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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: 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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Transmissions from The Timothy Leary Papers: Declaration of Independence for Dr. Timothy Leary

The topic of drug criminalization cannot be avoided when discussing the Leary Papers; specifically, the laws governing marijuana. Although Leary is most closely associated with LSD-25 and other psychotropic drugs from his work at Harvard, the International Federation of Internal Freedom, Castalia Foundation and the League for Spiritual Discovery, the drugs centered in his research were 

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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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Transmissions from The Timothy Leary Papers: Evolution of the "Psychedelic" Show

When you think of the word, "psychedelic," what first comes to mind? Depending on your age and experience, you might think of the term coined by psychiatrist Humphry Osmond to describe "mind-manifesting" reactions from a class of psychotropic drugs. You might also think of the term to describe the graphic design and art created out of the post-drug 1960s and early 1970s. One might associate it with visuals aimed to 

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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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Surprises in the Jerome Robbins Audio Collection

Archival collections can harbor surprises — which makes the job of processing them fun!  The personal archives of artists not only document their careers and personal lives, but often contain material reflecting their interests and their times.

Jerome Robbins, a choreographer of prolific and complex genius whose work spanned ballet and musical theater, was a long-time supporter of the New York Public Library’s Dance Division. On 

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Segal and Sendak: A Grimm Collaboration

Earlier this year, the NYPL Manuscripts and Archives division acquired the papers (PDF finding aid) of the acclaimed novelist and children's book author Lore Segal. The collection contains letters and literary manuscripts documenting her life as a Jewish refugee in England during World War II and her subsequent writing and teaching 

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Transmissions from The Timothy Leary Papers: Hesse, Gurdjieff and Minor White

Early into my project, I opened a box and found a folder that caught my eye. It was labeled “Minor White.” A famous American photographer (b. 1908, d. 1976), White is known for his work with Aperture Magazine, the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco and the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. Most research libraries and museums with major American photography collections own his works, including the

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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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