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Out of the Box

This blog channel explores the library’s world-class and ever-growing archival holdings. We’ll examine these unique materials and the works produced by researchers consulting them. Open the box and delve into the archives with us!

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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Transmissions from the Timothy Leary Papers: MPLP, the New Standard?

During the past several years, the archives profession has been rocked by a paper by Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner titled "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing."[1] Through examining surveys of archival processing practices, Greene and Meissner proposed that switching the emphasis from physical arrangement and preservation practices to intellectual arrangement and description would expedite the processing of most collections. The upshot of their findings was a plea to end backlogs for unprocessed collections. This method (now 

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Dorothy Loudon and Annie

Dorothy Loudon wasn't working. Neither was Annie.

Loudon, by the mid-1970s, had gone into a semi-voluntary semi-retirement. The Women, in 1973, was the last of a half-dozen promising Broadway shows (if you count Lolita, My Love, which never quite made it to New York) that closed in less than three months. She had enjoyed more success touring — Paul Zindel's The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, in 1971-1972, had been her favorite stage role — but Loudon was tired of the road, and hated leaving New York.

She turned down 

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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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Martin Pakledinaz for "The Pajama Game" (2006)

Legendary Broadway composer and lyricist Richard Adler passed away this year on June 21st. His seamless partnership with friend and composer Jerry Ross in the 1950s led to the hit musical scores and lyrics for The Pajama Game in its original Broadway run in 1954. Directed by George Abbott and Jerome Robbins, the show went on to win a Tony Award for best musical.

Fast forward to 2006, and we find Broadway director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall guiding and choreographing a 21st century revival of The Pajama Game with the Roundabout Theatre Company. Marshall 

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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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Transmissions from the Timothy Leary Papers: Ron Paul for President

With the current United States presidential election approaching, I thought it appropriate to share a couple items from the Timothy Leary papers relating to Ron Paul.

US Congressman Ron Paul lost his bid for President in 1988 under the Libertarian Party ticket. He has since sought election unsuccessfully under the Republican ticket in both 2008 

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Discovering Dance Lineages Through Oral Histories

Next week (on October 24, 26 and 27, 2012) I have the honor of performing at the Museum of Modern Art's Marron Atrium in Voluntaries by choreographer Dean Moss and visual artist, Laylah Ali. These performances are part of MoMA's Some sweet day dance exhibition series. Voluntaries examines the legacy of John Brown, a white abolitionist who attempted 

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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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The Speaking of Dancing Project

In the interview excerpt above, New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay discusses the challenges of writing about dance, using examples of moments in the ballets Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty that made profound impressions on him.

The theme of interpretation—in essence, how movement creates meaning—goes to the heart of dance as an art form. Interpretation comes center stage in Speaking of Dancing, a new series of interviews recorded by the

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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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An Introduction to the Dorothy Loudon Papers

Dorothy Loudon would have made a fine archivist.

As it happens, Ms. Loudon chose another line of work. An acclaimed nightclub singer, television performer, and theater actress, Loudon's most famous role was that of Miss Hannigan in the original 1977 production of Annie. The Tony Award she won for that performance opened the door for leading roles in a series of Broadway 

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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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Digital Archaeology: Recovering your Digital History

If you've been using computers for a while, you've probably purchased quite a few devices for storing your work. My family's first computer (a Timex Sinclair 1000 purchased for about $40 in 1984 from our neighborhood grocery store) saved files to an ordinary audio cassette by transferring data over the same sort of cord you might use to connect your iPod to your car stereo. Since then I've used floppy disks, zip disks, CD-ROMS, DVD-ROMs, and memory sticks, and with each change I migrated most of my important files to 

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