(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘New York Public Library

“Archives are a kind of site… like an archaeological site”*…

 

I was told that the most interesting man in the world works in the archives division of the New York Public Library, and so I went there, one morning this summer, to meet him. My guide, who said it took her a year to learn how to get around the Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street, led us to an elevator off Astor Hall, up past the McGraw Rotunda, through a little door at the back of the Rose Main Reading Room. Our destination was Room 328.

A sign above the door called it the “Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room for Rare Books and Manuscripts.” Inside, there were a handful of quiet researchers stooped at large wooden desks, and in the corner, presiding over a cart of acid-free Hollinger document boxes, was the archivist Thomas Lannon…

The New York Public Library’s archives contain dentures, roller skates, and, as David Grann discovered, evidence of a systematic campaign of murder; Thomas Lannon presides over it all: “Keepers of the Secrets.”

* John Berger

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As we dig through the files, we might wish a Joyeux Anniversaire to Denis Diderot, contributor to and the chief editor of the Encyclopédie (“All things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception and without regard for anyone’s feelings.”)– and thus towering figure in the Enlightenment; he was born on this date in 1713.  Diderot was also a novelist (e.g., Jacques le fataliste et son maître [Jacques the Fatalist and his Master])…  and no mean epigramist:

From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.

We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.

Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

A thing is not proved just because no one has ever questioned it.

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Written by LW

October 5, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Sometimes that light at the end of the tunnel is a train”*…

 

As part of its ongoing overhaul, the New York Public Library has installed a very clever conveyer train that moves research materials from the expanded Milstein Stacks underneath Bryant Park to the main Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Each adorably bright red car is able to travel either horizontally or vertically using conveyor rails embedded throughout the library, efficiently delivering its contents directly to library staff…

More on the system, which begins operating this week, at Laughing Squid’s “An Adorable Red Train That Delivers Books From Storage to the Main Branch of the NY Public Library” (and at Boing Boing, which is the source of the photo above).

* Charles Barkley

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As we check it out, we might send finely-drawn birthday greetings to Giovanni Battista (also Giambattista) Piranesi; he was born on this date in 1720.  An Italian artist, he is best known for his etchings of Rome and of fictitious and atmospheric “prisons” (Le Carceri d’Invenzione).  The latter, with their Kafkaesque, Escher-like distortions, influenced Romanticism & Surrealism.

Carceri Plate VII – “The Drawbridge”

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Self-portrait

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Written by LW

October 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers; a librarian can bring you back the right one”*

 

Recently some folks at the New York Public Library discovered a box containing old reference questions from the 1940s to the 1980s.  They’re posting the questions to their Instagram account each Monday, noting that “we were Google before Google existed.”  Some of the examples include answers; others are…  well, probably unanswerable– but all are a reminder of the extraordinary value of the Library and its reference librarians.

People still use an updated version of the service, Ask NYPL; the Library reports that they receive about 1,700 reference questions a month via chat, email, and phone.

Read more at “Before Google, Here’s What New Yorkers Asked The NYPL.”

* Neil Gaiman

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As we keep it down, we might send bibliographic birthday greetings to Archibald MacLeish; he was born on this date in 1892.  A Pulitzer Prize-winning poet (Conquistador) and dramatist (JB), MacLeish became “America’s Reference Librarian”– the Librarian of Congress– in 1939.

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“There is nothing permanent except change”*…

 

Your correspondent is off for his annual retreat to the family seat, and a chance to compete in “the Talladega 500 of eating contests,” the Pawleys Island Marathon Meat Meet (your correspondent’s category: free-style).  Regular (Roughly) Daily service should resume on or around August 11.

Meantime, to keep readers amused, a pair of tools that enable armchair travel– through time as well as space.  Y’all be good!

 

315 Bowery in lower Manhattan: once the omphalos of Punk and New Wave, now a John Varvatos boutique…

From Brian Foo at the New York Public Library Labs…

As a web developer who works on a screen and an illustrator that works on paper, I have always admired those who could paint big—often on impossibly large and inconveniently placed walls—only to be erased in a matter of weeks or days. The ephemeral nature of street art is what makes it simultaneously appealing and frustrating as a viewer. However, Google Maps recently rolled out a feature allowing users to go back in time on its Street View. I immediately thought to check out the well-known wall on Bowery & Houston and found that Google captured the painted wall dating back to 2007. Here’s a sampling from 2007 to present. I added a few images of the wall that I found while perusing the web to fill in some of the gap years that Google didn’t capture.

Foo developed two tools, both available openly on the NYPL site:  the first corrects and aligns the perspectives of the different angles in street-view photos over time.  The second, the one used on the photo of the late-lamented CBGG at the top of this post, allows one to layer views from different times by “painting” one view onto another.  Try them out (and see more of his examples) at “Peeling Off The Painted Layers of NYC Walls: Experiments With The Google Street View Archive.”

* Heraclitus

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As we check the tags, we might send insightful birthday greetings to Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville, born on this date in 1805.  After a trip to the U.S. to study its penal system, de Tocqueville, whose observations had, happily, ranged much more broadly, published De la Démocratie en Amérique (Democracy in America), a pioneering work of (the not-yet-named fields of) sociology and political science– one still powerfully relevant to those concerned to understand the United States.

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“What is more important in a library than anything else – than everything else – is the fact that it exists”*…

 

Library built by ex-slaves, Allensworth, Calif.

Since 1994, photographer Robert Dawson has photographed hundreds of the over 17,000 public libraries in this country.

A public library can mean different things to different people. For me, the library offers our best example of the public commons. For many, the library upholds the 19th-century belief that the future of democracy is contingent upon an educated citizenry. For others, the library simply means free access to the Internet, or a warm place to take shelter, a chance for an education, or the endless possibilities that jump to life in your imagination the moment you open the cover of a book.

The first Carnegie library: the Braddock Carnegie Library, Braddock, Penn. “The once glorious but now faded interior included a gym, a theater, and a swimming pool, as well as book collections and reading rooms.”

See more at American Library, and peruse Dawson’s The Public Library: A Photographic Essay.

* Archibald MacLeish

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As we check it out, we might recall that it was on this date in 1895 that the two then-largest libraries in New York City, the Astor and Lenox libraries, agreed to combine with the Tilden Trust (a bequest left by a former Governor to fund a public library) to form a new entity that would be known as The New York Public Library. Sixteen year later– on this date in 1911– President William Howard Taft presided over the dedication of the Library’s new home, the beaux-arts masterpiece on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street– at the time the largest marble structure ever erected in the U.S.  Originally the Library’s only location, it became the “main branch” as a bequest from Andrew Carnegie funded a system of branch locations across the city built out over the next few decades.

The Library building, near completion. (Note that the signature lion statues have not yet been placed at the steps.)

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Written by LW

May 23, 2014 at 1:01 am

If we do not meet with agreeable things, we shall at least meet with something new…

Optimism is the madness of maintaining that everything is right when it’s wrong.
– Voltaire, Candide, Chapter XIX

Just over 250 years ago, a short volume by Voltaire– Candide, ou l’Optimisme— was making the underground rounds.  Within a month of its publication in January of 1759, the Grand Council of Geneva and the administrators of Paris had banned Candide; still, it sold twenty thousand to thirty thousand copies by the end of the year in over twenty editions, a clear best-seller by the standards of the time.  In 1762, Candide joined Giordano Bruno’s works on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.  (Indeed, though its authorship was a badly-kept secret, Candide was, as can be noted above, ostensibly written by “Doctor Ralph’; Voltaire only admitted his paternity in 1768.)

Now, through April, readers can revel both in Voltaire’s sardonic indictment of optimism (and poor Gottfried Liebniz) and in the stories that surround it:  The New York Public Library is hosting “Candide at 250: Scandal and Success”– an exhibit (at the Schwartzman Building Gallery) and a wonderful on-line experience.

Then, “let us cultivate our garden.”

As we discipline our inner Pangloss, we might recall that it was on this date in 1886 that Karl Friedrich Benz patented the Benz Patent Motorwagon– the first “automobile” entirely designed to generate its own power (via a water-cooled gasoline engine)… that’s to say, not simply a motorized stage coach or horse carriage.

The Benz Patent Motorwagon

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