Blowin’ in the wind...
Letter from New York: At the Museum of the City of New York, Luise Müller takes up Bob Dylan’s trail.
Jan 22, 2016
“New York is the best city in the world!” – That’s the reaction I got from friends and acquaintances last summer when I told them about my planned stay abroad. When pressed for details, most suggested that they particularly like the city’s multifacetedness, tolerance, and diversity.
This is something that I want to get to the bottom of. And, since I don’t know much about the city, I start my explorations at theMuseum of the City of New York. The exhibition begins with a man whose name I am familiar with from a late-summer visit to the beach named after him: Jacob Riis. One of the most active and influential journalists and photographers of his time, Riis was a vocal advocate of social reforms at the turn of the nineteenth century. The exhibition includes many of Riis’s photographs that document living conditions in the slums of New York at that time.
Folk in Greenwich Village
The next part of the exhibition shows the cultural influence of folk music on New York. Many folk musicians lived in Greenwich Village during the 1960s; in fact, the music scene is still concentrated there today. In addition to audio samples and video recordings, the museum also shows several of Bob Dylan’s handwritten song manuscripts. The exhibition continues with a spotlight on the New York Marathon, which has been taking place every year since 1970. While only 127 runners participated in the first race, meanwhile, it has evolved into a mega event in which 50,000 runners battle their way through the five boroughs
Proud of Their Political Activism
Before I finish up, I also take a quick glance at the exhibition section on the various political activist movements in New York. It covers the Abolitionists (an 18th-century movement aimed at abolishing slavery), the women’s suffrage movement, the anti-Vietnam War activists, the Stonewall protests against the discrimination of homosexuals all the way to environmental or multi-cultural activism: From the accompanying interviews and newspaper articles you get the impression that New Yorkers were – and still are – proud of their political engagement.
After my visit to the museum, I decided that I will spend the rest of my time here getting to know all five boroughs better. My own borough of Brooklyn will be first on my list.