ElectriCity Exhibit Lights Up the New York Transit Museum
I love taking my preschoolers to the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn. It's a great destination for families with train-and-bus obsessed kids (aren't they all?) with fun exhibits, informative displays and—most importantly for the under-five set—buses you can pretend to drive.
Even if you've been using the New York Transit Museum as your rainy day play spot for years, there's a new reason to visit: the institution's first major exhibit in over a decade, ElectriCity: Powering New York's Rails. The large interactive installation takes up about 2,000 square feet of the mezzanine, and will be on view through the end of 2016 (just in case you like to plan ahead). My kids and I went to check it out and found it really engaging. In fact, it was so cool, even my two-and-a-half-year-old agreed to put off driving that old-time bus for a half hour!
I should start by admitting something a little embarrassing: I've never really understood how electricity works. Every time my daughter pestered me with her "why, why, whys?" about it, I could never offer even a semi-coherent explanation. In a weird way, my ignorance made me the perfect visitor for this exhibit. Designed by the award-winning folks at Liberty Science Center and funded in part by (light bulb!) Con Edison, ElectiCity features bright, informative displays that break down how electricity works, and how it powers the city's subway system.
Equal parts science and history, the exhibit includes lots of objects from the museum's permanent collection—relics like a huge subway control panel from the 1930s—alongside the interactive stations. Kids can turn wheels to generate an electric current or find out which metals conduct electricity. My family's favorite: The diorama of a subway car, with different motors we could activate by turning cranks or switching on lights.
ElectiCity is well situated. Visitors are funneled through the museum's fascinating entrance, which vividly (and a bit terrifyingly) explains how the subway tunnels were built, and into the space. The exhibit also includes information about alternative energy sources and the eco-friendliness of public transportation. I realize we all curse the MTA some days, but the next time you're stuck in a tunnel, just remember that the more we ride subways and buses instead of driving cars, the less greenhouse gasses we emit!
The educational elements of this show went over my very little ones' heads, but they were very happy with the buttons, lights and whizzing motors. Still, the exhibit would mean more to school-age children since they'll be able to read the text and do some of the more advanced activities. In fact, the museum is already planning collaborations with local elementary schools so students learning about electricity can see how it works in the real world.
The New York Transit Museum is offering some cool family programming in conjunction with the exhibit. This Saturday and Sunday, November 12-13, visitors can catch ElectriCity Live!, an interactive tour of the exhibit followed by electrical experiments. The weekend of November 19-20, kids can "get electric" with MTA Arts for Transit artist Roger G, as he does a dance performance inspired by the show. And if you happen to be a Kids Club Thirteen member, the museum is offering a private tour this Saturday, along with demos and an exclusive screening of a new Electric Company episode.
ElectriCity: Powering New York's Rails is on view at the New York Transit Museum through December 2016. Free with admission: Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for children ages 2-17, free for kids under 2.
Find out about other current kid-friendly exhibits in our Museum Guide.
- New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn Heights: Hands-on Fun with Trains and Buses for NYC Kids
- Secrets of Circles at the Brooklyn Children's Museum Is Fascinating Interactive Fun
- Carsten Höller: Experience Turns the New Museum Into an Amusement Park
- Must-See Exhibit: Party Wall at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City