Tag Archives: New York Public Library

New York Tenant Farmers: Little-Used Resources


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Wheat imageProfessional genealogist Jane E. Wilcox of Forget-Me-Not Ancestry in Kingston will present a talk on New York tenant farmers at the New York Public Library in New York City on Tuesday, May 20 at 5:30 p.m.

Wilcox’s presentation, “Looking for Your New York Tenant Farmer: Little-Used Resources,” will focus on the tenants of the major colonial manors and patents of the Hudson Valley between Westchester and Rensselaer and Albany counties. Wilcox will discuss the types of records that were created in New York’s manorial lease-holding land system and will explain how and where to find documents that recorded the lives of the tenants. Included with the talk will be a handout with genealogical resources. Continue reading

Opposition Vigil Planned at NYPL Fundraising Gala


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New York Public Library (NYPL)The Committee to Save the New York Public Library will hold a vigil in opposition to the plans for the NYPL’s  42nd Street and Mid Manhattan Libraries on Monday, June 3rd, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM at the 5th Avenue entrance to the 42nd Street Library.

The vigil will coincide with the New York Public Library Spring fundraising gala.  The event is co-sponsored by Citizens Defending Libraries, and will feature an appearance by Rev. Billy and his choir. Continue reading

Advocates Respond To New York Public Library Claims


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New York Public Library (NYPL)The Committee to Save the New York Public Library has just released a point-by-point rebuttal of claims made by the New York Public Library (NYPL) administration over a controversial plan for the library’s 42nd Street branch.

Previously, the Committee issued a document entitled “The Truth About the Central Library Plan,” which it calls an “analysis of the NYPL’s plan to gut the 42nd Street Library and sell the Mid-Manhattan Library and Science, Industry and Business Library.” The latest volley in the battle over the library is a response to NYPL’s recent “Setting the Record Straight,” an attempt to counter critics. Continue reading

AIDS in New York: The First Five Years


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aids-ResearchnotHysteriaAP8306270128The early history of the AIDS epidemic in New York City—from the first rumors in 1981 of a “gay plague” through the ensuing period of intense activism, clinical research, and political struggle—will be the subject of a major new exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, AIDS in New York: The First Five Years, on view from June 7 through September 15, 2013.

With a wealth of materials drawn from New-York Historical’s archives as well as the archives of the New York Public Library, New York University, and the National Archive of LGBT History, the exhibition will use artifacts including clinicians’ notes, journal entries, diaries, letters, audio and video clips, posters, photographs, pamphlets, and newspapers to revisit the impact of the epidemic on personal lives and public culture in New York City and the nation.
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NYPL Offers Samuel Tilden Papers Fellowships


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The New York Public Library (NYPL) is currently digitizing the papers of Samuel J. Tilden, which will be accessible via the Library’s web site early in 2013. In conjunction with making this important archival resource available online, NYPL is offering research fellowships of up to $5,000 to support research projects related to Tilden’s circle of activity and the political culture in New York and the United States during the 19th century.

Fellows will spend at least one month in residence in the Manuscripts and Archives Division at the New York Public Library, consulting the Tilden papers and other archives relevant to their research goals. Fellows will also be expected to produce an essay of 3,000-5,000 words for publication on the Library’s website. These essays will complement and provide context for the Tilden papers online.

NYPL’s Tilden archival research fellowships aim to support traditional archival research and narrative historical writing, but also seek to engage audiences beyond advanced researchers using the Tilden papers and other primary sources online.

Successful candidates for the fellowship will therefore bring fresh insight to the Tilden papers and also a desire to explore the creative space of public scholarship – expanding their professional expertise while helping solidify the NYPL online archives environment as a venue for research and historical communication.
More information about the fellowships can be found online

NYPL Putting Historical Documents Online


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Thousands of historical documents at The New York Public Library – including material handwritten by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and papers from authors such as Mark Twain – will soon be accessible to the public online.

The project, which began in January and will continue through 2014, will digitize documents from the Thomas Addis Emmet Collection, located within the Manuscripts and Archives Division, and almost all the papers of several major American authors in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature at The New York Public Library.

“This exciting project is a key element in our goal of creating greater possibilities for our collections and expanding their accessibility worldwide,” said NYPL President Anthony Marx. “Digitizing collections featuring hand-written documents from Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Mark Twain, among others, provides remarkable new opportunities for scholarly research, and creates new teaching applications for an international audience. The Library is grateful to The Polonsky Foundation and other generous supporters who assist us in this valuable work.”

Technicians at the New York Public Library have already begun digitizing the Thomas Addis Emmet Collection, which documents the founding and early years of the United States – the move towards independence, the Revolutionary War, and the establishment of the federal government. The approximately 11,000 manuscripts in the collection include letters and documents by nearly every patriot and statesman who distinguished himself during this period American history.

Their letters provide insight into important historic milestones, such as the Stamp Act Congress, the First and Second Continental Congress, and the Annapolis Convention; trace the genesis of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation; and chronicle the successes and struggles of the first Federal Administration. The correspondence and letterbooks of generals and other officers detail their decisions, actions, and relationships during the Revolutionary War.

Highlights of the Emmet Collection include a copy of the Declaration of Independence in Jefferson’s hand, an engrossed copy of the Bill of Rights, and manuscript minutes of the Annapolis Convention. The collection has been a vital and repeatedly consulted resource for American historians since the Library acquired it in 1896.

Following the completion of digitization of the Emmet Collection, nearly all the papers from the Berg Collection’s holdings of Nathaniel Hawthorne, his wife Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman will be digitized. An estimated 35,000 pages will be scheduled for digitization beginning in January 2013 and be made available through the Library’s website. Items slated for digitization will include:

Hawthorne’s correspondence with President James Buchanan, educator Horace Mann, and fellow authors Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Herman Melville, as well as the diaries of his wife, Sophia Peabody Hawthorne that chronicle her own work as a writer and the literary work of her husband;

An original pencil map of Walden Pond, as well as several Thoreau manuscripts, including Faith in a Seed, about which the novelist Annie Proulx wrote in the Library’s Centennial celebration volume, Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public library at 100;

Mark Twain’s manuscripts of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and Following the Equator, and correspondence with such influential American icons as Andrew Carnegie, William Dean Howells, and Theodore Roosevelt;

Numerous poems by Walt Whitman and over 300 of his letters, most of them to his mother and to Union soldiers during the Civil War.

The total cost of the project including both collections is $1 million; a gift of $500,000 from The Polonsky Foundation is expected to be matched by similar donations.

NY Public Library’s 1940 Census Tool Online


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There is a new online tool developed by the New York Public Library to help people find their New York City relatives in the 1940 census, which was released April 2.

NARA released the census online for the first time, but transcribing and indexing the data is a slow process,that could take as long as six to eight months.

The Library’s online tool connects people to 1940 New York City phonebooks, which they digitized for the first time, where you can look anyone up by last name to find their address. Once you have the address, just enter it into a search field and up pops the census enumeration district number. Clicking the number takes you to the National Archives’website, where you can find the correct section of the census.

It’s a great research tool, but it’s also meant to grow into something more. When you find an address, the tool pins it to both a 1940 map and a contemporary map, so you can see how the area has changed (buildings torn down, freeways put up, etc). You’re then invited to leave a note attached to the pin – memories, info about who lived there, what the neighborhood was like, questions – and so forth. As people use the site, we’ll build a cultural map of New York in 1940 that will assist both professional historians and laypeople alike. Users have already found New Yorkers including Mayor John Lindsay, Jackie Kennedy, and Jane Jacobs.

Check out the Library’s new tool right here.

Mapping New York’s Shoreline, 1609-2009


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A New York Public Library exhibit will look at the history of New York City’s shoreline. The exhibit, entitled Mapping New York’s Shoreline, 1609-2009, will run until June 26, 2010 at the D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall (First Floor) of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 5th Avenue and 42nd Street.

September 2009 marks 400 years since Henry Hudson sailed into New York Harbor and up the Hudson River, almost to what is now Albany, performing detailed reconnaissance of the Hudson Valley region. Other explorers passed by the outwardly hidden harbor, but did not linger long enough to fully realize the commercial, nautical, strategic, or colonial value of the region.

Once the explorers returned to Europe, their strategic information was passed on to authorities. Some data was kept secret, but much was handed over to map makers, engraved on copper, printed on handmade paper, distributed to individuals and coffee-houses (the news centers of the day), and pored over by dreamers, investors, and potential settlers in the “new land.”

Mapping New York’s Shoreline celebrates the Dutch accomplishments in the New York City region, especially along the waterways forming its urban watershed, from the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound to the North (or Hudson) River and the South (or Delaware) River. Inspired by The New York Public Library’s collection of Dutch, English, and early American mapping of the Atlantic Coastal regions, this exhibition exemplifies the best early and growing knowledge of the unknown shores along our neighboring rivers, bays, sounds, and harbors.

From the earliest mapping reflecting Verazzano’s brief visit to gloriously decorative Dutch charting of the Atlantic and New Netherland, illustrating their knowledge of the trading opportunity Hudson’s exploration revealed, the antiquarian maps tell the story from a centuries-old perspective. We are brought up to date with maps and text exploring growing environmental concern for this harbor, and the river that continuously enriches it. From paper maps to vapor maps, those created with computer technology, the story of New York Harbor in its 400th year is told.

Mapping New York’s Shoreline features maps, atlases, books, journals, broadsides, manuscripts, prints, and photographs, drawn primarily from the Library’s Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, augmented by items from other New York Public Library collections.

Obama Nominates NYPL’s David Ferriero for U.S. Archivist


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The New York Public Library is congratulating their colleague David S. Ferriero, Andrew W. Mellon Director of the New York Public Libraries, for his selection by President Obama as the next Archivist of the United States, National Archives and Records Administration. Mr. Ferriero, 63, served previously as the Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs at Duke University.

“David Ferriero is an outstanding librarian and manager who has made huge and lasting contributions to The New York Public Library,” said Catherine C. Marron, Chairman of The New York Public Library’s Board of Trustees. “Just as he will leave a legacy of improved and enhanced services for New Yorkers, the entire country will benefit from his experience and wisdom. I congratulate David on this exciting and impressive achievement and wish him nothing but success in his new role.”

The New York Public Library was created in 1895 with the consolidation of the private libraries of John Jacob Astor and James Lenox with the Samuel Jones Tilden Trust. The Library provides free and open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services. Its renowned research collections are located in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street; The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem; and the Science, Industry and Business Library at 34th Street and Madison Avenue. Eighty-seven branch libraries provide access to circulating collections and a wide range of other services in neighborhoods throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Research and circulating collections combined total more than 50 million items. In addition, each year the Library presents thousands of exhibitions and public programs, which include classes in technology, literacy, and English for speakers of other languages. The New York Public Library serves more than 17 million patrons who come through its doors annually; the Library’s website, www.nypl.org, receives 25 million visits annually from users in more than 200 countries.

NYPL Exhibits Gay Liberation History in June


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June 28, 2009 will mark the 40th anniversary of the historic Stonewall Riots that occurred in Greenwich Village, New York. Many cite the riots as the birth of the Gay Rights Movement in the United States. From June 1969 until June 1970, gays and lesbians in New York City radicalized in an unprecedented way founding several activist groups that created a new vision for Gay Liberation. The exhibition 1969: The Year of Gay Liberation charts the emergence and evolution of this new vision from the Stonewall Riots to the first LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) pride march on Christopher Street in June 1970.

All of the materials for this exhibition were drawn from the LGBT collection in the Manuscripts and Archives Division of The New York Public Library. 1969: The Year of Gay Liberation will be on display at The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street from June 1, 2009 to June 30, 2009. Additionally three related public events will be presented in June. Admission to the exhibition and programs is free.

The exhibition features original photographs, pamphlets, police reports, newspapers, and letters. Included are materials relating to activist groups formed between 1969-1970 such as Gay Liberation Front, the Radicalesbians, Gay Activists Alliance, and Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries. Other materials that can be found in the exhibition include a letter to Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller by Jim Owles, President of the Gay Activists Alliance, asking to meet to discuss Gay rights. Many of the photographs featured were taken by activist Diana Davies who captures events such as a march by the Gay Liberation Front in Times Square and protests by gay NYU students for equal rights. The exhibition shows that while each activist group fought for Gay Rights differently, with some more radical than others, they all shared the unified goal of equal treatment in society.

“This exhibition charts a historic and pivotal moment in history for gays and lesbians that goes beyond New York City,” says Jason Baumann, Curator and Coordinator of Collection Assessment and LGBT Collections at The New York Public Library. “The year 1969 marks the first time homosexuals united, demanded, and were willing to fight for full inclusion within American society. As a result of the actions taken during this time gays and lesbians marked a paradigmatic shift in the ways that not only they saw themselves but also how the world would see them.”

The LGBT collection at The New York Public Library continues to be one of the largest and most thorough in the country. The collections include the archives of pioneering LGBT activists, such as Morty Manford, and Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen; the papers of scholars, such as Martin Duberman, Jonathan Ned Katz, and Karla Jay; organizational archives of pivotal civil rights groups, such as the Mattachine Society of New York and Gay Activist Alliance; and the papers of LGBT writers, such as W.H. Auden, Virginia Woolf, and Joseph Beam. The Library’s collections also include major archives in the history of the AIDS crisis, extensive holdings in the history of LGBT theatre, and the Black Gay and Lesbian archive.

1969: The Year of Gay Liberation will be on view from June 1, 2009 through June 30, 2009 in the Stokes Gallery (third floor) at The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, located at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. An accompanying online version of the exhibition will be launching in June and can be viewed at www.nypl.org. There will also be a travelling panel exhibition throughout the branches in June. Exhibition hours are Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 917-ASK-NYPL or visit www.nypl.org

Free Public Events Related to the exhibition, at The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building:

Saturday, June 13, 2009, 2:00 p.m., South Court Classrooms
LGBT Studies Research Class
A workshop on how to do research on LGBT history using the NYPL’s resources.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009, 6:00 p.m., Berger Forum
David Carter Lecture on the Stonewall Riots
Historian David Carter, author of Stonewall, will discuss myths and facts pertaining to the incident.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009, 6:00 p.m., South Court Auditorium
Gay Liberation Front Reunion Panel
Surviving members of Gay Liberation Front will reunite to reminisce on their experiences in the movement and its historical purposes.

Photo: Diana Davies. “Ida,” member of the Gay Liberation Front and the Lavender Menace, 1970.

Wartime Writings of French Intellectuals At NYPL


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Hitler’s occupation of France presented writers with a difficult, often dangerous dilemma: keep silent, collaborate, or resist the Germans and their Vichy allies. A new exhibition at The New York Public Library explores how Sartre, Gide, Cocteau and dozens of other public intellectuals responded to Nazi rule. Personal correspondence, photographs, manuscripts, books and posters — most displayed for the first time in the United States — illustrate the contrasting, often complex response by writers to the country’s defeat and the Vichy regime. Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation is on view at the Library’s D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall from April 3 to July 25, 2009. Admission is free. The exhibition is accompanied by a companion volume presenting more than 650 archival documents, an April 3 symposium featuring leading French and American scholars, and screenings of rarely shown French films created during the Nazi period.

The period of the Vichy regime, which lasted from 1940 to 1944, was a tumultous time for French literature. A number of the best-loved writers of the twentieth century produced some of their finest works, such as Sartre’s No Exit, and the intellectual foment helped inspire more than two hundred films and numerous literary and artistic works, many of them clandestine. The exhibition features original copies of illegal underground publications by resisters such as Mauriac, Camus and Aragon, along with the writings of Nazi-favored authors like Céline and Drieu La Rochelle and brilliant efforts by Sartre and other resisters to circumvent the censors.

“Some writers worried about whether they were collaborating even by writing a book, because it would seem that life was normal in Vichy France. Others wanted to show that France still lived through its arts,” says co-curator Robert O. Paxton, Mellon Professor Emeritus, Columbia University. “It’s the moral ambiguity of what seemed like ordinary actions by a writer – such as publishing a poem – that makes Vichy such a fascinating period for the arts.”

Unlike other defeated European countries, France struggled under two dictatorships: the Nazis and their Vichy collaborators. The exhibition explores the deep divisions between left and right, highlighting a perhaps surprising amount of sympathy for the Nazis and the homegrown fascism of Vichy. Original letters and documents, drawn from the Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine (IMEC) and The New York Public Library’s collections, also show the exile experience of Jewish intellectuals such as Hannah Arendt, who escaped to America and artist Otto Freundlich, who died in the Holocaust. One of the most remarkable items is the manuscript of Irène Némirovsky’s Suite française, which became a recent worldwide bestseller after its discovery by her daughter half a century after the writer’s death at Auschwitz.

This exhibition was conceived by IMEC director Olivier Corpet, who presented it with curator Claire Paulhan at Caen in 2008. It has been adapted and reshaped for an American audience by Dr. Paxton. Objects are drawn largely from IMEC, supplemented by materials from The New York Public Library, the Mémorial de Caen, and other private and public collections.

The exhibition opens in the shadow of World War I, with the depiction of a large military cemetery reminding viewers that 1.3 million Frenchmen were killed just two decades before. It chronicles the political instability of 1930s France, with a weak Third Republic, economic turmoil, and the rise of Hitler just over the border causing much agitation between left and right.

The Vichy regime is depicted as an enthusiastic enforcer of fascism in France, rather than simply a puppet to Hitler. The Germans were able to save resources by occupying only part of the country, allowing their ideological ally to rule the rest. Tales of crossing the Demarcation Line, faced with dangers from crooked “passers” and German patrols, are a ubiquitous subject in diaries and letters of the Occupation period, and in later fiction about it. Some of the exhibition’s most fascinating materials deal with how resisters were able to get information across the line and past the censors. In order to write loved ones, authorities distributed pre-written postcards with phrases (such as “I am in good health”) that could be checked off. A 1940 postcard shows Louis Aragon scribbled some extra information to the wife of Jean Paulhan, including the coded phrase “Cousin Mercadier can go to Pierre’s house.” This may have referred to the Aragons’ plan to stay with the poet Pierre Emmanuel in Dieulefit (Drôme).

The exhibition explores the violent fate suffered by many writers during this period. The price for literary resistance during the Occupation was imprisonment or death. And bitterness ran high against those who took Vichy’s side: after the war, four collaborationist writers were shot, and dozens were imprisoned and blacklisted. Others, such as Céline, fled France.

For those who joined the Resistance, there were more than 1,000 homemade, mimeographed publications, often printed secretly in the middle of the night by printers who risked — and sometimes lost — their lives. Included are copies of such clandestine publications as Combat and Les Lettres françaises, to which Camus and Sartre, respectively, contributed.Sartre’s activities during the Vichy period serve as an interesting example of the complex response by writers to difficult politics: his underground writings, a newspaper clipping depicting him sitting at Café de Flore, press commentary and correspondence help to illustrate how the writer-philosopher navigated space for himself both below ground and above, where he put on two plays. There were also the “Little Magazines,” published legally in the Unoccupied Zone, which pushed the limits of censorship. One of the most famous,Max-Pol Fouchet’s Fontaine, published a stirring poem by Paul Eluard in 1942, entitled “Liberty,” which showed the wartime evolution of literary style away from aesthetic artifice and toward simple, straightforward poetry.

“The deep political divisions of the Vichy period are always interesting to study on their own merits, but especially as an influence on the literature of Sartre, Gide, and other major twentieth-century authors,” said Paul LeClerc, President of The New York Public Library. “In spite of censorship and other forms of suppression, some writers of the period produced masterpieces of enduring worth.”

Other highlights include card files containing index cards of banned books written by Jews, Communists or those critical of the Nazis; letters by Céline from Denmark, to which he fled after the war, complaining about his treatment by Jews, and a handwritten note about Hannah Arendt by a member of the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars. The German Jewish philosopher, then totally unknown, was described as “swarthy, intelligent, sparing of words, courteous, efficient.”

French and German newsreel extracts, drawn from the 1969 Max Ophüls film The Sorrow and the Pity, will be screened in the exhibition. The April 3 symposium takes place at The New York Public Library’s Celeste Bartos Forum, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Participants include prominent scholars from the United States and France. For more information about the exhibition and a link to the symposium schedule, go to www.nypl.org and click on “Exhibitions.”

A companion film series featuresfilms produced in France under the Nazi Occupation, including Marcel Carné’s masterpiece Les Enfants du Paradis [Children of Paradise] and rarely screened works by such directors as Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jacques Becker, and Marcel L’Herbier. Films will be presented at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts every Tuesday in June at 2:30 p.m.

Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation will be on view from April 3, 2009, through July 25, 2009 in the D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall (First Floor), of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. Exhibition hours are Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday through May 17, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sundays Memorial Day through Labor Day and all federal holidays. Closed April 12, May 23-25, July 3-5. Admission is free. For more information, call 917.ask.nypl or visit www.nypl.org.

NYPL Updates Google Earth-Maps Division Collection


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Matt Knutzen is reporting on the NYPL’s blog that they have updated the Map Division’s Google Earth index to the digitized New York City map collections. The index now includes “more than 2000 maps from 32 titles, organized chronologically and geographically by borough, all published between 1852 and 1923.”

Here are Knutzen’s recommended ways to search for maps using the index.

1. Select a borough and vintage using the folders from the list on the left sidebar.

2. Double click the map to fly to your chosen location, then use the time slider at the top left of the map frame to narrow the chronological search scope.

3. Enter a street address in the “fly to” search box, then use the time slider.

Once you’ve located a historical map coverage, scroll your mouse over the area and click. A popup window will allow you to access bibliographic information and a digital copy of the historical map.

A New Decorative Objects Online Resource


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The Smithsonian has announced online access to the E. F. Caldwell & Co. Collection which “contains more than 50,000 images consisting of approximately 37,000 black & white photographs and 13,000 original design drawings of lighting fixtures and other fine metal objects that they produced from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries.”

According to the site: Edward F. Caldwell & Co., of New York City, was the premier designer and manufacturer of electric light fixtures and decorative metalwork from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries. Founded in 1895 by Edward F. Caldwell (1851-1914) and Victor F. von Lossberg (1853-1942), the firm’s legacy of highly crafted creations includes custom made metal gates, lanterns, chandeliers, ceiling and wall fixtures, floor and table lamps, and other decorative objects that can be found today in many metropolitan area churches, public buildings, offices, clubs, and residences. A majority of these buildings were built in the early 20thcentury, a time of tremendous growth in construction and when many cities were being electrified for the first time.

The New York Public Library has additional materials [pdf].

Dance Theatre of Harlem History Exhibit at NYPL


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Shortly after the assassination of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Arthur Mitchell was inspired to start a ballet school that would offer African American and Latino children — especially those in Harlem, the community in which he was born — the opportunity to study dance and the allied arts. In 1969, a year later, Mitchell and Karel Shook, founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) which the New York Times called “one of ballet’s most exciting undertakings”. Now in its fourth decade, DTH has grown into a multi-cultural dance institution and national treasure. Armed with an extraordinary legacy of training exceptional artists, DTH continues to set the standard for artistic excellence in the performing arts.

Through a rich and colorful mix of spectacular costumes, stage props, posters, programs, intimate photographs and video recordings, Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts traces the history of the company, its community outreach, renowned productions and cast of legendary dancers, fans and supporters. The free exhibition is on display in the Vincent Astor Gallery of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, February 11 through May 9, 2009. The Library is also presenting related free public programs at the Library for the Performing Arts and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

In a time when black dancers were all but invisible in mainstream ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, brought ballet to the neighborhood and black dancers to the main stage. Since its inception the company has continued to cross social and geographic barriers by introducing the ballet world to a Creole Giselle, inviting audiences to a Caribbean wedding in Dougla, bringing black dancers to the international stage through programs such as Dancing Through Barriers® and bringing ballet to Harlem with education and community outreach.

Many of the stories behind the achievements of the company were artfully documented in photographs by Martha Swope, Marbeth and others. Those on display include photos of guests such as Hillary Clinton and Congressman Charles Rangel attending the company’s monthly open houses where performers of all arts and from other organizations showcase their talents to captivated audiences seated on folding chairs and sometimes on the floor.

One of the centerpieces of the show is an eight-foot-long three-dimensional puzzle that took artist Frank Bara two years to create. Completed in 1989, it was commissioned by Arthur Mitchell to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary. Each layer of the puzzle, crafted entirely from wood, depicts a different aspect of the company’s first two decades in intricate detail, from ballet casts and music to floor plans and blueprints.

From the ceiling of the gallery hang original character costumes such as Firebird’s firebird and monster created by Geoffrey Holder and the wedding canopy from Dougla. Also on display are examples of tights and pointe shoes illustrating Mr. Mitchell’s ground-breaking insistence that they be dyed to match each dancer’s skin tones. Pictures from Footprints in Red document the stunning costumes designed by Salvatore Ferragamo, which needed to be such a specific blue that craftsmen were flown from Italy to Harlem to dye them just the right shade.

There are also many photographs that show rehearsals in churches and other borrowed spaces that were used before Dance Theatre of Harlem had a home of its own. Other pictures document the world-wide appeal of the company’s talent and show its famous fans like Nelson Mandela after a performance in South Africa and Princess Diana back stage in London.

Dance Theatre of Harlem’s dedication to dance and community has inspired support from a wide range of renowned figures from the world of dance. On view are pictures of candid moments in master classes being taught by such prominent dancers as Rosella Hightower and Carmen de Lavallade; William Dollar, who is coaching young ballerinas for Combat; Alexandra Danilova and Joseph Wyatt who are shown rehearsing Paquita; and Gregory Hines who is pictured tapping with children from the DTH school.

Throughout the gallery, cases exhibit show programs and tour materials including the Australian tour scrapbook that contains newspaper clips from the local press punctuated by negative stereotypes less commonly found in press coverage from the United States.

Also on view are a series of film clips including performances of Giselle and Streetcar Named Desire and a compilation of interviews with those close to the Dance Theatre of Harlem and press coverage the company has received over the years.

Free Public Programs Related to the Exhibition at the Library for the Performing Arts:

Thursday, February 12, 2009, 5:30 p.m.
Inspired by a Dream: The Dance Theatre of Harlem Story
Panel moderated by Anna Kisselgoff. With Robert Garland, Virginia Johnson and others.

Thursday, March 12, 2009, 3:00 p.m.
Dance Theatre of Harlem: Classically American
Panel moderated by Alastair Macaulay. With Frederic Franklin, Lorraine Graves, Suzanne Farrell, and others.

Thursday, March 12, 2009, 5:30 p.m.
The Stories I Could Tell: Arthur Mitchell at 75
The Founding Artistic Director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem in Conversation
with Robert Greskovic.

Thursday, May 7, 5:30 p.m.
African American Choreographers
Panel discussion on making work for Dance Theatre of Harlem

Free Public Programs Related to the Exhibition at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Thursday, April 16, 2009, 7:00 p.m.
Where are the Black Swans?
A panel discussion.

NYPL Puts ‘Treasures’ Online, Joins Social Web


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There was an interesting story in USA Today recently by writer Anne Godlasky outlining some of the NYPL’s new media / live web / social marketing initiatives. Here’s a sample:

The New York Public Library quietly rolled out a new video series last month. Titled “Treasures,” it showcases 11 gems of the library’s vast collection of more than 50 million items.

And since then it has joined Facebook, broadening an online reach that already included YouTube and iTunes pages to gain more of an audience — which, for one of the world’s largest public libraries, includes “everybody from preschool toddlers to the greatest writers in the world,” says president Paul LeClerc.

Curators and administrators whittled a list of hundreds of ideas to record videos of the most “visually grabbing,” says director David Ferriero.

The library has made the videos available on its site, nypl.org, as well as on YouTube— where its photography piece is by far its most popular with more than 13,000 views. The video, “Knowing What to See” is the only one featuring current events: the drug trade in Afghanistan as photographed by Stephen Dupont.

NYPL Offers Program on Tobacco Advertising


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A new exhibition hosted by The New York Public Library examines the historic advertisements in which tobacco companies claimed that smoking provided a range of health benefits, including the ability to calm nerves, boost energy and aid in weight loss. That’s one from my personal collection at left.

Not a Cough in a Car Load: Images Used by Tobacco Companies to Hide the Hazards of Smoking, an historical, multi-faceted and thought-provoking exhibition examining the methods tobacco companies took to promote their products, will be on display at The New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library‘s Healy Hall at 188 Madison Avenue, from October 7 to December 26, 2008. Admission is free. A related event featuring a lecture by the exhibition’s curator, Dr. Robert Jackler, including the presentation of vintage video advertisements for tobacco products, will be held on Tuesday, December 9, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Dr. Jackler, an associate dean of Continuing Medical Education at Stanford University, created the revealing look at the tobacco industry after his mother, a longtime smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Aiming to raise awareness of advertising practices at the time, the exhibit contains boldly designed eye-catching images collected from such publications as Life and the Saturday Evening Post and ranging in date from 1927 to 1954. All images have been returned to their original, vibrant form through digital enhancement.

“Due to our current knowledge of the dangers involved with cigarettes, some of the images are actually humorous in nature and while we are having some fun with the exhibition, this is also a compelling story about the way the tobacco industry kept people smoking for generations,” said Dr. Jackler.”We are talking about an industry that put profits above all consideration for its customers’ well-being.It is still relevant today, because while the ads are much more subtle and constrained, the message and goals are still the same.”

The exhibit debuted at Stanford University in January 2007 and has been shown at the University of California and Harvard Medical prior to its run at the library.

“Not a Cough in a Carload takes a look at the power of image and serves as a follow-up to other advertising exhibitions we have hosted,” said John Ganly, SIBL’s assistant director for collections.”It is also a perfect complement to the great collections at the library that deal with the issues of smoking.”

In addition to images of such luminaries as Rock Hudson, John Wayne, Joe DiMaggio, a pre-presidential Ronald Reagan, and Santa Claus smoking tobacco products, advertisements also depict unidentified doctors with cigarettes in hand accompanied by the claim that “More Doctors Smoke Camels than Any Other Cigarette.” Another features a statistic that “38,381 Dentists Say, ‘Smoke Viceroys,’” before the bold statement that the filtered brand “Can never stain your teeth.”

“They used images of doctors to reassure the public, but these characters came right out of central casting and only looked like doctors,” said Dr. Jackler.”The medical profession didn’t complain, because the ads made doctors appear noble. And the public were taken in by the ads, because if a doctor smokes, it must be ok.”

The popular “Reach for a Lucky, Instead of a Sweet” campaign by Lucky Strike is also featured, as tobacco companies wooed weight-conscious consumers. Lucky Strike, among other cigarette companies, is also featured in ads tackling “smoker’s cough,” as a brand good for the throat. In addition to the medicinal effects of cigarettes, claims made about tobacco’s effects on smokers’ moods are also examined in vivid detail, along with images of advertisements Dr. Jackler believes were directed at kids in the Sunday “funnies”.

In a separate area leading to the main exhibition, the library will include documents from the George Arents Collection on Tobacco on display along with three-dimensional materials, such as actual magazines featuring cigarette advertisements and boxes of candy cigarettes.In addition, a research guide culled from various documents at The New York Public Library, featuring government papers, Surgeon General reports and hearings dealing with tobacco advertising, will be made available. A guest book will also allow visitors to express their reactions to the exhibition.

Not a Cough in a Car Load: Images Used by Tobacco Companies to Hide the Hazards of Smoking will be on view from October 7 to December 26, 2008 in Healy Hall at the The New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library, located at 188 Madison Avenue. Exhibition hours run Monday, Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Tuesday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.Admission is free. For more information, call (212) 592-7000 or visit www.nypl.org.

NYPL Acquires Papers of Theatrical Legends


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The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center has acquired the papers of renowned performers and acting teachers Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof. The collection consists of thousands of pages of unpublished correspondence, diaries, scripts and manuscripts, photographs, clippings and other documentation relating to the dynamic theatrical careers of both Hagen and Berghof. This collection of professional and personal papers, spanning nearly 100 years of theater history, is being made public for the first time. To celebrate the bequest, the Library is planning a series of eight free public programs featuring many close friends and colleagues of Ms. Hagen and Mr. Berghof’s including such figures as Harold Prince, Edward Albee, David Hyde Pierce and Eli Wallach.

The collection consists of 99 boxes of papers totaling 49 linear feet and provides in-depth insight about Ms. Hagen and Mr. Berghof’s personal life, their working processes in various theater productions, and their renowned acting school HB Studio, and includes correspondence from esteemed personalities such as Katharine Hepburn, Tennessee Williams, José Ferrer, David O. Selznik and Thornton Wilder.

Ms. Hagen’s papers include correspondence to and from her family, as well as other Hagen family papers. Her letters to her father Oskar Hagen – whom she playfully refers to many times as “papalop” – reveals new details of her personal and professional life. Of particular interest are various letters mentioning segregation during the Othello tour (1943-1945) with Paul Robeson and her then-husband, José Ferrer, and her diaries and notebooks which detail character studies for many of her roles. A notebook Hagen kept during rehearsals of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is overrun with a range of notes and observations regarding character motivation and psychology. In one section, she writes: “Attacking George for being a failure all the time. Motive; ashamed of his dependence on my father….aware of his subservience.”

Mr. Berghof’s papers document the many productions which he performed in, directed, adapted, translated, or developed. The productions and projects span his entire career from the late 1920s to his final project in 1990. Included are materials and correspondence with Samuel Beckett regarding Waiting for Godot.

The collection, entitled the “Uta Hagen/Herbert Berghof Papers” was bequeathed by Uta Hagen to the Billy Rose Theatre Division in 2007. It will be housed in the Billy Rose Theatre Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

A tour de force in the theater world for over seven decades, Uta Hagen’s numerous leading roles included Martha in the original Broadway production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1962 (for which she won a Tony Award), Desdemona opposite Paul Robeson’s Othello, and Blanche DuBois opposite Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. She taught at the tremendously influential acting school HB Studio, where her students included Matthew Broderick, Robert DeNiro, Liza Minnelli, Al Pacino, Amanda Peet, and Jason Robards. Ms. Hagen married its founder, the actor, director and writer Herbert Berghof in 1957.

Mr. Berghof, who died in 1990, remains one of the most revered acting coaches in theater history. During the years he presided over HB Studio, the roster of alumni included – in addition to the ones mentioned above – actors such as Anne Bancroft, Geraldine Page, and Fritz Weaver. Mr. Berghof also had immense success outside of the school, and garnered much praise for directing the American premiere on Broadway of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in 1956 and the first all-Black cast version of the play in 1957.

Free Public Programs for Uta Hagen/Herbert Berghof Papers will take place in the Bruno Walter Auditorium in The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center located at 111 Amsterdam Avenue (between 64th and 65th streets). Admission to all programs is free and first come, first served. For information, please call (212) 642-0142 or visit www.nypl.org/lpaprograms. Programs are curated by Alan Pally, Manager of Public Programs at the Library for the Performing Arts.

New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Gives Up Collection


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Now that the news has trickled down that the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, popularly known as the “G & B,” has given its enormous genealogical collection (75,000 volumes, 30,000 manuscripts and 22,000 reels of microfilm) to the New York Public Library – I thought we’d take a look at the fall out.

First a recap of the news from the New York Times:

Faced with a dwindling endowment, the members-only G & B, as it is known, sold its four-story building on East 58th Street in Midtown Manhattan last year for $24 million. It bought an office condominium in Midtown where it will now focus on grant-giving, tours, lectures and other means of encouraging genealogical research. One of the first grants was about $1 million to the library for a four-person staff to process and catalog the G & B collection within two years.

The heaviest criticism comes from members themselves. Dick Hillenbrand of the Upstate New York Genealogy Blog has been following the struggle inside the G & B for over a year. Members posting to the blog decried last year what they called a plan to “disenfranchise all members of the NYG&BS and absolutely and forever empower a board of 15 to unilaterally make decisions about the NYG&B’s assets and future.” They were apparently right about that.

Hillibrand’s latest post laid out some of the opposition positions:

Looks like the present total membership of the G&B of 15 members, made an unrecoverable decision. If you are a former member and donated your time, money, effort, books and manuscripts to the G&B because you thought that they would be there forever, guess what? When you voted your rights away and became former members it was all over.

The statements that we were told about moving the society to new quarters to be able to keep the collection available to all former members, well would you consider those as untruths? . You will never be able to roam through the open stacks of your old friends. At the NYPL you must fill out a call slip of the book you want and wait for a runner to bring it to you. You will never again have the pleasure of finding the rarity treasure sitting on the shelf right near the item you were interested in.

The official blog of Genealogy Bank, took no position, but had this context to add:

The NYPL’s genealogy collection – more formally called: The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy has long been known for its strong collection of research materials gathered for over a century – from the founding of the NYPL in 1848.

When I first began using the NYPL in the 1960s it was administered by Gerald D. McDonald who served from 1945-1969 and then by Gunther Pohl (1969-1985) and John Miller (1985-1987). The Division is currently under the capable leadership of Ruth Carr long serving Chief of that Division.

Randy Seaver, blogging at Genea-Musings said: “I welcome this move since it brings records out of the ‘members only’ repository into a public repository. Of course, I wasn’t an NYG&BS member and I don’t have an emotional attachment to NYG&BS or NYPL.” He also called on the NYPL to:

1 – Put the NYG&BS catalog on their web site – either as part of the current NYPL catalog or as a separate catalog until the NYG&BS material can be integrated into the NYPL catalog. That way, researchers in the genealogy world can identify records of interest to be searched.

2 – Digitize as many unique records as possible and make them publicly available on a web site, subject to copyright restrictions.

3 – As NYPL catalogs and/or digitizes the NYG&BS collection, index the names in the manuscript and/or estate papers collections? The records that nobody knows what’s in them. If they can’t or won’t do that, would they please request volunteers to do it with them or for them?

Schelly Talalay Dardashti at Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog condensed the NY Times historical context:

G&B was founded in 1869 and moved into the recently sold building in 1929. Early members were interested in 17th-18th century Dutch and English roots. Holdings include censuses, deeds, baptisms, births, deaths and wills. However, after WWII, the group had almost disappeared with members conflicted about its direction, despite the increasing popularity of genealogy following the major impact of “Roots,” Ellis Island’s restoration and database, and commercial websites devoted to family history.

Here is the press release from the NYPL.

NY Public Library Puts State Map Collection Online


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The New York Public Library has made available a number of New York State maps at their website. The collection includes David H. Burr’s atlases of 1829, 1838, 1841, along with Asher & Adams’ 1871 New Topographical Atlas and Gazetteer. There are also some 30 county level atlases, and city atlas for Albany (1876), Auburn (1882), Babylon, Islip, and Brookhaven (1888), Buffalo (1872), Elmira (1876, 1896), Oswego (1880), Saratoga and Ballston (1876), Troy, West Troy (now Watervliet) and Green Island (1869), Troy (1881), and Utica (1883). Many of these maps include individual homeowners names.

The interface leaves a lot to be desired. You should make sure that you have downloaded the proprietary viewer – the only indication it’s necessary is found here.