WILLIAMSBURG – The City Reliquary, a community museum of NYC artifacts, started as an apartment window display in Williamsburg in 2002. Now, the storefront museum faces closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From vintage Brooklyn seltzer bottles, samples of Manhattan schist to a lightbulb from the Statue of Liberty’s torch, The City Reliquary has created exhibitions and public events highlighting the unusual or overlooked corners of the city.
“By preserving artifacts of daily life, even those some would consider trash, and placing them in a museum context, it prompts visitors to think about their place in history, the constantly changing city, the importance of every resident and their work and play in forming NYC’s culture and soul,” said Beth Haines, a volunteer at the museum for the past five years.
The museum runs almost exclusively by admissions sales, which have almost evaporated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss in revenue has made it impossible to cover operating expenses like rent, utilities, and insurance. To stay open past this November, the Metropolitan Avenue storefront needs to secure $3,000 by Nov. 22 and after that, they’ll need $1,000 per month in ongoing memberships to become sustainable.
Being less than $1,000 away from the goal, the Reliquary has opted into new ways that will hopefully help them stay open. They relaunched the membership program via the NYC-based platform Withfriends, which allows people to subscribe to local cultural spaces and support them on a monthly or annual basis.
There are four monthly plans that subscribers can choose from, with all proceeds going to keep the museum open. Members can cancel at any time.
- Grand: $10/month for free entry to all events, hand-typewritten membership card, and free Reliquary admission for your household, as often as you care to visit. Members-only events, parties, and viewing evenings, with drinks on the house.
- Havemeyer: $20/month for free entry to all events with one additional guest per event, hand-typewritten membership card plus enamel pin, and free Reliquary admission for your household, as often as you care to visit.
- Metropolitan: $30/month for free entry to all events with four additional guests per event, hand-typewritten membership card plus challenge coin, and free Reliquary admission for your household, as often as you care to visit.
- Ascenzi: $50/month for free entry to all events with seven additional guests per event, hand-typewritten membership card plus enamel pin and challenge coin, and free Reliquary admission for your household, as often as you care to visit.
- There are four annual plans, as well.
The museum offers outdoor and indoor space for free performances for everyone from classical chamber musicians to burlesque dancers, allowing local artists struggling for safe and legal places to do what they love.
Without support from people, the Williamsburg community museum will have to close its doors and find new creative ways for the Reliquary to exist.
“The City Reliquary has always aimed to be an open community space, to bring people together and provide a platform to share their passions,” Haines said. “It would be a profound loss to the community if the CR were to close, from the standpoint of losing a repository of local history and the standpoint of losing a small low-cost/free venue for authors, artists, filmmakers, dancers, poets, and more to share their work.”