Museum Ten Years in the Making

Museum of Motherhood (M.O.M.)


Central Question: Why don’t we appreciate Mother?
Address: 401 East Eighty-fourth Street, basement, New York, NY; Suggested donation: fifteen dollars for adults, five dollars for children five and over, free for children under five; Operating hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Inspirational quote chalked on museum blackboard on the Monday after Hurricane Sandy: “The maternal instinct is the root whence sympathy has sprung and that is the source whence the cohesive quality in the tribe originated.” —Eliza Burt Gamble, 1894

New York is a city of places to run from your mother—including but not limited to strip clubs, racecourses, and a bar called Mother’s Ruin (18 Spring Street)—but guilty children may find themselves drawn to the Museum of Motherhood. Dreamed up ten years ago by ebullient former pop star Joy Rose, fifty-five, mother of four, the M.O.M. busies itself in the basement of a mother-friendly apartment building (Upper East Side, doorman in uniform). An impassioned screed from Ms. Rose bedecks the stairwell: “I can think of no other subject so wildly misunderstood, underfunded, and understudied.”

That quote comes into focus with a gasp when you step down to see the museum itself, windowless and lit by icy bars of halogen. It’s like stepping into a dying party that your mother is trying to make the best of. Would you like a snack? There are snacks. Coffee? Water? If you feel tired just sit in the massage chair. It’s a new chair. Rest your feet. It massages. Organic lollipop?

Like a church, the M.O.M. is a communal space devoted to an experience that is always singular, personal: your mom. But motherhood, such as it is, begins for all visitors just across from the ticket counter: portraits of pregnant bellies knotted in red string, plastered with newspaper, or painted with a road map, each as distinct as a mother. Next, run your fingers through strings of velvet in bloody purples that drip from the ceiling. “It simulates the birth figuratively,” explains the docent.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Adriane Quinlan

Adriane Quinlan is at work on a novel about young expats in China. Her writing is collected at Nicholas Rombes is an English professor at the University of Detroit Mercy. He is author of the 33⅓ book Ramones, and a writer for the Rumpus and Filmmaker magazine.

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