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Blog Posts by Subject: History

Readers Den: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Interview and Wrap Up

Welcome back to the Reader's Den as we wrap up July's book. I hope you have enjoyed Karen Abbott's book Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy as much as I have. I talked to the author about what she likes to read (when she's not busy writing!)Read More ›

Untapped E-Resources: American Broadsides and Ephemera

What is this curious artifact of daily life in 19th century America?Read More ›

HAMILTON: The Archive

In the musical Hamilton, which opened last night on Broadway, George Washington tells Alexander Hamilton, “You have no control...who tells your story.” At the New York Public Library, we preserve the artifacts that allow such stories to be told, and we have an especially strong collection of archives related to the women and men whose lives inspired the characters in the musical.Read More ›

Letterbooks, Indexes, and Learning about Early American Business

Letterbooks were the hard drives of their day. Businessmen and merchants used letterbooks to keep records of their business transactions. To learn about how everyday life worked in a given period, there really is no substitute for these and other manuscript sources.Read More ›

Salute to Narrative Nonfiction: Journalism and Social Sciences

Narrative or creative nonfiction is somewhat newly recognized genre. Naturally, as librarians we have a great appreciation for the research, the primary source documents and interviews, but it is the narrative, the skillful pacing, the phrasing, and the insight that make it read like a thriller that set these books apart from other nonfiction.Read More ›

Remembering Our Ancestors: Maps and Genealogy Resources for Armenian-Americans

As an Armenian-American keenly aware of the devotion to lost homeland of my ethnic compatriots, I’ve always been on the lookout for Armenians among the researchers from many large ethnic groups who have found their way to the Map Division. April 24 is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, and one way to honor those who were not able to find refuge is to learn all we can about them and celebrate our link to them.Read More ›

20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History

If you have done any family history research, such as looking for records on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org or conducting interviews with older family members, you may have pondered writing about your genealogy research. Here are 20 reasons why you should cease pondering and start writing.Read More ›

Best Books for Teens 2014!

The list includes a selection of 25 novels, non-fiction books, and graphic novels chosen by a committee of Young Adult librarians who work with teens in NYPL’s neighborhood branches. Read More ›

Play Strike! Exploring NYC Playgrounds Through Historical Newspapers

At the turn of the 20th century, children’s lifestyles were not quite what they are today. Child labor laws were not declared constitutional until 1938 and children largely socialized with their adult co-workers in dance halls, gambling dens, and gin mills. It was this children-as-adults culture that sparked the play movement, removing children from the “physical and moral dangers of the street” to playgrounds, under the direction of trained play leaders.Read More ›

Valentina Tereshkova: The Anniversary of the First Woman in Space

It was 51 years ago to the day, June 16th, 1963, that Valentina Tereshkova left the earth aboard the Vostok 6, and became the first woman to enter outer space.Read More ›

Booktalking "Founding Mothers" by Cokie Roberts

Unfortunately, there is not much written about the formative female figures in our nation's history. In many cases, women assisted famous male figures, but some also did amazing things sheerly of their own volition.Read More ›

A Library Branch in the Woods

A walk in the woods, a guy with a rake... history uncovered.Read More ›

Meet the Scholar: Melissa Forstrom

Melissa ForstromMuseums. They are great. From Museum of Mathematics to Museum of Glass, there's so much to see and to learn about these topics in our shared history. Whenever I visit a new town or country, I am always eager to check out their local or national museums; they offer a glimpse of their cultural histories, identities and accomplishments.

However, some exhibitions can also showcase contested and controversial materials. Take for example the

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Meet the Scholar: Nerina Rustomji

Nerina Rustomji and her book, "The Garden and the Fire: Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture."About 6 years ago, I was taking an undergraduate class on the history of the Modern Middle East taught by Professor Nerina Rustomji of St. John's University. The class opened my eyes to the complexity of the region. She challenged us to look differently at the historic and ongoing conflicts in the area and America's intricate relationships with Middle Eastern countries before September 11th. 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: A Day at the (Civil War) Office

Anna Peterson, a graduate student at the University of Michigan's School of Information, recently helped us organize some correspondence of the USSC's Hospital Directory office in Philadelphia. Here are Anna's impressions of a letter she found in the collection during her internship with the Manuscripts and Archives Division:

The Hospital Directory, with offices in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Louisville, was established in 1862 to collect and record information concerning the location of sick and wounded soldiers in U.S. Army hospitals. Members of the 

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Haiti's Patent Law of 1826 - Solution and Wrap-Up

Last June, I made note of one of SIBL's patent pamphlets cataloged long ago as the Haitian Patent Law for 1826. I had my doubts about it, and wondered if anyone could help. Now, to wrap things up I thought I'd share some of what I learned here... and give an answer to the question "what is it?"

The document's title is Loi sur les patentes. Patente is not French for what in everyday speech we call a patent. As I should have known from seeing it elsewhere, 

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The Importance of Earthworms: Darwin’s Last Manuscript

Charles Darwin died 130 years ago today, leaving an intellectual legacy which has profoundly influenced the general course of Western thought. He is best known for his work On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871), both of which 

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Behind the Scenes of the Milstein Suspense Trailer

History has secrets... but secrets don’t stay hidden if you know where to look...

The Library's Milstein Division staff are very excited to present a movie trailer-style promotional video, which debuted this week on YouTube. We've loved the videos that other NYPL divisions and neighborhood libraries have made — especially Jefferson 

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December’s Readers Den: "97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement" Wrap Up

I would like to thank all the followers and fans of the Reader’s Den. I hope you have enjoyed 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement just as much as I have. If you are interested in learning more about the people and cultures of the Lower East Side, 

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Article and Artifact — Digitization's Dilemma: A True Story

Every librarian understands that the increased reliance on digital resources is a Faustian bargain.

While the stakes may not seem as high as in the legend, the risks are plain, clear, and much discussed in library and publishing literature. For any organization that wishes to preserve or archive its resources, digitization can be both a blessing and a curse. Easier access versus preservation concerns may not be possible to reconcile completely.

On a day-to-day level, the limitations of some digital resources are painfully evident. Particularly on a 

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