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Ahh, my visit to the Morgan Library was bookishly spectacular. As you know, I like to talk about literary travel on my website. One of the biggest items on my literary bucket list was the Morgan Library and Museum, located in Manhattan.
Guys. I have been meaning to visit this library for, like, the past year. Which is pretty embarrassing seeing that New York City is a quick train ride from my apartment. I have seen pictures of the Morgan on Instagram – several times – and still find it incredible that the Beauty and Beast library (haha) exists in reality.
Finally I made my wish come true. On a sunny Saturday, I grabbed my purse and hopped on a NJ transit train to finally experience this literary wonder in person. My day trip was a complete whim, too. Spontaneity yields the best adventures, after all.
Man, oh man, was the time spent in New York City worth it. As I’ve already said, the two hours I allotted to explore the Morgan Library were wonderful. I highly recommended you come see for yourself.
So the next natural step was for me to write this guide for all my literary nerds! Here’s everything you need to know about the Morgan Library. Hopefully you visit in the (very) near future.
Where Can I Find The Morgan Library?
Luckily the Morgan Library and Museum isn’t very difficult to find. We’re not talking about a “hole in the wall” here. You can find the Morgan Library at 225 Madison Avenue at East 36th Street in the Murray Hill neighborhood, which is smack in the middle of New York’s most popular borough: Manhattan.
If you’re coming to New York via Penn Station or Grand Central Station, then you’re in great luck! The Morgan Library is a simple walk from both of those mass transit hubs. Grand Central Station is a little closer to the library, but Penn Station isn’t too much farther away. It only took me about twenty minutes (or so) to walk. No need to hail a taxi or pay for the subway.
The Morgan Library’s wonderful location makes the museum a perfect place to visit – regardless if you’re staying in the city for a week or spending a day trip in New York.
Of course, if your accommodation is located downtown or in one of the other boroughs, then you will have to plan your route ahead of time and will probably have to take the subway. You can take the subway to Grand Central Station, 33 Street Station, or 34 Street-Herald Square Station, and then complete an easy walk to the Morgan Library.
Sure, you can splurge on a taxi, but I wouldn’t do it unless rain was ruthlessly pouring onto the sidewalks.
What’s the History of The Morgan Library?
Have you ever heard of J.P. Morgan? You probably think of a big Gilded Age banker, haha.
The Morgan Library was the private library of J.P. Morgan in 1906. This library includes many rare and valuable books and manuscripts, such as illuminated manuscripts and medieval artworks.
J.P. Morgan was a voracious collector. In particular, I would give my left hand for his Lord Byron and Charlotte Brontë manuscripts, as well as the Percy Bysshe Shelley notebook and one of a kind copy of A Christmas Carol (by Charles Dickens) with its handwritten markups and edits from the author himself. Swoon.
Wait. We were talking about the library’s history, right? Sorry about that!
Fast forward to 1924, J.P. Morgan Jr. decided to give his father’s extraordinary collection to the public. Good news for us, huh?
As for the building itself, the first building to house the library is called the McKim Building, which is a stunning classical white masterpiece. Later on, in 2006, the modernist entrance building was added to organize the exhibits. I think this architectural contrast between “old” and “new” gives the Morgan Library and Museum a very unique touch.
Why Should I Visit the Morgan Library and Museum?
If you have a strong interest in old books, then you should pay a visit to the Morgan Library. I especially liked all of the Charles Dickens books, haha. I still wish I could’ve tracked down the rare copy of A Christmas Carol that lurked on the shelves.
History buffs will also appreciate the Morgan Library and Museum. Anyone interested in the middle ages will love the old bibles and manuscripts accumulated in J.P. Morgan’s collection. And if you like Gilded Age finery? You are in your glory here.
The Morgan Library gives visitors a strong sense of “old and wealthy” New York City. It’s pretty cool.
Is It Worth the $20 Admission Fee?
Okay, I pride myself on honesty. A blog without honesty is a gigantic snoozefest.
So the big question probably going through your head right now is “Rachel, this library sounds awesome, but should I pay $20 to visit it? Money’s tight.”
I completely understand your concerns.
Truth be told, I don’t think the Morgan Library is a “cheap” affair – especially since it is a relatively small museum. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example, is $25, but you could literally spend all day studying the expansive art collections. Not so much the case with the Morgan Library.
Is there any way to avoid paying the admissions fee? Eh, sure, a couple. For instance, if you are a senior, student, or teacher, you pay a reduced fee ($13) to enter the museum. Children under 12 can visit for free, which is awesome. But for everyone else, admission is $20.
My solution? I suggest budget travelers to visit the Morgan Library and Museum on Friday nights (7-9 pm.) when admission is free for everyone. The atmosphere at night is probably super cool too.
And you don’t have to pay anything to go to the gift shop if that tickles your fancy.
What About the Other Exhibits?
The Morgan Library has other exhibits which are already included in the cost of your ticket. If you live in New York or the nearby metro area, then it may be worth waiting for an exhibit that truly strikes your fancy.
On my own visit I saw the “Tennessee Williams: No Refuge But Writing” and “Peter Hujar: Speed of Life” exhibitions. In particular, I found Peter Hujar’s black and white photography very striking and thought-provoking. I have never heard of him, but appreciated his work. Granted, this exhibit has some pictures that might shock small children so consider yourself warned.
Personally, I really liked that you didn’t have to pay an additional fee to see the special exhibits! It made me more willing to take my time and actually appreciate them.
Did You Like Your Visit to the Morgan Library?
YES, YES, YES! The Morgan Library was an absolute gem! I had a wonderful time staring at all the magnificent books and wishing I had enough money to replicate this library in my apartment. A girl can dream, yes?
I also liked the Morgan’s Library manageable size. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed in larger museums. The Morgan Library makes it possible to do other things in an afternoon like shopping on Madison Avenue or sipping a coffee in Bryant Park. You’re not completely wiped out after standing on your feet for four hours.
Honestly, I would probably visit the Morgan Library again, especially if they had a new exhibit I wanted to check out.
What are some beautiful libraries that you have seen? Would you like to visit the Morgan Library and Museum? Share all your thoughts about libraries in the comments.
For more information about Manhattan, check out my post on solo travel in New York, and enjoy your vacation.