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Try Reading 38,000 Different Bibles or Checking Out 5,000 TV Shows

July 19, 1987|THOMAS BLOCK | Block is a Washington free-lance writer.

NEW YORK — Where else can you walk into a museum that contains more than 38,000 different Bibles, including leaves from the Gutenberg Bible, pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Helen Keller's 18 Braille volumes?

Or a museum devoted completely to one city, and the first of its kind in America? How about a gallery devoted to the exhibition of American illustrations--funky caricatures, advertisements, cartoons and book art?

Then there's the Museum of Broadcasting, with more than 5,000 TV shows, including the premier shows of "Love, American Style," "Mary Tyler Moore" and the film of the first landing on the moon. Plus 2,000 radio programs, all for screening or listening in private booths?

Most visitors to New York City are acquainted with the well-known attractions, but do not know about all the other exhibit halls scattered around town.

Take the Museum of Holography, one of the most anonymous halls in the city. A young (10 years old) and important (the international center for information about holography) place, the museum houses the world's largest collection of this fascinating visual art.

Stunning Result

A hologram is a piece of film that has been exposed to laser light reflected by an object. The result is stunning.

By reflecting the film with a regular light bulb, a three-dimensional image appears to float behind the hologram, an apparent object that can be viewed from all sides, but not touched. The museum is studying methods of reproducing the hologram in TV, movies and in books.

Another wonderful place to visit, and especially lose yourself on a cloudy afternoon, is the Museum of Broadcasting. It has thousands of TV and radio programs that can take you all the way back to the early 1900s.

Some perennial favorites to watch are the Beatles' appearance on the "Ed Sullivan Show," the 1952 World Series between the Yankees and the Dodgers, the Nixon/Kennedy debates, "Dragnet," a collection of classic TV commercials and the original radio airing of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds," which sent thousands scurrying when it was aired 40 years ago.

It seems as if every special art or activity is represented in at least one of New York's 150 museums.

The Bible House concentrates solely on that book. Besides the hundreds of editions--in sizes that range from smaller than your palm to larger than a dozen bread boxes--there is a full-scale reproduction of the Gutenberg printing press from 1456, reputed to be the world's first movable-type printing machine. There is also a whole exhibit on unusual current editions of the Bible.

Diversified Center

The International Center of Photography is devoted to that illustrative art. A diversified center, its programs include lectures, workshops, book signings, seminars and plenty of beautiful photography for sale.

The photography center covers all aspects. Exhibits include a video feature that introduces visitors to trends in video art, spotlights the work of younger video artists and offers a forum for documentary and foreign video works.

The fascinating list of recent exhibits included rare Chinese photographs of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, a half-century of Henri Cartier-Bresson portraits, Soviet photographs from World War II and an exhibit tracing through photography the "fate of deer, bear and other game from their first encounter with hunters to their final resting place as trophies and icons."

The Museum of the City of New York, devoted to the history of the city, is considered one of the world's foremost exhibition halls of urban history and culture. The museum offers Sunday walking tours through the historic areas of the city, annual puppet festivals, free Sunday concerts and changing exhibits.

Contemporary Art

The permanent collection includes everything from antique fire engines and equipment, and a Dutch Gallery (reflecting the city's heritage) to city maps and exhibits of its long maritime history.

The National Academy of Design exhibits contemporary art and fine arts; the Society of American Illustrators concentrates on the overlooked art of illustrating government posters, advertisements and cartoons, and the Guinness World Record Exhibits Hall displays the fastest, slowest, roundest, and highest of just about everything imaginable. No matter what your interest, New York probably has the museum to match it.

Here are some addresses:

The Bible House, 1865 Broadway at 61st Street; free. Museum of Broadcasting, 1 East 53rd St. at Fifth Avenue; admission $3 for adults, $2 for students and seniors, $1.50 for children under 13. National Academy of Design, 1083 Fifth Ave. at 89th Street; admission $2.50 adults, $2 students and seniors, free Tuesdays, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Museum of Holography, 11 Mercer St. at Canal Street; admission $3 for adults, $2.75 for students and seniors. Museum of American Illustration, 128 East 63rd St. at Park Avenue; free. Museum of the City of New York, Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street; free.

International Center of Photography, 1130 Fifth Ave. at 94th Street; admission $2.50 for adults, $1 for students and seniors. Guinness World Records Exhibit Hall, Empire State Building, 350 Fifth Ave. at 34th Street; $3 for adults, $2 for children 12 and under.

For complete information about all of New York's museums, contact the Cultural Assistance Center at 330 West 42nd St., New York 10036, or call (212) 947-6340.

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