The defining documents of the Beat generation, rare insights into the career of Katharine Hepburn, and a view of the plans that led to the landmark 1939 World’s Fair are among the revelations in a new web video series allowing viewers a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse at The New York Public Library’s most treasured collections, and the librarians and archivists entrusted with protecting them.
Treasures of The New York Public Library, launching on October 7 via the Library’s website at www.nypl.org/av_display/series/50418, features 11 videos, each approximately three minutes in length. Produced by the Library and Every Atom Productions, the videos enable patrons from around the globe to view historic collections that, up until now, could only be seen by visiting the Library.The videos also feature some accomplished Library users, including TV personality and chef Lidia Bastianich, who prepares a special dish she researched at the Library, while another features pianist Margaret Leng Tan performing selections from The New York Public Library’s Music Division.
The videos are the capstone of a range of new initiatives to broaden access to Library materials through the use of new technologies.According to the Nielsen Company, online video is no longer a novelty, with two-thirds of users in the U.S. (119 million people) watching web-streamed video content.The videoseries will aim to reach these 119 million users through its own website and the Library’s pages on YouTube, iTunes and Facebook.
“The Treasures of The New York Public Library videos will introduce some of our most intriguing collections to viewers around the world,” said Library President Dr. Paul LeClerc. “They also highlight the Library’s role in preserving materials that document important cultural and historic developments and making these items widely accessible to researchers and the general public.”
Founded in 1895, The New York Public Library was created from the consolidation of The Astor Library and The Lenox Library, each with their own rich repository of rare and treasured items.Today, the Library comprises four major research libraries and 87 neighborhood branches, with a collection of over 50 million items, making it one of the world’s largest and most renowned library systems.The 11 videos highlighting these collections are:
The New York World’s Fair (1939-40)
Manuscripts and Archives Division
In 1939, the New York World’s Fair promised an exciting look at the world’s future through the introduction of new technology, innovations, and ideas.William Stingone, Assistant Director for Archives and Manuscripts, and Jessica Weglein Kraus, Senior Project Archivist, delve into the planning documents that led to the fair and showcase a number of the pavilions and displays that made the World’s Fair the best attended event of the first half of the 20th century.
A Century of Sound
Rodgers & Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound
From the earliest recordings of the Metropolitan Opera to performances by blues legend Bessie Smith, and beyond, curator Sarah Velez offers a listening tour of a collection that includes more than 700,000 recordings in formats ranging from fragile Edison cylinders to obscure wire recordings, and the latest digital formats that helped define the cultural eras of the world, as we knew it and know it today.
Inside the Piano
Musical compositions from the Library’s collections, including works by Henry Cowell, who in 1897 revolutionized the piano by playing its strings, and John Cage, who placed nuts and bolts, washers and screws, and other materials to change the piano into an instrument of percussion, are brought to life by pianist Margaret Leng Tan, as narrator George Boziwick, Chief of the Music Division at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, discusses the groundbreaking pieces.
Menus & Cookbooks
General Research Division and Rare Book Division
The Library’s collection of 35,000 menus and thousands of cookbooks provides a valuable resource for chef, author and TV personality Lidia Bastianich in her effort to document the history of Italian cooking in the United States and Italy.Lidia’s research leads to a cooking demonstration in her home kitchen where she shows some of the techniques for preparing stuffed artichokes, enjoyed over a glass of fine wine with lucky librarian Rebecca Federman.
The Katharine Hepburn Papers
The Billy Rose Theatre Collection
The feisty persona that legendary actress Katharine Hepburn demonstrated in her most well-known films stands out just as strongly in the Library’s archive of materials documenting her career on the stage.Curator Bob Taylor details her determination to stand up to pressure to cut a questionable word from the L.A. production of the musical Coco, and also discusses a powerful political speech the actress gave after the brutal killings of four students at Kent State, among other topics of interest from the papers donated by the Hepburn estate.
The Jack Kerouac Archive
Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature
Jack Kerouac was among those responsible for inspiring a cultural phenomenon known as the Beat Generation – a rejection of mainstream American values and an interest in Eastern spirituality.Curator Dr. Isaac Gewirtz examines the novelist, author, poet and artist known as the King of the Beats, in an admiring look at Kerouac’s most famous work, On the Road.Also showcased are lesser-known items, such as the Dharma Notebooks, highlighting a commitment to Buddhism, along with Kerouac’s attempts at drawing and sketching.The Jack Kerouac Archive, containing over 1,050 manuscripts and typescripts, 130 notebooks, 52 journals, 55 diaries, and 1,800 pieces of correspondence, among other items, is one of the most popular and best-used collections of papers at the Library.
General Research Division and Circulating Collections
Among the most popular items read by children and teens today are graphic works that have moved the artistry of comic books to a new level of sophistication. Miriam Tuliao, Assistant Director for Central Collection Development, and Sarah Couri, Senior Librarian at Teen Central, examine the materials that go beyond traditional books, with a focus on the Japanese Manga and its impact on local readers.Young patrons from Teen Central are also featured discussing their favorite material, highlighting the fact that while tastes have changed, the thirst for knowledge still exists.
The Harlem Renaissance
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
After the Great Migration from the South into black neighborhoods in the North and Midwest, black Americans began asserting their freedom to express themselves on their own terms as artists and intellectuals, using music, dance, poetry, writing and art to define the black culture that had emerged out of slavery and their cultural ties to Africa.Howard Dodson, the Director of the Schomburg Center, discusses one of the most comprehensive collections documenting the history and impact of the Harlem Renaissance, as featured in such items as the Aspects of Negro Life, four murals painted by Aaron Douglas in 1934, which can also be found in the current Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist exhibit running through November 30 at the Schomburg Center.The video also features materials retrieved from 409 Edgecombe Avenue, where W.E.B. Dubois and Thurgood Marshall once resided, including the mission statement for Fire!! magazine, and a copy of the publication featuring the work of such luminaries as Langston Hughes.
Knowing What To See
Photography Collection, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs
Stephen Dupont’s documentation of Afghanistan from the early 1990s to today, as the country faced a civil war, the rise of the Taliban, the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom, and the ongoing war on terrorism, is a tale of poverty, warfare, and broken promises, but also of perseverance and hope.A collection of his striking black-and-white pictures is just a small sampling of the over 400,000 photographs found in the Library’s Photography Collection.Curator Stephen Pinson discusses this collection, ranging from daguerreotypes to current digital imagery, with a focus on the history of documentary photography highlighting the work of Danny Lyon, Dorothea Lange and the aforementioned Stephen Dupont.Dupont’s photos are featured in the Library’s upcoming exhibition Afghanistan, or The Perils of Freedom: Photographs by Stephen Dupont, focusing on 21st-century Afghanistan,and is on view fromNovember 7, 2008 to January 25, 2009 at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library.
Art & Architecture Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs
Such popular New York City landmarks as the Chrysler Building, Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center epitomize the rich history and legacy of Art Deco, a decorative style that captured the carefree modernist spirit of the 1920s and 1930s.The video, narrated by Paula Baxter, Curator of the Art & Architecture Collection, and Clayton Kirking, Chief of Art Information Resources, examines the historic design trend that continues to inspire fashion design and the arts today. The video also serves as a complement to the Humanities and Social Sciences Library exhibit Art Deco Design: Rhythm and Verve, currently running until January 11, 2009.
Mapping the World
Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division
Alice C. Hudson, Chief of the Library’s Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, joins Assistant Chief Matthew Knutzen to discuss the largest public library map collection in the world through historic documents and a look at the digitization process that stretches historic maps over contemporary ones, allowing users to watch history unfold before their eyes.
In addition to this unique look at NYPL’s collections, the website will allow visitors to expand their knowledge though links to the Library’s digital galleries and other resources.
“These videos serve as just a taste of what can be found at the Library,” said William Stingone.“The hope is that the videos will whet people’s appetites to discover more.The video series allows people to see that unlike museums, where much of the collections are behind glass, these pieces of history are within our reach.”
About Every Atom Productions
Every Atom is a New York-based production company founded by award-winning independent documentary producers and directors Jessica Chornesky and Ivo Stainoff. Every Atom is dedicated to making films and videos that educate and entertain. In addition to the Treasures of The New York Public Library videos, the team collaborated on the feature documentary Alligator on the Zipper, profiling the lives of women truckers, which is currently on the film festival circuit.
About The New York Public Library
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 open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services. It comprises four research centers – the Humanities and Social Science Library; The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; and the Science, Industry and Business Library – and 87 Branch Libraries in Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Research and circulating collections combined total more than 50 million items, including materials for the visually impaired. In addition, each year the Library presents thousands of exhibitions and public programs, which include classes in technology, literacy, and English as a second language. The Library serves some 16 million patrons who come through its doors annually and another 25 million users internationally, who access collections and services through the NYPL website, www.nypl.org.
Contact:Jon Minners| 212.592.7311 |Jon_Minners@nypl.org