Unique musical instruments at City Reliquary

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City Reliquary Vice President Ben Wigler first noticed the museum where he now works four years ago, thanks to an array of pizza slices arranged in its front window.

"There was a guy named the Slice Harvester who was doing a show here," Wigler said, "and this guy ate a slice of pizza from every single pizza joint in New York City."

Wearing a pair of slip-on shoes with images of pizza slices all over them, Wigler opened the City Reliquary on one of its closed days Monday to show off his guitar skills and the new Sonic City exhibit he curated.

"Truly the golden age of musical instrument manufacturing is now," Wigler said, "and the epicenter is right here in New York City."

Wigler collected 35 instruments handmade or hand-assembled in New York City, including a wall of Latin percussion instruments he described as the stradivarius' of their type. As with everything in the City Reliquary, many of the instruments on display border on the unusual.

"Here's a low-octave violin with real cat whiskers that come out of this walrus-shaped headstock," Wigler said, before playing a xylophone made of glass and slate.

A reliquary is a container for holy relics. The City Reliquary houses tens of thousands of relics holy to the last 175 years of New York City history, which one would struggle to find anywhere else.

"The original Second Avenue Deli sign," Wigler said, pointing above him. "One of the last funky newsstands before Giuliani kind of razed them all to the ground in '97."

One also finds a finial from the original Madison Square Garden, a turnstile from the old Yankee Stadium, what the City Reliquary claims to represent the largest collection of Statue of Liberty figurines on the planet, a wall devoted to Jackie Robinson, bottles of old city water and geological samples from the underground bedrock mountain range on which settlers built this city nearly 400 years ago.

"It's impossible to pick a favorite," Wigler said. "I love it all. And this place is my favorite place on the entire planet."