Located at the northern end of New York City’s legendary Museum Mile, El Museo del Barrio is one of the country’s most prestigious Latino cultural institutions. Most commonly referred to as El Museo, this acclaimed museum contains a permanent collection of some 8,000 artworks and artifacts. Its regular exhibitions and special installations explore almost 800 years of Latin American creativity, with a special emphasis on the art and culture of Puerto Rico.
History of El Museo del Barrio
El Museo was founded in 1969 by Raphael Montañez Ortiz, a teacher and artist working at the High School of Music and Art. Montañez Ortiz had been tasked with developing educational materials that would acknowledge the diversity of his school district. What he ended up devising was, in fact, an arts institution devoted to the culture and community of Puerto Ricans living in New York City and the United States.
In its early days, El Museo operated out of an assortment of school classrooms, retail spaces, and various other local buildings. In time, though, it would procure its permanent home on 5th Avenue and 104th Street, directly across the street from Central Park’s Vanderbilt Gate and just north of the Museum of the City of New York.
What’s at El Museo del Barrio
El Museo’s permanent collection numbers over 8,000 items from across eight centuries, and is divided into six thematic categories: Urban Experiences, Expanded Graphics, African and Indigenous Heritages, Craft Intersection, Women Artists, and Representing Latinx. Among these cultural artifacts and artistic treasures visitors will find all manner of paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures, and films.
El Museo regularly sponsors special exhibitions, too. By their very nature, these temporary installations are always evolving, but recent shows include a retrospective of the career of El Museo’s founder, Raphael Montañez Ortiz; an overview of the New York Puerto Rican community’s experience during the early 1970s; and a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Taller Boricua, the influential printmaking studio, collective workshop, and community organization.
El Museo’s dedication to community-building and activism means that the attraction is frequently the site of educational programming, live events, and more. From kid-centric activities to cultural celebrations and beyond, El Museo is often hosting something noteworthy. For a full listing of what might be taking place when you’re planning to visit, be certain to consult the attraction’s official website in advance of your trip.
La Tienda is El Museo del Barrio’s in-house shop. There you’ll find all manner of accessories, jewelry, clothing, posters, prints, and other souvenirs, as well as a nice selection of books. These texts include exhibition catalogs, poetry collections, novels, academic volumes, and a whole lot more.
Tips for Visiting
- El Museo del Barrio is currently open Thursdays through Sundays between 11:00am and 5:00pm. As always, these hours of operation are subject to change, so make sure to double check before setting your schedule in stone.
- El Museo’s prominent location on 5th Avenue across from Central Park means it can be accessed without too much difficulty by a number of forms of transportation. If you have the ability to do so, however, consider taking public transportation. Parking in this area is always going to be quite expensive.
- Those in need of a wheelchair or stool to rest on during their visit should inquire at the front desk. Both options are available there free of charge.
- El Museo has partnered with Bloomberg Connects to create a free app that serves as a useful guide to the attraction. It provides tremendous insight into El Museo’s history, its permanent collection, special exhibitions, and more.