Williamsburg’s beloved City Reliquary museum is in danger of closing for good

September 30, 2020

Photo via The City Reliquary

The City Reliquary is a strange place. It’s completely cluttered and full of oddities like the bones of a subway rat and schist cores, as well as local memorabilia like the original 2nd Avenue Deli sign and vintage seltzer bottles. But that what makes it so special and so New York. The small-but-mighty Williamsburg museum has been closed during the entire pandemic, as they’re completely staffed by volunteers. And in order to reopen, they need to be able to pay their rent and show their financial stability. The Reliquary is asking New Yorkers to help them meet this goal so they can avoid closing their doors for good in November.

The City Reliquary began in 2002 as a mere window display in the home of founder Dave Herman. He added a button that passersby could press to hear his audio tour of the objects, which, according to their website, included “two-and-a-half links of a ‘city hall window chain,’ a set of dentures found in Dead Horse Bay, Statue of Liberty figurines.” By 2006, the official museum opened a few blocks away at its current home at 370 Metropolitan Avenue. In addition to being a museum, the City Reliquary is also a non-profit civic organization which holds events like concerts and film screenings in the space’s back garden, block parties, and larger city-wide events like Bike Fetish Day and the Panorama Challenge hosted at the Queens Museum.

In an email yesterday, board member Jacob Ford explained that the museum’s “labor is provided entirely by caring volunteers” and the collections “are all loaned, gifted or found.” However, he added, “This loyalty and dedication has allowed us to reduce our expenses to a bare minimum. We’ve been able to survive these past few months only through the success of our recent fundraiser and many generous one-time gifts, but without the dependable sources of revenue that we once relied on, we are struggling to hold onto our tiny hand-painted Williamsburg storefront of a home.”

Therefore, the City Reliquary has started a Sustainability Drive to allow it to reopen and avoid closing permanently in November. To do this, they’ve relaunched the Reliquary Membership program and are keeping the parameters extremely simple: there’s one tier at $10 per month. So far, they’ve raised $820, of which $480 are sustaining monthly contributions from new members. In order to pay their rent and open, they’ll need 252 more sustaining members by November 22. Those who become members can visit the museum for free on weekends in October.

“In a strange, beautiful way we’ve become exactly what we aim to preserve: a physical place full of reliable magic, matter-of-fact quirk, and serious strangeness,” reads yesterday’s email. You can support the City Reliquary here >>


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