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Posts from the Manuscripts and Archives Division

Transmissions from the Timothy Leary Papers: Keith Haring Makes a Mind Movie

In the process of imaging digital material from the Timothy Leary papers, my eyes have scanned some curious documents, but sometimes the most intriguing files are the ones I can't read. Timothy Leary collaborated with a number of celebrities on projects during his years of freelancing. One of the celebrities that left his mark on the Leary papers is Keith Haring.

Among the box load of disks, a few are tantalizingly inscribed "Drink me" and "Love, 

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Metamorphosis of a Song: “What Do the Simple Folk Do?”

I've blogged before about my joy in finding something I never knew existed in the richly varied archival holdings of the New York Public Library, but while processing the James Barton Papers, I had an epiphany of another color: finding something I've wanted to get my hands on for nearly twenty years.

Bear with me while I set the scene for this discovery with some personal history. It would be an understatement to say that I'm a fan of lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner.

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Transmissions from the Timothy Leary Papers: Season’s Greetings from William S. Burroughs

Timothy Leary first made acquaintance with William S. Burroughs in Tangier, Morocco in the summer of 1961.[1] During this heady time, Leary was reaching out to beat poets and artists for participation in his early drug experiments at Harvard University, and Burroughs made an obvious comrade. Despite Burrough's disappointment with Leary's scientific method, their friendship managed to survive 

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James A. Hamilton: Mousetraps, Memory and a Forgotten Secretary of State

In 1869, James Alexander Hamilton published a memoir. The third son of Alexander Hamilton was a Columbia-educated district attorney, colonel, writer and diplomat who addressed many aspects of his "varied life" in The Reminiscences of James A. Hamilton.i But while The Reminiscences have often been used as a source in the biographies of the father, they have never been used to tell the story of the son. A selection of Hamilton's papers and correspondence made it into the published work but the

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The Lost Musicals: Redhead

Musicals are often most associated with women, or at least with divas: the larger than life stars that musicals are built around. To get a show produced you want to have a decent score and story, but another thing that sells the backers — and the audience — is having a name attached. You need Ethel Merman, Gertrude Lawrence, Mary Martin, Julie Andrews, Chita Rivera, Angela Lansbury, Carol Channing, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, or last but not least, the star of our show, that improbably sexy, brittle but strong, mercurial, redheaded dancer, Gwen 

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Short-Term Research Fellows: A Closer Look at Brooklyn History

As a graduate student whose dissertation examines the development of Brooklyn in the nineteenth century, I have spent more hours than I care to count the past several years poring through documents in the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Brooklyn Public Library and other repositories in what was formerly the nation's third-largest city and is now New York City's most populous borough. Recently however, through the New York Public Library's Short-Term Research Fellowship Program and 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: After Antietam

September 17, 2012 marked the 150th anniversary of the battle of Antietam, often called "the bloodiest day in American history." With Alexander Gardner's images before us, we can easily imagine the horrific strife of those few hours that left behind over 23,000 casualties. Other contemporary materials can show us what it was like for a soldier to experience that single day within the context of a long and grueling campaign. Project staff member Joseph Lapinski describes such an item encountered in the USSC's 

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Ruth Chatterton: A Screen Career in Photographs (In Defense of the Fan Collection)

Ruth Chatterton, 1921This post is about a fascinating, talented and beautiful movie star of the 1930s named Ruth Chatterton. However, it's also about a dedicated fan who preserved her legacy. Yes, this is the type of collection many archivists dread: the much-maligned fan collection.

Perhaps I better explain this for any laymen reading. If the library had Ruth Chatterton's Papers, that would mean that the stage and film actress, novelist and aviatrix (!) maintained her own photographs, scripts, correspondence, programs, clippings, etc. and gave them to us (or her 

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Transmissions from The Timothy Leary Papers: What I Thought I Knew

When I first started the Leary Processing Internship in June, I had what is probably the most common impression of Timothy Leary. I had obviously heard about him before, but honestly, all I knew about him was that he was famous for his line "turn on, tune in, drop out." To me, he was simply the LSD guru of the 1960s. Not having grown up in his heyday, I only knew what was best and most widely known about him.

Fast forward two months, and here I sit at my desk at the New York Public 

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Transmissions from The Timothy Leary Papers: A Buddy Film Starring Timothy Leary and G. Gordon Liddy

In the 1982 documentary, Return Engagement, Timothy Leary sits before a class of high school students and says, "I think that everyone in this room, in our lifetimes, can go through as many changes and metamorphosis and mutations, as the butterflies go from cocoons to caterpillars to beautiful high-flying creatures."

Leary's professional life was defined by a number of "metamorphosis and mutations." He was a clinical psychologist at the Kaiser Foundation in the 1950s,

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Wait for Me, World: The Kander, Ebb and Wasserman Musical that Never Was

Dale WassermanMost archivists will tell you that the best part of our job is the feeling of possibility. Every time you open a box and start digging through it, you might find that something amazing — you might be making an intellectual discovery. This can be especially exciting when you’re dealing with a subject that you thought you pretty much had down cold. Professionally, I live for these moments and I had one while processing the Dale Wasserman Papers.

After his tremendous success writing the book for 

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Transmissions from The Timothy Leary Papers: The "Archival Catastrophe" of 1975

Interview featuring Michael Horowitz.

Envelope sent to Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library, Timothy Leary PapersI touched on the saga of Timothy Leary’s legal problems in my last blog post involving his escape from prison for a drug conviction and his attempt at seeking asylum in Switzerland for the persecution of his writings and ideas.

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Short-Term Research Fellows: A Closer Look at Tatar-Language Pamphlets

Russia — what does it make you think of? Cold winters, fur hats, vast forests, and perhaps some vodka and caviar? As a Russian historian in training, I want to help people understand that Russia is much more complex than these simple images suggest, 

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The Victory Book Campaign and The New York Public Library

World War II Posters Collections. Published by the U.S. Government Printing Office, public domain. Northwestern University LibraryDuring the month of November 1941, three organizations, the American Library Association, the American Red Cross and the United Service Organizations (USO) formed the Victory Book Campaign (originally named the National Defense Book 

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VITO: The Life of Gay Activist Vito Russo

Tonight at 9pm, HBO will premiere Jeffrey Schwarz's new documentary VITO: The Life of Gay Activist Vito Russo. Extensive research for the film was undertaken at the New York Public Library using Vito Russo's papers, as well as many other collections, such as the Gay Activists Alliance Records and ACT UP New York Records.

I was privileged to preview 

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Floriant et Florete: Treason in Translation

The hero's name as written in the manuscript.

The most important factor in Floriant's obscurity is its complete lack of originality. As an imitative rather than an original work, Floriant holds little appeal for either the academic or the amateur. Yet it is precisely Floriant's derivative nature that shines a new light on the practices of rewriting and reinterpretation when they are taken to their logical extremes. In fact, Floriant can be read as a subtle allegory on medieval 

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A Closer Look at Jefferson's Declaration

The New York Public Library's Manuscripts and Archives Division is honored to safeguard a copy of the Declaration of Independence penned by Thomas Jefferson. Because the Declaration was featured in the Library’s 2011 Centennial Exhibition, it will not be on display in July 2012. However, the occasion offers a chance instead for a closer look at the document through the Library’s website. In the days immediately following its 

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Floriant et Florete: An Arthurian Romance of the Mediterranean

A marginal decoration of the manuscript of Floriant.Floriant et Florete, a thirteenth-century Arthurian romance, is preserved in a single manuscript that has been held, since 1941, in the Archives and Manuscripts Division of the New York Public Library. Although neglected by scholars and unknown to common readers, its text is not only interesting as an entry in the annals of Arthurian history, it is also fascinating as a work of literary pastiche.

A "pastiche" is a feat that resembles plagiarism in its 

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The Lost Musicals: Joel Grey’s Star Vehicles, Part Two: The Grand Tour

I think I know why Joel Grey's 1975 star vehicle Goodtime Charley flopped, but I'm less clear about The Grand Tour. The story is powerful and charming. The star performance, was by all accounts one of the most special anyone had ever seen. And Herman's score is terrific — maybe not fully up to his standard of Hello, Dolly,

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2012-2013 Short-Term Research Fellowship Recipients Announced

The New York Public Library is pleased to announce the awarding of Short-Term Fellowships to support the following scholars from outside New York who will research the Library's archival and special collections between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013.

Dorot Jewish Division and Slavic, Baltic, and Eastern European Collections  

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