Long before there was Google Earth, there was the Panorama of the City of New York. A diorama of 9,335 square feet, it was created for the 1964–65 World’s Fair with the help of photographers who swooped in helicopters over the city, taking over 7,000 photos to capture every building in the five boroughs. The Panorama is still a wonder today, and the heart of the Queens Museum. It was fully updated in 1992, and subsequently, building owners can pay to have their newer edifices added, which makes for some odd anomalies (Trump Tower was added and the Twin Towers have yet to be replaced by the Freedom Tower). I highly recommend taking the museum’s free guided tour (offered several times a day) as the docent does a masterful job of making the geography come alive, with discussions of the city’s history and what on the map is wrong and right. (One of the most poignant errors: The part of the Far Rockaway neighborhood that still exists in the Panorama was, in reality, destroyed by fires and floods during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.)
Other exhibits in the museum cover the museum building’s storied history: It was erected for the 1939 World’s Fair and served as the site of the United Nations during its first 5 years. There’s also a lovely exhibit of Tiffany lamps (a nod to the fact that the Tiffany factory was in Corona, Queens) and changing art exhibits.
- Pauline Frommer