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Celebrating 100 Years


Gottesman Exhibition Hall | On View through March 4, 2012

One hundred years ago, The New York Public Library opened its landmark building, now known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, dedicated to preserving its varied collections and making them accessible to the public. Over time, the Library has radically expanded its holdings, but its founding goals are as central today as they were in 1911. Library curators past and present have been guided by the philosophy that all knowledge is worth preserving.

Curated by guest curator Thomas Mellins, Celebrating 100 Years gathers more than 250 thought-provoking items from NYPL’s vast collections, a fascinating demonstration of how the Library has encouraged millions of individuals to gain access to a universe of information for more than a century. The first Gutenberg Bible acquired in the Americas is included, as are dance cards, dime novels, and John Coltrane’s handwritten score of "Lover Man." Organized into four thematic sections — Observation, Contemplation, Society, and Creativity — this major exhibition highlights the collections’ scope and their value as symbols of our collective memory. Indeed, Celebrating 100 Years also documents changes in the way information has been recorded and shared over time, beginning with samples from the Library’s collection of Sumerian cuneiform tablets (ca. 2300 BCE) and culminating in selections from the Library’s 740,000-item Digital Gallery.

Wachenheim Gallery | On View through December 31, 2011

The Wachenheim Gallery focuses on the history of The New York Public Library, from its founding and original collections to the construction of its Beaux-Arts building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, which was dedicated by President William Howard Taft on May 23, 1911, to the ongoing work of the Library through the century.

Add Your Digital Square!













About the Centennial Quilt

The New York Public Library owns more than 50 million items, from the first words ever carved into stone to cutting-edge digital art. We can only show a tiny fraction in our Centennial exhibition, Celebrating 100 Years. So we're taking the exhibition online with a limitless digital quilt, letting you decide what’s most important, interesting, or even bizarre in our vast collections — and then adding your ”square“ to the quilt!

The quilt is organized by four themes: Observation, Introspection, Creativity, and Society. To illustrate each theme, we've created some surprising pairs of items that also show the amazing depth and breadth of NYPL's collections. Like Dante's Inferno and a Frankenstein comic book. Or Malcom X's briefcase and Tibetan prayer sheets. Find out what these pairings have in common — and come up with your own juxtapositions.

Help curate the Centennial Quilt by uploading a photo, sketch, personal essay, or artwork inspired by NYPL or its collections. Add an image or description of your favorite library book, branch, or even librarian! Or contribute a snapshot, drawing or comment after visiting Celebrating 100 Years, our special Centennial exhibition at the Library's landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

You can also search from among 700,000+ images in our Digital Gallery for an object from our collections that you would like to add to our growing community quilt. Simply enter the ID number in the below box. Start Quilting!

Exhibition Tours

Free docent-led tours of the Celebrating 100 Years exhibition will be begin May 14, 2011. Tours meet outside the entrance to Gottesman Exhibition Hall on the Library's first floor.

To arrange for a free educator-led school or college group visit to the exhibition click here to fill in a reservation form.  

Read the Exhibition Brochure


The New York Public Library's Annual Exhibitions Program is funded through the extraordinary leadership support of Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman. Additional support is provided by the Bertha and Isaac Liberman Foundation, Inc., in memory of Ruth and Seymour Klein.  

MetLife Foundation is the Lead Corporate Sponsor of the Centennial Exhibition Celebrating 100 Years and related programming. Additional support for the Library's Centennial Celebration has been made possible through an endowment established by family and friends of the late Richard B. Salomon, and by Bank of America, The Skeel Fund, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Asprey, Wells Fargo, Celeste Bartos, The Wall Street Journal, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Titan, WABC-TV/Channel 7, Penguin Classics, and Gotham Magazine.