The Queens Museum of Art (QMA) is located in the New York City Building, which was built for the 1939 World’s Fair. It is the only remaining structure from that fair. Between 1946 and 1950 it also served as the headquarters for the United Nations. In 1964, the building saw yet another opportunity to serve as a pavilion for the World’s Fair.
Perhaps the most famous installation at the Queens Museum of Art is the Panorama of the City of New York. This architectural scale model was designed specifically for the 1964 World’s Fair by Robert Moses, who was responsible for an array of major civil engineering projects in NYC during his tenure. Overall, the panorama consists of 895,000 pieces that include realistic representations of skyscrapers, bridges, parks, and many other features of the Big Apple.
Another significant component of the permanent collection at the Queens Museum of Art is the Relief Map of the New York City Water Supply. The core of this exhibit includes a 3-D topographic model of the city and its vast network of pipes and other features of the water supply. Of course, the Queens Museum of Art also presents plenty of material on the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs that attracted millions of visitors. The World’s Fair Visual Storage and Gallery provides an in-depth overview of these massive cultural gatherings.
The most popular among all the exhibits at the museum is the “Panorama of the City of New York.” It is an exhibit that must be seen to believe. This massive diorama of NYC, depicting all five boroughs, was commissioned by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair. This architectural model measures 9,335-square-foot (867.2 m2) and includes every single street, building, park, airport, and hotel constructed before 1992. That amounts to a total of 895,000 individual structures.
Architectural model makers Raymond Lester Associates were commissioned to build the panorama and they employed more than a hundred people, who worked day and night for three years to bring this exhibit to life. Needless to say, the Panorama was one of the most-visited, talked about attractions at the ’64 Fair. A daily average of 1,400 people took the 9-minute simulated helicopter ride around the City.
After the fair came to an end, the Panorama remained open to the public. Until 1970 any changes in the city were religiously recreated in the model by Lester’s team. However, after 1970 not too many changes were made, until 1992, when Lester Associates was hired yet again to update the model. This was to coincide with the grand re-opening of the museum.
In 2009, the museum announced that it intended to update the Panorama on an ongoing basis. Since 9/11, the Twin Towers have been decked in red, white, and blue ribbons. The museum has allowed them to remain, not wishing to represent an empty hole in the spot. However, they will soon be replaced by a memorial.
The Queens Museum of Art is a great place to spend the day. While the Panorama is engaging enough to keep you occupied for the better part of your time there, there are several other interesting exhibits to check out. On weekends, they organize a free self-guided scavenger hunt, which your kids are sure to enjoy as they scurry through the galleries looking for hidden treasure. The clues can be picked up from the front desk and if you are lucky enough to find the treasure, you get a prize from the Museum’s gift shop.
Visiting Queens Museum of Art
The Queens Museum of Art is nested in the heart of the historic Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Covering nearly 900 acres, it’s by far the largest and most important park in the borough of Queens. Additionally, the park is home to some of NYC’s top attractions, such as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center which hosts the US Open.
If you’d like to reach the park by public transit, you can take the 7 Line of the NYC subway to 111 Street or Mets-Willets Point station. Commuter trains by the Long Island Railroad also stop at the Mets-Willets Point station. Several bus routes that are operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) drop off and pick up passengers near the Queens Museum of Art. Although the museum is conveniently situated just off I-678 and I-495, parking at the park is severely limited.
Location: New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, NY, 11368
Click here to visit Queens Museum of Art official website.