A Visit to the Museum of the Moving Image

With the Academy Awards on Sunday, I decided this was the perfect weekend to visit The Museum of the Moving Image.


This is one of New York’s smaller, niche museums. It’s located a short subway ride from Manhattan in Astoria, Queens. This makes it slightly intimidating to the average tourist. Tourist or not, if you are a movie buff you will love this museum. It’s location gives it an advantage: unlike the Met or the MoMA this museum is not overwhelmingly crowded on weekends or awash with school groups during the week.

The core exhibit is titled “Behind the Screen” and explores all elements of moving picture history.


It’s staggering to see how recently moving pictures came into being and the awesome advances that occurred in 100 years. The exhibit takes you through all the different elements required to assemble a film on both creative and technical sides.

Masks from movies I bet you recognize! There’s also the mold that was used to make Robin William’s mask in Mrs. Doubtfire. Yes, it made me sad to see it but it’s pretty special.
More of Robin Williams’ legacy here with this display of costumes. Mork is pretty obvious and the pink floral outfit on the right is Mrs. Doubtfire’s. Also easy to place: Billy Flynn’s “Razzle Dazzle” suit from Chicago and a “Cosby sweater”.

Actors, directors, set design, costumes, make-up, composers, and screenwriters each get their own section of the 2nd floor. On the 3rd floor things get technical with lights, mics, cameras dating back to the early 1900s, and special effects.

I never saw the movie these wolves are from…but I sure remember the effect this animatronic made possible in The Exorcist!

The special effects are especially fun to see because ground breaking techniques become obsolete so fast. Computer animation has all but done away with animatronic puppets. Here we have a great assortment on display. The animatronics from the Exorcist (creepy!) and Yoda from Star Wars.


A permanent Jim Henson Exhibit will open in late 2015. Which is so exciting! Currently they show many nods to The Muppets and Henson’s work. In addition to Yoda, there’s an awesome model from the original set design of The Muppets Take Manhattan.


I’m smiling from the miniature front, it’s maybe 1 foot high. when I notice the back. My heart melts. I love The Muppets.


The museum also has frequent screenings from Jim Henson’s World. All screenings of any film are included with your $12 admission price which is an awesome bonus! Click for the list of upcoming films they are showing.

Of course there are opportunities to see moving images at any time in this museum, not just at scheduled screenings.

I laughed out loud at some of these hilarious and witty hand drawn cartoons. Well done Bill Plympton! You can view some Plymptoons on Youtube.

We were treated to “Plymptoons: Short Films by Bill Plympton”, apparently an extended showing of hilarious hand drawn cartoons. There is also the awesome Tut’s Fever Movie Palace which was created as an homage to the ornate movie palaces of the pre-depression era. It’s a trip to just walk in. That they show different short movie serials everyday makes it even better!

The “lobby” of Tut’s. The inside is even cooler but the dim movie theater lighting makes it hard to capture!

But wait! There’s more! One of the most fun parts of the museum is their interactive features. There’s an exhibit on stop motion animation and then an opportunity to try out stop motion techniques yourself! Look guys, I made a film! Okay, “film” is a huge exaggeration. I took 12 pictures, moving around these different paper props. Looped together it looks like it’s moving!

Here’s my interactive master piece. A “film” (this one’s a little longer!) of me punching my friend Henry. It’s totally epic (and we could’ve used another take to coordinate slow-motion pace. Oh well, there wasn’t budget for that!)

There was one huge disappointment from this trip to the Museum of the Moving Image? Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men exhibit is opening March 14th, running through June 14th!

The staircase that will soon lead to the Mad Men exhibit!

I was 3 weeks too early to see it! Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to come back! The current special exhibit is about Astoria Studios which is located in the neighborhood. That runs through March 29th. It was interesting, but I wouldn’t recommend a special trip to see it unless you’re as obsessed with NYC as I am.


But wait, there’s more! Incredible artifact film cameras, history of the very first moving images (we’re talking a flip-book level), old TVs. How sound came to be added to films- with the interactive element of making your own voice over. This museum is really fun, chock full of information you likely didn’t know, well-worth the trip to Queens. It’ll give you an appreciation for the next time you watch Netflix.

And make you feel old if you owned any of these TVs.

Visit their website for more info http://www.movingimage.us/visit/ and let me know if you’re going to check out the Mad Men exhibit!

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

7 thoughts on “A Visit to the Museum of the Moving Image

    1. Including screenings with admission price makes this museum such a bargain! It also means if I catch a screening too, I won’t feel silly returning in two weeks to see the Mad Men exhibit! We’ll have to compare notes 🙂

  1. It’s my favorite museum in the City! I go every so often to check out new exhibits or hit screenings of special movies. I’m DYING to see the new Mad Men exhibit. Wanna go together soon and then get a drink at Astor Room after? It could be a fun blog post!
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  2. I’ll definitely go and check out the new exhibits! That moving pictures exhibits looks pretty awesome! Thanks for sharing it! 🙂

  3. The Museum of the Moving Image is awesome! I love old movies and I’d definitely love to see the masks from Star Wars and the Yoda figure. The Muppets are also amazing! The way they were using moving pictures to create movies is really great! It’s a very old invention by a photographer who had to make series of pictures of a moving horse in order to solve the debate if the horse gets all it’s feet off the ground while running (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sallie_Gardner_at_a_Gallop) . This is very interesting fact about the beginning of moving image film industry! Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience in the Museum of the Moving Image!

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