who ever goes there says, ‘How wonderful!’ It’s a great children’s museum, with lots of programs for different ages.”

We also asked Cossman what museums she would recommend if a friend with kids were coming into New York City for just one day. Her responses:

—For kids up to age 5
“Brooklyn Children’s Museum.”

—Ages 5-10
“Any of the museums on the children’s list. But if you’re looking for something a bit off-the-beaten-track, Children’s Museum of the Arts, because it’s hands-on; Audubon Center; New York Hall of Science.”

—Over age 10

“American Museum of Natural History; or the Metropolitan Museum for the Egyptian Galleries, and the Arms & Armor.”

—And one more:

“For ages 7 or 8 and up, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum is great for kids. This is a place where you can actually walk in and experience how people lived. And they have the greatest New York-centric bookstore and gift shop!”

Where to find the museums on Deirdre Cossman’s lists:

American Museum of Natural History: Central Park West at 79th St., Manhattan (212) 769-5100; www.amnh.org

Brooklyn Children’s Museum: 145 Brooklyn Ave. at St. Mark’s Ave., Crown Heights. (718) 735-4400; www.bchildmus.org

Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM): 212 West 83rd St., between Broadway and Amsterdam, Manhattan (212) 721-1234; www.cmom.org

Children’s Museum of the Arts: 182 Lafayette St., between Broome and Grand, Manhattan (212) 941-9198; www.cmany.org

Children’s Museum of the Native American: 550 West 155th St., between Broadway and Amsterdam, Manhattan on second floor of the Church of the Intercession. (212) 283-1122

Lower East Side Tenement Museum
: 90 Orchard St., at Broome, Manhattan (212) 431-0233; www.tenement.org

Metropolitan Museum of Art
: 1000 Fifth Ave., at 82nd St, Manhattan (212) 535-7710; www.metmuseum.org

New York Hall of Science: in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens (718) 699-0005; www.nyscience.org

Prospect Park Audubon Center: Prospect Park, near Ocean Ave./Lincoln Rd. entrance, Brooklyn (718) 287-3400; www.prospectpark.org

Queens County Farm Museum: 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy., Floral Park, Queens (718) 347-3276; www.queensfarm.org

Sony Wonder Technology Lab: 56th St., between Madison and Fifth, Manhattan (212) 833-8100; www.sonywondertechlab.com

Staten Island Children’s Museum: Snug Harbor Cultural Center, 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island (718) 273-2060; www.statenislandkids.org

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