NYPL Researcher Spotlight (WFH Edition): Magali Duzant

By Jessica Cline, Librarian III
June 5, 2020

This profile is part of a series of interviews chronicling the experiences of researchers who use The New York Public Library's collections for the development of their work. The 'Working from Home' edition focuses on how researchers, through the challenges created by COVID-19, continue to use the Library’s resources remotely.

Magali Duzant is an artist and writer based in New York City. She has published three books, most recently The Moon And Stars Can Be Yours: Notes On Subway Psychics, an exploration of spiritualism by way of the NYC subway system. 

What research are you working on?

I am currently researching trees in New York City for a forthcoming artist book. The project runs from historical and famous trees in the city to street trees, dedications, and interviews as a means of exploring public greening. The publication will be a mix of photographs, text, archival images and personal vignettes that tie the chapters together (modeled after a field guide).

What resources are you using for your research?

This project is still in an early phase and so my research has been quite broad stretching from photographs and maps from the Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, the Picture Collection and on to digitized books both fiction and non-fiction through Overdrive. Right before NY Pause went into effect I had checked out The Overstory by Richard Powers which was a really great companion as I transitioned into thinking about this work from home. I’ve been collecting images of famous trees in New York City such as the Harlem Wishing Tree through the Digital Collections. The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy has been a great resource in particular. 

I’ve also been using Archive.org to find original catalogs from the earliest NYC arboretums which has been a great deep dive. The NYC Tree Map hosted by the NYC Parks Department is fantastic as well.

What tabs do you currently have open on your computer?

Far too many. The Digital Collections from NYPL is open, Overdrive to keep track of e-books, the NY Times Cooking section because I am finding a lot of joy in baking and cooking, the NYC Parks Department’s city wide searchable Tree Map, and an old New York Times article about the oldest tree in NY, the Queens Giant, which I visited recently. I also have an episode of QI and a Desus & Mero warmup on YouTube, an article explaining the German preterite tense, and the Wikipedia pages for Wisteria and Cyparissus (the companion of Apollo who was transformed into a cypress to grieve for his stag). I am allowing myself some distractions whilst researching.

Have you discovered a great online resource you've never used before?

Were I in San Francisco I would be heading to the Prelinger Library, an independent research library. They do however have a wonderful, small collection of their holdings on Archive.org’s website. For this project I made my way through a book from 1940, Cue’s Guide to New York City, which has the loveliest heading on the introduction, “Just a little honest enthusiasm about my hometown…” as well as Charles Lathrop Park’s Trees As Good Citizens from 1922. 

What's your working from home set up?

I moved out of my studio space in December and converted a somewhat wide hallway space into my studio/office. There is a small desk near the window that looks out on a lovely, tall fir tree but I do most of my work at a larger, messier desk against the wall. It’s filled with folders of images, a scanner, a notebook or two, and my desktop computer. I’m a morning person so once I finish breakfast and the paper I get to work.

What research tools could you not live without?

Honestly, Wikipedia. Often my ideas for works spring from a line or two in articles or books that I’m reading, ephemera I may have collected. I have a list I constantly update and refer to. Wikipedia is often my first stop to get a quick sense of something and to see where it leads—it acts almost as a figure study, a quick sketch, or a dip of my toe in the possible research waters. 

What's your favorite distraction or snack when working from home?

The New York Times Spelling Bee, Duolingo ( I am working on my German ), and Bustelo coffee made on the stovetop. 

 

Are you using NYPL Library collections to research from home? We’d love to hear about your work! Not familiar with our online collections? Whether you'd like a quick introduction to our newspapers, journals, or e-books, or if you need help with something more specific, our online consultations take advantage of screen-sharing technology so we can show you exactly how and where to find things and recommend titles relevant to your work.

Just let us know what you need help with and we'll be in touch to schedule a time.