More Than Just Books: NY Public Library Features Its Greatest Works

A celebration of 100 years of the New York public library’s main building explores the human condition as described through various non-book items maintained within its collection.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the New York Public Library’s Steven A. Schwarzman Building, the library has curated an exhibition featuring the greatest works from its collection. The exhibition juxtaposes perspectives related to four aspects of the human experience—Observation, Creativity, Contemplation, and Society. These contrasts reflect not only a diversity of perspectives, but the incredible diversity of media that the library collects to archive the human condition. Within the Observation gallery, a print of Columbus’s first letter from the Americas is contrasted with photographs transmitted from Apollo 8. The Contemplation gallery juxtaposes images that invite you to look with others that provoke the viewer to look away; an archived adult magazine shares space with documentation of soldiers on a Civil War battlefield. Entering the Society gallery, the viewer is greeted with the Declaration of Independence in Jefferson’s hand, and the full regalia worn by a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Above are ack Kerouac’s personal effects, including inspired notes jotted onto a box of Valium.

An item of note characterizing the range of media collected in the library’s archive is A Guide to Higher Learning by Julie Chen. The publisher describes this “book” below:

Julie Chen’s latest bookwork examines the experiential process of acquiring knowledge, on both academic and personal levels. The piece is comprised of 8 sections of rigid square pages that are hinged together in unexpected ways, giving the reader a physical reading experience that mirrors the complex meaning of the content. The book in its fully unfolded form reveals an intricate and fascinating visual pattern of information.

A Guide To Higher Learning

New York Public Library

[image via Why Libraries Still Matter]

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