If the Brooklyn Museum were a woman, I would marry her in a heartbeat.
Now, New York is not short of high-minded attractions. The casual visitor is somewhat spoilt for choice. There is Broadway. There is the city ballet and opera. The Met. The MoMA. The Cloisters. The Guggenheim. The aforementioned visitor would be forgiven for not rushing off to Brooklyn to go to another beaux arts museum.
It's wonderful. The collections, of course, cannot match the Met in importance or range (though within the realms of African and Asian artifacts, the Brooklyn Museum is world class). That's not the point. The exhibitions are beautifully curated. The exhibits are well-lit, the signs printed in readable, serifed fonts. They are arranged so that the cloud-pleasing stuff that everyone visits (the special exhibitions - currently on Egyptian mummification - and the African anthropological collections, since this is Brooklyn) are close to the doors. The quirkier stuff - fabulous collections of Islamic and Buddhist art, for example - are squirreled away, and quiet.
I could go on, so I will. There are activity books and pencils for kids to do with their parents (my favourite: choosing your Egyptian burial artifacts on a budget). There are desks with copies of all the exhibition books to read, so you could learn more about any exhibits you were particularly interested in. Can you imagine the Tate letting you read the books it wants you to spend 40 pounds on? The shop actually had nice stuff in it. Oh, and the whole museum is set in the most beautiful cherry garden, so you can head outside and indulge in some hanami if you get bored.
Best of all, however, is the Target First Saturdays programme. After 5pm on the first Saturday of each month, museum admission is free, and a range of cultural events are put on. These events are themed around the special exhibitions, so this month it was Egyptian burial.
It wasn't quite as macabre as it sounds, since it was interpreted fairly loosely. In the foyer was traditional Egyptian music, along with a cheap bar. There were ticketed 'Meet the Curators' talks, and round tables held by students from local universities. I personally plumbed for a free screening of an arthouse film about burial rituals in Japan (again, less macabre than it sounds; Departures, if you're interested). Afterwards, I could have gone to a dance party in the center of the European beaux arts hall hosted by some specially-flown-in Egyptian DJs, and got my groove on about 10 yards away from some original Monet, Matisse and Cezanne paintings, if I'd fancied it.
The museum was brimming with a range of very un-museum-ish people, and I feel as though the Brooklyn Museum is more serious about its public service remit than any museum I've ever been to.