With its complex history and diverse population, it’s no surprise that New Jersey is blessed with a fascinating array of museums. Our biggest and best-known museums rank among the nation’s finest. Our smaller museums offer highly focused collections of historic relics, everyday objects and fascinating oddities that add up to a vivid picture of the state’s social, cultural and industrial heritage. What follows is a look at 37 New Jersey museums. (Admission free where indicated; otherwise, check for admission prices.)
HERITAGE MUSEUM OF SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY
The museum’s more than 3,000 pieces document the saga of the African-American community of South Jersey. Most of the collection—including diaries, quilts, photographs, neon signs, tools, furniture and clothing—is housed in Noyes Garage at Stockton College in Atlantic City. A small display remains at an earlier location at the Dr. Martin Luther King Center in Newtonville. 609-350-6662.—RS
AMERICAN LABOR MUSEUM
Housed in a national historic landmark (the restored 1908 home of Italian immigrants), the museum includes a permanent exhibit on the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike, a landmark fight for an eight-hour work day and improved working conditions. The building includes a free library, an Old World garden and four period rooms depicting the early 20th-century lifestyle of immigrant laborers. Children under 12, free. 973-595-7953.—BM
AVIATION HALL OF FAME
OF NEW JERSEY
The 166 inductee plaques tell only part of the story of aviation in the state, which is a more daring, romantic epic than anyone who ever fumed through a flight delay at Newark Liberty might imagine. The museum, next to the old control tower at Teterboro Airport, tells the rest, from the first flight (a 15-mile balloon trip from Philadelphia to Deptford in 1793) to the moon landing (by Montclair’s Buzz Aldrin) and beyond (a Mars Observer space probe). Vintage aircraft are parked outside; no TSA lines. 201-288-6344.—KC
DOO WOP PRESERVATION EXPERIENCE
In the 1950s and 1960s, Wildwood was a hotbed of early rock ’n’ roll. The motels and restaurants of that era also rocked, with bodacious curves, bright neon signs and plastic palm trees. Many examples of so-called doo-wop architecture have been preserved; artifacts from buildings that couldn’t be saved are gathered in this one-room museum, itself a former doo-wop diner. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. 609-523-1958.—RS
Big guy born in Essex County? Ran for president? No, not that one—this one. Grover Cleveland was elected to the nation’s highest office twice—the only president to serve split terms. His family moved to upstate New York when Cleveland was four, but the Jersey house where he was born holds the largest collection of artifacts from his life, including his childhood cradle and an invitation to his White House wedding—to his 21-year-old bride. Free. 973-226-0001. —KC
FRANKLIN MINERAL MUSEUM
By state resolution, Franklin Borough is the Fluorescent Mineral Capital of the World. On the site of a now defunct mine, the small museum displays more than 4,000 mineral specimens, has a life-size mine replica and a 33-foot-long fluorescent room that glows with a rainbow of brilliant neon colors. Visitors can search for souvenir minerals in three outside collecting areas. 973-827-3481.—SZL
HIRAM BLAUVELT ART MUSEUM
Situated in a carriage house on the estate of the late philanthropist/conservationist Hiram Blauvelt, the museum is wholly dedicated to wildlife art and conservation. Visitors can gaze upon a collection of 200 stuffed mounts in the gentleman’s trophy room or walk through the sculpture garden with its life-size wildlife statues. The permanent collection includes work by renowned wildlife artists, including Robert Bateman, Carl Rungius and John Banovich. Free. 201-261-0012.—BM
HERITAGE GLASS MUSEUM
Commemorating the first center of glassmaking in the United States, the museum has hundreds of artifacts, some more than 200 years old. These delicate items, colored and clear, tell the story of an industry that once employed thousands in South Jersey. Free. 856-881-7468.—RS
HUNTERDON ART MUSEUM
Housed in a historic stone mill beautifully located on the south branch of the Raritan River, the museum serves as a center for art, craft and design, as well as educational programs. The permanent collection emphasizes prints, but also includes drawings, paintings and photographs. 908-735-8415.
Wall (Camp Evans)
The old Camp Evans military base in Wall is now home to a series of unique, permanent museums and exhibits run by various organizations. Visitors can learn the history of New Jersey’s shipwrecks in one room and listen to the sounds of early radio in the next. Among the highlights: an extensive exhibit by the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame that includes artifacts, recordings, film and other memorabilia tracing the history of broadcasting. Free; donation requested. 732-280-3000.—BM
JANE VOORHEES ZIMMERLI ART MUSEUM
This museum at Rutgers University showcases more than 60,000 works of art. Russian, American and European art are prevalent; another attraction is the Schimmel Rare Book Library, a resource of more than 3,000 books on French art and society. Free. 848-932-7237.
The victors’ tribute to the vanquished: a “bugseum” established by an exterminating company in celebration of the enemy it fights daily. All manner of flying, crawling and creeping creatures are presented, dead and alive. The museum is a favorite of kids, who like to slither through the Mud Tube and pretend they’re termites—and who often prove themselves braver than the grownups when offered the chance to touch a tarantula. Age 2 and under, free 732-349-7090.—KC
LIBERTY HALL MUSEUM
Union (Kean University)
Embark on a guided tour inside the home of New Jersey’s first elected governor, William Livingston. The 50-room Victorian mansion has witnessed more than 200 years of American history and contains artifacts from the Livingston/Kean family, who called the property home until 1995. Portraits, antique furniture, ceramics, textiles, toys and tools tell the story of how the family met the challenges of a changing nation. Age 3 and under, free. 908-527-0400.—BM
LIBERTY SCIENCE CENTER
There is an abundance to learn and do in this world where science and physics meet pure fun. Climb to the top of the food chain at the Eat or Be Eaten exhibit, or enjoy Wonder Why, which features long-standing exhibit favorites like Resonance Tube and Fluorescent Rocks. The center also houses an Imax theater and a Digital 3D Theater. 201-200-1000.
MACCULLOCH HALL HISTORICAL MUSEUM
Built in 1810, this Federal-style mansion includes nine period rooms decorated with antique carpets, furniture, paintings, toys, porcelain and more, documenting the life of the Macculloch family, who called the property home until 1949. Along with three exhibit spaces, an outdoor garden and gift shop, the museum maintains the nation’s largest collection of original art by the 19th-century political cartoonist (and Morristown resident) Thomas Nast. Five and under, free. 973-538-2404.—BM
MONTCLAIR ART MUSEUM
This museum focuses on American and Native American art through exhibits and educational programs. The collection boasts more than 12,000 items, including works from notable American artists like John Singer Sargent, Georgia O’Keeffe, Roy Lichtenstein and Montclair’s own George Inness. 973-746-5555.
Located in a historic mansion, the museum—which recently celebrated its centennial—has a huge permanent collection of antique objects, from minerals to model trains—plus one of the country’s top collections of mechanical musical instruments. Unique entertainment events are programmed at the 300-seat Bickford Theater. 973-971-3700.
MORVEN MUSEUM & GARDEN
Located in one of new Jersey’s most historic mansions (it was home to Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and five New Jersey governors), Morven has served as a museum since 2004, focusing on the rich cultural heritage of the Garden State. A permanent exhibition tells the story of the home and its former inhabitants; rotating exhibitions showcase other facets of Jersey history and art. The formal garden comes alive in spring and summer. 609-924-8144.
MUSEUM OF AMERICAN GLASS
Millville (Wheaton Arts)
This gem of a museum is the focal point of Wheaton Arts & Cultural Center, a captivating colony of creativity on more than 50 wooded acres in the Pinelands. The museum houses a beautifully curated collection of American decorative and commercial glass, much of it produced by local artisans beginning in the late 1800s. The galleries are arrayed in chronological order to convey the evolution of the craft. Your visit should include a glassmaking demonstration in the adjacent glass studio. Watch for frequent special events. Age 5 and under, free. 856-825-6800.—KS
MUSEUM OF EARLY TRADES & CRAFTS
Documenting the skills of New Jerseyans spanning the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, the permanent exhibit includes more than 8,800 artifacts related to 21 different trades and crafts, including farming, shoemaking and blacksmithing. The building—itself a work of art in the Richardsonian Romanesque Revival style—includes a changing exhibit space and gift shop. 973-377-2982.—BM
NAVAL AIR STATION WILDWOOD AVIATION MUSEUM
Rio Grande (Cape May Airport)
The museum’s collection of vintage military aircraft, most dating to World War II, includes the TBM Avenger, a torpedo bomber with folding wings that was manufactured in Trenton. The museum is housed in a 92,000-square-foot hangar commissioned by the federal government in April 1943. Visitors can climb an air-traffic control tower and play flight-simulator games. Age 3 and under, free. 609-886-8787.—RS
The state’s largest museum showcases an impressive collection of American, Asian and classical art. Founded in 1909 by John Cotton Dana, the museum continues to bring the best in arts and sciences to the state. The adjoining Ballantine House is a trip back to the Victorian era and also a National Historic Landmark. Kids will enjoy an educational visit to the planetarium. 973-596-6550.
NEW JERSEY MUSEUM OF BOATING & VINTAGE
Tucked away on a side street, the nautical museum is awash in New Jersey’s rich boating heritage. The museum includes a marine-themed free-lending library and changing exhibits. Special events include the annual wooden boat show (September). Under the popular Family Boat Building program, attendees can build and keep a 9-foot Barnegat Bay rowboat. Make sure to stop next door at the Vintage Automobile Museum of New Jersey, which includes memorabilia and changing exhibits of classic cars. Free. 732-606-7605; 732-899-0012.—BM
NEW JERSEY STATE MUSEUM
This museum opened in 1895 with a collection of natural-history specimens from the 19th century, but has since grown to house areas for archaeology, ethnology, decorative arts, fine arts and more. There’s also a new planetarium with a 360-degree inner dome that projects more than 6,000 stars found in the night sky. Age 12 and under, free. 609-292-6464.
OLD BARRACKS MUSEUM
Trenton (Mercer County)
Built before the Revolutionary War, the barracks housed British and Hessian soldiers when it fell to General George Washington after the Continental Army’s Christmas Eve 1776 crossing of the Delaware. Restored and partially reconstructed, the museum features costumed reenactors who depict military and civilian life in the Revolutionary era. 609-396-1776.—RS
Housed in a 19th-century locomotive factory (a short walk from the Great Falls), the museum chronicles Paterson’s heyday as a manufacturing giant. Among the highlights: looms from Paterson’s silk industry; airplane engines (like the one that powered Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis); and the rusted hulks of two early submarines built by inventor John Holland. Our favorite: the extensive display of Colt firearms (largely from the collection of Norman B. Tomlinson Jr., former publisher of New Jersey Monthly). 973-321-1260.—KS
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM
One of the largest academic museums in the country, this Princeton institution houses more than 72,000 works of art, from ancient and Islamic art to a contemporary collection. The permanent collection includes works by Charles Willson Peale, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Frederic Remington, Henry Moore, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, and other giants of the art world. Free. 609-258-3788.
A century ago, the Roebling Mill made the steel for the wire ropes that hold up bridges across the country, from the George Washington to the Golden Gate. The company is long gone, but the company town along the Delaware River—with its orderly rows of brick houses—is still alive. The old gate house serves as a museum, telling the mill’s story with a collection of railroad and steel-mill equipment, strand and wire rope samples, and Roebling family artifacts. Age 5 and under, free. 609-499-7200.—KC
SAM AZEEZ MUSEUM OF WOODBINE HERITAGE
Not all of the Jewish immigrants who came through Ellis Island landed in urban tenements. In the 1890s, a few hundred, sponsored by a philanthropic group that was establishing Jewish agricultural colonies, cleared a swath of land in the farthest southern reaches of the state for a new town: Woodbine. They built a red-brick synagogue that is now a museum chronicling the history of this unusual community and drawing lessons from it about tolerance and diversity. 609-861-5355.—KC
SNOWMOBILE BARN MUSEUM
Snowy though this corner of the state may be in some years, it’s still far from the frigid climes where snowmobiles are essential for transportation, not just recreation. That hasn’t stopped Dan Klemm from collecting 400 of them over the past few decades, including some early models that resemble a shotgun marriage between a Harley and a toboggan. Two big barns are filled with them, along with vintage motorcycles, cars, pinball machines and other assorted collectibles. 973-534-7823.—KC
STERLING HILL MINING MUSEUM
Located on the site of what operated as the Sterling Hill zinc mine from 1897 until 1986, the original buildings house thousands of mineral samples, fossils and equipment, as well as the Miner’s Lunchbox snack bar and a museum store. The two-hour tour includes a hike into the chilly mine to see the glowing walls of fluorescent minerals and the opportunity to collect take-home specimens. 973-209-7212. —SZL
STICKLEY MUSEUM AT CRAFTSMAN FARMS
Gustav Stickley, the leader of the American Arts and Crafts design movement in the early 20th century, built this log home for his planned farm school for boys. All clean lines and harmony, the home now serves as both a mission statement and a museum of design and decorative arts. Visitors can walk the park-like grounds or take a guided tour of the restored log home and bungalow, furnished with many pieces original to the house. Age 2 and under, free. 973-540-0311.—KC
THOMAS EDISON CENTER
AT MENLO PARK
Thanks to a recent restoration, the 14-foot-tall Pyrex bulb atop the Art Deco memorial tower shines again—now with LED bulbs inside, not the incandescents Edison perfected in his lab here. The buildings he worked in are gone, but a small museum tells the story of his fertile years (400 inventions, including the phonograph) in the town that later named itself after him. Free, donation suggested. 732-549-3299.—KC
Maintained with the same care as the finest private course, this museum tells the story of golf in America, with artifacts like President William H. Taft’s extra-long putter and the six-iron with which astronaut Alan B. Shepard hit balls “miles and miles and miles” on the moon. (Quipped Mission Control: “Looks like a slice to me, Al.”) Individual galleries are dedicated to giants of the game, including Arnold Palmer, Mickey Wright, Ben Hogan, and the most recent, Jack Nicklaus. The Hall of Champions commemorates every USGA Championship winner. Outside, a nine-hole putting course gives visitors a chance to play with replica antique balls and putters. Age 12 and under, free. 908-234-2300.—KS
This repository features three spacious rooms filled with original period pieces and reproductions from when General George Washington made his headquarters at the adjacent Ford Mansion during the American Revolution, circa 1779-1780. Exhibits include weapons used in the war; a collection of Lloyd W. Smith’s antique books and manuscripts documenting the period; and artifacts detailing the lifestyle of the upper class. Museum-goers can watch the PBS documentary Morristown: Where America Survived. Under 15, free. A visit to the Ford Mansion is also essential. 973-539-2016.—BM
YOGI BERRA MUSEUM & LEARNING CENTER
Little Falls (Montclair State University)
The permanent home of memorabilia and photos documenting the career of the late, great Yankees catcher, Yogi Berra. But as Yogi might have said, the beginning doesn’t end there. The museum also presents exhibits on Yankee history, catchers and face masks, and baseball integration (a gracious nod on Berra’s part to his longtime Montclair neighbor, friend and fellow Hall-of-Famer, Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League). Among the popular artifacts: Berra’s 10 championship rings. 973-655-2378.—KS