The New York Public Library has always been more than just a repository of books. From the stunning architecture of its main building on 42nd Street (including pneumatic tubes!) with a site history connected to the Croton Reservoir, to more recent additions like the 2016 renovation of the Rose Reading Room and an adorable book train system, there is lot of history and curiosity to take in.
The library’s collection itself could rival that of a museum and last week, the library announced plans to open a permanent exhibition at Gottesman Hall, a 6,400 square foot marble exhibition space inside the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the landmarked 42nd Street building. The “Treasures” exhibition will feature a rotating display of the priceless items in its 46 million item collection such as The Declaration of Independence written in Thomas Jefferson’s hand, the original Bill of Rights, The Gutenberg Bible, the original Winnie-The-Pooh and friends dolls, the collection from the World’s Fair, a letter from Christopher Columbus to King Ferdinand, and more. In 2011, the Untapped Cities team was privy to an all night scavenger hunt inside the library to locate many of these treasures, and we are excited that by the fall of 2020 many will be on permanent display.
Original Winnie the Pooh and friends dolls. Photo courtesy New York Public Library
The new exhibition will be funded from a $12 million gift from philanthropist Dr. Leonard Polonsky CBE and The Polonsky Foundation. The New York Public Library’s collection also includes more than just physical objects – there are recorded sounds as well as digital items, currently spread across four libraries – The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the Library for the Performing Arts, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Science, Industry and Business Library – accessible for research purposes. The Treasures collection will be the first time these items will be available to the public on a permanent basis.
The Declaration of Independence. Photo by Jonathan Blanc / NYPL.
Additional items that might appear in the permanent collection include George Washington’s handwritten farewell address or his recipe for beer, handwritten notes from Charles Dickens along with physical items from his home, photography from renowned like photographers Diane Arbus, Lewis Hine, and Richard Avedon, original sheet music from Beethoven and Mozart. manuscripts from great American and non-American writers, a Sumerian cuneiform tablet, from circa 2300 BCE, and more.
The Gutenberg Bible. Photo by Jonathan Blanc / NYPL.
Charles Dickens’ personal copy of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Jonathan Blanc / NYPL.
The Polonsky Foundation was also the benefactors of a previous $1 million gift to digitize the manuscripts of early American writers as well as literary manuscripts from writers like Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and others.
Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of the New York Public Library.