Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation

Book Fund

Biblio File

Special Library in Focus: The New-York Historical Society Library

Share

Library of the New York Historical Society., Digital ID 805590, New York Public LibraryLibrary of the New York Historical Society., Digital ID 805590, New York Public LibraryWhile I was in the neighborhood (visiting the library of the American Museum of Natural History - AMNH), I serendipitously noticed that the New-York Historical Society (NYHS) was next door. After visiting the AMNH, I decided to check out the library of the historical society. I was happy to discover that it is open to the public free Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and on Saturdays 10 a.m.-1 p.m, and they have a wealth of resources! In addition to their physical library, they also have many electronic resources. The New-York Historical Society Library and Museum was founded in 1804, and it is the oldest museum in the City of New York.

New York in 1660, Digital ID 423109, New York Public LibraryNew York in 1660, Digital ID 423109, New York Public LibraryPhysical library: Visitors need to check their coats and bags on the main floor in order to gain access to the library. Pencils and loose paper are provided in order for readers to take notes. The library is on the second floor.

Most of their materials are in closed stacks, so readers must page materials for the staff to retrieve. There were books in display cases, which I was told were more for show. In the main reading room, they have atlases, six computers with New-York Historical Society Library databases and access to the internet. They had some print journals on display, including American Heritage, The American Historical Review, The Journal of American History, and The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. It was very quiet in the library. They still have a card catalog that they use when the computers are down and the electronic catalog cannot be accessed. Staff and patrons also use the card catalog to access many records that Bobcat, their online catalog, does not contain.

View in New York, 1746 / Geo. Hayward, Digital ID 423135, New York Public LibraryView in New York, 1746 / Geo. Hayward, Digital ID 423135, New York Public LibraryRecent Renovation of the Library: I was informed by our presenter (she gave a presentation to NYPL staff) that the library had been renovated in the summer of 2011. It was reopened in November. The library got new curtains and carpeting. The stained glass windows were removed piece-by-piece for cleaning to let the lights shine through more clearly. The library also got a new paint job, and they are working on getting new chandeliers. There is a gorgeous spiral staircase leading to the peripheral balcony of the library. The library also has Ionic Greek columns, which give it a very stately experience. Our presenter informed us that the space is often rented out for weddings and other special events. It is a very attractive, ritzy-looking library, so I can understand why people would want that space for their wedding or other special event.

The Stadthuys of New York in 1679 corner of Peal St. and Coentijs Slip / G. Hayward, Digital ID 421949, New York Public LibraryThe Stadthuys of New York in 1679 corner of Peal St. and Coentijs Slip / G. Hayward, Digital ID 421949, New York Public LibraryLibrary Presentation: Our presenter was from the Manuscripts department, and she was very knowledgeable about the collections of NYHS and New York City history. She showed us several items which she had pulled from the collection, and she talked about the history behind the items. The NYHS collection consists of Manuscripts, General Collections, and Print Room.

Plan of the city and environs of New York as they were in 1742-1744 (By David Grim), 1813 (General Collections): The map was drawn in 1813, and it shows the locations of buildings, such as churches, City Hall, and slaughterhouses.

[Portrait of Walt Whitman, 1881.], Digital ID 427879, New York Public Library[Portrait of Walt Whitman, 1881.], Digital ID 427879, New York Public LibraryAmerican Historical Manuscripts Collection (AHMC) - Whitman, Walt (Letters from Whitman to soldier's families.), 1862-1863: She also showed us letters from Walt Whitman to the families of fallen soldiers. Whitman believed that the form letter that informed families of loved ones' deaths was cold, so he wrote letters to the families, some of whom wrote him back.

Corps d'Afrique, 1864. ,Brigade bandsman ; Sergeant of heavy artillery., Digital ID 1599724, New York Public LibraryCorps d'Afrique, 1864. ,Brigade bandsman ; Sergeant of heavy artillery., Digital ID 1599724, New York Public LibraryBV Petitions (Petition to President Lincoln in support of forming African American troops during Civil War), around 1862 (Manuscripts): Hundreds of citizens of NYC signed a petition in early 1862 to promote the enlistment of African Americans in the army. This did occur; however, it was not implemented until after the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted.

Lucky Strike advertisement, 1920s (Print Room): The advertisement for the cigarettes features a beautiful woman with a bloated, overweight shadow. The idea was to communicate that cigarettes could help as a weight-loss aide. (We did not, however, get to see a picture of the young woman's lungs.)

AHMC - Ticker Tape (Last piece of ticker tape on eve of Stock Market Crash), 1929 (Manuscripts): Our presenter showed us the last piece of ticker tape used on October 29, 1929. Ticker tape was used to communicate stock market information over telegraph lines.

The following are other Items that were presented:

  • AMHC - Harris, Clara (Letter detailing Lincoln's assassin (Manuscripts)
  • Naval History Society Collection (NHSC) - Point Lookout (Illustrated journal of POW during Civil War), 1864 (Manuscripts)
  • 7th Regiment Collection (Photo Album), 1889 (Manuscripts)
  • Alexander Family Papers (Fabric samples of Mary Alexander), 1740s-1750s (Manuscripts)
  • AHMC - Harris, Clara (Letter detailing Lincoln's assassination), 1865 (Manuscripts)
  • AHMC - Yankee Stadium (Souvenir program on opening day), 1923 (Manuscripts)
  • BV Larned, Simon (Account Books), 1782 (Manuscripts)
  • New York Foundling Hospital (NYFH) - (Notes left on babies) - 1879 (Manuscripts)
  • The Revolution (Newspaper of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton), 1868 (General Collections)
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon advertisement, 1890s (Print Room)

Childhood trip to Gettysburg: Listening to our presenter reminded me of going to historical museums during my childhood and seeing historic re-enactors (they have these at NYHS as well). In fact, our eighth-grade class took a trip together to go see the Gettysburg Museum, which was fascinating. My history teacher loved to take all of her eighth-graders to Gettysburg.

Electronic library: The NYHS has an extensive website that includes a blog and catalog, which is posted weekly. The library does a fair amount of e-reference for military historians and genealogists who cannot physically come to the library. In addition, scholars, students, authors, media representatives and staff from other cultural institutions send reference requests to NYHS. It is also good to do research on their website prior to arriving at the library, because researchers can request materials in advance.

Comments

Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

Post new comment