by Matthew Schneier, 05/01/2012
Photo: Jay Chen/Friends of the City Reliquary, Inc.
Manhattan has Museum Mile. By contrast, Williamsburg has only a single storefront museum—but what you'll find behind the door of this former bodega is stranger and arguably more fun than most of what decorates Fifth Avenue. City Reliquary, dedicated to the art and artifacts of five-borough life, first opened in 2002 as a window display a few blocks from its current location; it moved to its current three-room digs at Metropolitan and Havemeyer in 2006, where it houses a permanent collection of historical oddities and a separate gallery dedicated to exhibitions of local work. Among its rare treasures: a collection of the historic seltzer bottles of Brooklyn; an eerie barbershop diorama, on which is projected a slideshow of kids' first haircuts from a now-defunct local establishment; a wooden brick from one of Greenpoint's last streets to be repaved; and a shimmying paean to Little Egypt, a turn-of-the-century "hoochie-coochie" girl who delighted bachelor parties and fell afoul of the law. A brand-new gift shop at the museum's entrance, run by the founder's wife, offers local knickknacks ranging from candles and stone pigeons to stuffed-animal versions of the alligators rumored to haunt New York City's sewers.