Most people think of Memorial Day as the beginning of summer, time to hit the pool or a day off from work. But the federal holiday was created after the Civil War to honor fallen American soldiers. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, city museums pay homage to U.S. troops by letting active duty military personnel and their families visit their collections for free.
The program, now in its second summer, is sponsored by Blue Star Families, an organization that offers military families resources and support, and the National Endowment for the Arts. It coincides with Fleet Week — the U.S. Navy comes into the harbor on Wednesday morning — and marks the 100th anniversary of the Naval Aviation Foundation.
Military representatives contacted in the New York area were unaware of the program's existence. Yet, free admission will be offered at over 1,300 museums across all 50 states and in Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and American Samoa. New York City has 43 participating institutions, ranging from fine art museums to nature centers to children’s museums to Jewish heritage museums. This year's initiative was announced in San Diego, Calif., which has 17 museums offering free admission.
There are, however, restrictions to the program, including who qualifies as a family member — a child or spouse under the current program — and how many family members can gain free entrance at once (five). Qualifying military personnel must be actively serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, or Reserves.
The program does not currently extend free admission to war veterans.
Below is a full list of New York City museums offering free admission to active duty soldiers and their families:
- Alice Austen House Museum
- American Folk Art Museum
- Asia Society Museum
- Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum
- The Bronx Museum of the Arts
- Brooklyn Children’s Museum
- Brooklyn Historical Society
- Brooklyn Museum
- Chelsea Art Museum
- Children’s Museum of Manhattan
- Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
- Derfner Judaica Museum at The Hebrew Home at Riverdale
- El Museo del Barrio
- International Center of Photography
- Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
- Japan Society, Inc.
- The Jewish Museum
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden
- Museum at Eldridge Street
- Museum of African American Cinema (MoACC)
- Museum of Arts and Design
- Museum of Chinese in America
- Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
- The Museum of Modern Art
- Museum of the City of New York
- National Museum of the American Indian, Heye Center
- New Museum
- New York Botanical Garden
- New York City Fire Museum
- New York Hall of Science
- New York Transit Museum
- Noble Maritime Collection
- Queens Botanical Garden
- Queens Museum of Art
- Seaport Museum New York
- Society of Illustrators
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
- Staten Island Children’s Museum
- Staten Island Museum
- The Studio Museum in Harlem
- Wave Hill
- Whitney Museum of American Art