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Posts Tagged ‘library’

Property of Frank H. Wilson

During my first summer at USNI as photo researcher, I made a friend. Actually, this friend does not work here or anywhere else. His name is Frank H. Wilson, a Chief Photographer for the U.S. Navy. Incidentally he served from 1911 to 1945. So yes, he is no longer with us, but he does live […]

The Digital Public Library of America opens today

At noon today, the Digital Public Library of America opened for business. Modeled on the greatness that is the Europeana library, the DPLA collects more than two million objects from museums, historical archives, universities and libraries across the country. The focus is American cultural history as reflected in photographs, manuscripts, letters, maps, artifacts, books, audio, films and more, all drawn from contributing institutions like the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the New York Public Library, Harvard University, the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection and the University of Virginia. The DPLA conveniently collates material already online — things you could find if you searched the websites of those institutions individually — but it also includes items that have been digitized but were isolated on local computer systems.

The library’s goal is to be a history-targeted Google, a vast repository of historical information that is open to the public and fully searchable. It has none the barriers that keep certain institutional sites from being included in Google search results, and unlike Wikipedia, its contents are mainly primary sources. The hope is that it will prove itself to be an invaluable tool for research, where students, teachers, scholars, journalists and happy nerds in general can get information from the horse’s mouth instead of via layers of edited composition. You can search by keyword, or browse by subject, and if you register for an account, you can save your searches, individual items and exhibitions and make shareable playlists out of them.

The contents are not exclusively American since many of the contributing institutions have artifacts from other countries that have been uploaded to the digital library, plus there are collaborations with international counterparts planned. DPLA has already partnered with Europeana on an app which allows users to search both databases at once, and they are working together to create an exhibition about European emigration to the United States during the boom years of the 19th and 20th centuries. The exhibition will bring together manuscripts, photographs, historical records from the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, the National Gallery of Ireland, the Jewish Museum of London, the Royal Library of the Netherlands, the Saxon State Library and the Norwegian Photo Archives.

That one is not available yet, but the library has compiled seven online exhibitions to kick off festivities. What’s cool about them is they each have a local flavor since the topics are drawn from specific partner collections and then fleshed out with additional substance from other institutions. For example, the History of Survivance: Upper Midwest 19th Century Native American Narratives exhibit is about Native American communities in Minnesota. It taps the Minnesota Digital Library and Minnesota Historical Society for period photographs and artifacts which exemplify the times and cultures being explored.

It’s the kind of thing you would get to enjoy if you lived in Minnesota and could check out the new show at the historical society. Most people don’t have that opportunity, however, and I love that even with its vastly wide rubric, the DPLA is dedicated to showcasing local history. The Minnesota sites are excellent in their own right, but I don’t know how many times I’ve been researching a story or link-surfing only to reach a local history site that has very limited resources and few options for sharing the wealth of their collections, archives, curatorial knowledge. The DPLA can give those sorts of institutions a great boost to their Internet presence as well as send them new real-life eyeballs.

The best part, other than having everything in one place, is how easy it is to stumble on collections you didn’t know existed. Did you know that Harvard University Library has a collection of 3,500 daguerreotypes, 3,106 of which have been digitized and are available to view over the Internet? I can never get enough of daguerreotypes so that’s good and bookmarked now. I found that by popping around the timeline, and I found the Digital Library of Georgia by letting my clicking finger do the walking over the map.

There are still some vagaries and bugs here and there. If you travel the timeline, for example, and drag the selecting tool to the decade you want, there are bars of varying length reflecting the number of artifacts in the database from the years you picked. However, sometimes when you click on a year that in decade view claimed to have an item, in year view it’s showing zero items. Also, when you’re going through the exhibits and you click on the information icon, the info includes the URL to the artifact on its home website, but it’s not hot so you have to copy and paste it into the browser address bar to go there. Another nit to pick is that the images, while almost all of them are highly zoomable, can’t be opened full-size.

That’s small potatoes, though. Let’s not forget that when Europeana debuted, it was so hugely popular that the whole site crashed and was completely out of commission for months. Minor weirdnesses are to be expected in the early days, and the DPLA is going to be expanding mightily over the next years. Future plans include apps, the library used a developer platform by third parties, partnerships with additional institutions and, avoiding the controversies that bogged down Google Books, some kind of digital lending model for works — books and other media — that are still under copyright.

So off you go, then. Cancel all your plans for the weekend and have yourself a voyage through time, space and culture instead.


Color of Christ comes to the Newberry Library and to Chicagolandia

Paul Harvey

Home For you Chicagolanders who enjoy getting out on balmy January evenings in your city, with the gentle tropical winds 

from the lake caressing your parkas, below is information about a free public lecture based on material from The Color of Christ at the Newberry Library two weeks from tomorrow (Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 6 p.m.). Thanks to blog contributor and digital humanist extraordinaire Chris Cantwell for organizing this event. Ed and I will also be giving presentations that same week at the University of Chicago, UIC, Valparaiso University, Northwestern, and hopefully at some blues dives or on some perpetually stalled-out El train on the blue line somewhere along the way as well; contact me if you want any information about any of those. 

The Color of Christ cover
A Meet the Author Event
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
6 pm
Ruggles Hall, Newberry Library, Chicago
Edward J. Blum, San Diego State University, and Paul Harvey, University of Colorado Colorado Springs
How is it that in America the image of Jesus Christ has been used both to justify the atrocities of white supremacy and to inspire the righteousness of civil rights crusades? In The Color of Christ, Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey weave a tapestry of American dreams and visions–from witch hunts to web pages, Harlem to Hollywood, slave cabins to South Park, Mormon revelations to Indian reservations–to show how Americans remade the Son of God visually time and again into a sacred symbol of their greatest aspirations, deepest terrors, and mightiest strivings for racial power and justice.
Co-sponsored by the A.C. McClurg Bookstore, a branch of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, a booksigning with the author will follow the talk.
Cost and registration information: 
This program is free and no reservations are required.

Rave review of Reservation “Capitalism” from American Library Assoc.

My new book, Reservation "Capitalism:" Economic Development in Indian Country (Praeger Publishers, 2012), received a great review in the August issue of the magazine Choice. Choice is the book review journal of the American Library Association and recommends to libraries which books to buy. 

I have been given permission to reprint the review here:



2012-403 CIP

Social & Behavioral Sciences \ Economics

Miller, Robert J.  Reservation "capitalism": economic development in Indian country.  Praeger, 2012.  208p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781440801112, $48.00; ISBN 9781440801129 e-book, contact publisher for price. Reviewed in 2012aug CHOICE.

This excellent scholarly volume includes enlightening history as well as analyses of present realities and the future of American Indian communities and economies. Following an introduction, two chapters cover historic property rights issues and Euro-American impacts, and five chapters focus on today's opportunities, including current business activities, tribal gaming, attracting investments, Indian entrepreneurship, and creating reservation economies. Since by US standards, Indians today are not doing well (poorest people, health problems, education and social deficiencies, etc.), there is a growing movement centered on creating sustainable economic development to improve living standards and sustain tribal cultures. Miller (Lewis & Clark Law School) offers many examples (such as explaining the current economic and business activity of his own tribe, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma) to illustrate tribal successes. He provides great insight into the politics, law, economics, and society of Native Americans by probing a range of topics relevant to enhancing the conditions of enrolled citizens of Indian tribes. This is a valuable volume for Native American studies collections and for those interested in the economic opportunities of today's Indian tribes, including business, government, and tribal leaders. Reference notes; selected bibliography. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate students through professionals. – J. W. Leonard, emeritus, Miami University

Reprinted with permission from CHOICE http://www.cro2.org, copyright by the American Library Association.

Religious Pluralism in America: Announcement of NEH Program at Newberry Library for Community College Teachers

We made this announcement a while back, but with the full program of this NEH program at the Newberry Library now filled in, I’m going to repost. Chris Cantwell, a good friend of the blog at Assistant Director at the William Scholl Center at the Newberry, is one of the co-directors of the program. You all who teach or administrate at community colleges, please circulate this among your lists and your faculty. 

Out of Many: Religious Pluralism in America: An NEH Bridging Cultures in Community Colleges Program

Meeting of the World’s Parliament of Religions, 1893 World’s Fair. Barrows, John Henry, 1893, B8.057
Friday, March 23, 2012 to Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Out of Many: Religious Pluralism in America
An NEH Bridging Cultures at Community Colleges Program
Spring 2012-Fall 2013
Daniel Greene, 
Vice President for Research and Academic Programs, Newberry Library
Chris Cantwell,
 Assistant Director, Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture, Newberry Library
From the ratification of the First Amendment to the conflict over an Islamic community center near Ground Zero, America has been marked by a profound religious diversity. The variety of religious communities in America, and the tensions that often erupt among them, have shaped the nation’s social, cultural, political, and economic development. “Out of Many,” as the United State’s seal proclaims, there has emerged a shared, if contested, legacy of religious pluralism.
The Newberry Library invites applications from teams of faculty members with sponsoring administrators from community colleges to participate in “Out of Many: Religious Pluralism in America,” an NEH Bridging Cultures at Community Colleges program that focuses on collaborative research for curriculum development. The tension inherent in religious pluralism between ideal and practice—between the ideal of a nation of many people of many faiths, and the real conflicts that religious diversity often generates—animates this Bridging Cultures program. From Spring 2012 through Fall 2013, participating faculty will conduct research in the Newberry’s collections and partake in discussions with prominent scholars to gain a better understating of key moments in America’s past when the nation’s ideal of religious freedom was challenged.
From June 25 to 29, 2012, selected faculty will attend a series of seminars at the Newberry with scholars whose work they will read. In addition to gaining an overview of American religious history, we will also consider the intellectual histories of pluralism, the Pueblo dance controversies of the 1920s, the interfaith efforts of Catholics and Jews during World War II, and the post-9/11 constitutional conflicts around attempted bans of Sharia Law. While at the Newberry, participating faculty will also work with the library’s collections to create new curriculum that integrates religious pluralism into their humanities classrooms. Potential topics for research include, but are not limited to, the library’s strengths in the themes of conflict and conversion (Catholic Missions to North America, the Second Great Awakening, revivalism, missionary efforts abroad), religion and reform (Abolitionism, the Social Gospel, Rescue Missions, utopian communities), interfaith dialogue (the World’s Parliament of Religions, freethought, spiritualism), church and state (the expulsion of the Mormons from Illinois, the religious dimensions of anti-Chinese immigration laws, religion in public education), and comparative studies (hymnody, Native American religions, American Judaism, Chicago’s religious history, religion in literature, church history, the influence of Eastern religions, Pentecostalism, Protestant theology). For more information on readings and topics, see the project’s working Zotero library.
Over the course of the 2012–13 academic year, faculty will implement this new material in their humanities courses and collaborate in an online forum. Through this virtual community, participating faculty will continue to explore religious pluralism through readings and discussions, post reflections on their teaching experiences, and receive support from project scholars and staff on teaching religious history to diverse communities. From June 26 to 28, 2013, participating faculty and their sponsoring administrators will return to the Newberry to continue research, discuss potential campus programming on religious pluralism, and advise in the creation of a website to host the project’s materials. In Fall 2013, faculty will work with the project directors to implement these campus programs.
The Newberry invites applications from teams of 2-4 faculty, along with a sponsoring administrator from the same community college campus or system who will work collaboratively over the course of the program. Faculty members will receive a $1500 stipend in Summer 2012 and an additional $1500 stipend in summer 2013 for their participation.
For further information, including a complete schedule and information on housing arrangements, please see the full Project Description.
Participating Faculty:
Martin Marty
, Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Christianity, University of Chicago Divinity School
Diana Eck
, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and Frederic Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society, Harvard University Divinity School, and director of the Pluralism Project
Tisa Wenger, Assistant Professor of Religion, Yale University Divinity School
Kevin Schultz
, Assistant Professor of History and Catholic Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago
Aziz Huq
, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School
Application Instructions
Before you apply, please read the full Project Description. Applicants are to apply as a team of 2-4 faculty members, with the support of a sponsoring administrator. Applicants are also expected to participate throughout the project’s duration.
Full-time faculty members, part-time lecturers, adjunct faculty, and administrators at American community colleges are eligible to participate. An applicant need not have an advanced degree in order to qualify. Applicants must be United States citizens, residents of U.S. jurisdictions, or foreign nationals who have been residing in the United States or its territories for at least the three years immediately preceding the application deadline.
A completed application (one application packet per team) includes:
  1. A Newberry Cover Sheet for the entire team
  2. An NEH Applicant/Participant Information Sheet for each member of the team, including the sponsoring administrator. (Applicants must complete the NEH Applicant/Participant Information Sheet to be considered eligible.)
  3. c.v. of no more than two pages for each team member, including the sponsoring administrator.
  4. A completed essay of no more than 3 pages that explains:
    • The team’s interest in participating in the program, including shared research interests and issues related to your community college campus or system,
    • How the program will impact humanities teaching both in your classrooms as well as across your campus or system, and
    • A proposed research topic that draws on Newberry collections. Note: We anticipate you will spend some time exploring the Newberry’s resources to identify this theme or topic. For a full description of the Newberry’s holdings see ourcollection guides, the topical outline of our holdings in religion, and the library’s full online catalog.
  5. Letter of support from sponsoring administrator, who will attend a portion of the Summer 2013 meeting at the Newberry and help organize campus programming in Fall 2013. This letter can come from a department chair, dean, or provost, so long as the letter addresses (a) the project’s relevance to the campus or system, (b) support for the faculty team, and (c) the administrator’s ability to contribute to campus programming.
    Completed applications should be mailed to
     scholl@newberry.org by March 23, 2012
For Questions, please contact:Chris Cantwell, Assistant DirectorScholl Center, The Newberry60 W. Walton St., Chicago, IL 60610cantwellc@newberry.org, 312-255-3541

Library Staff Find Stash of Ancient Coins

I love stories like this: a custodian called Tanja Hols was working at the Passau Historic State Library in Germany when she found a wooden box which had been left for many years. When she opened it, she found a collection of 172 gold and silver coins, many dating back to the ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine eras. The coins’ value is easily in six figures, and staff believe the box was deposited in the library c. 1803, in order to avoid handing church assets over to the state. The personal side of this story is that Hols is going to be promoted for finding and handing over the items. The Daily Mail has pictures

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British Library puts 4 Million Pages of Old Newspaper Online

I’ve mentioned the British Library’s plans to digitise its entire collection of newspapers before, so I’m pleased to report that four million pages of print has now gone online. Searching is free, viewing a page will cost a little, but the material is from eighteenth and nineteenth century papers which includes local material such as the Manchester Evening News.

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More About Washington’s Library Books

Back in April, 2010 Michael picked up on a story making the rounds in several news
outlets regarding the fact George Washington had two books that were over 220
years late he had borrowed from the New York Society Library.    

post stated, “The library says they aren’t interested in pursuing the fine
(that would be pretty hard!), but would like to find the original books.”

So, were the
original books found tucked away on some book shelf at Mount Vernon? 
Did The
Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association have to cough up the hefty fine of $300,000
which had been accruing since November, 1789 for the wayward books?

Well, here’s
the rest of the story.

In 1789, the
government of the United States was located in New York City at Federal Hall on
Wall Street.   The building which was
demolished in 1812 housed Congress as well as the offices of the President in 1789.
The building
was also home to
The New York Society Library, the oldest library in the
Their webpage advises it served
as the first Library of Congress since it was used by members of Congress and the
Cabinet including men such as Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.

Records have
been found that indicate President George Washington borrowed two books from the
library on October 5, 1789 – five months after being sworn in as President of
the United States.

One volume
was titled Law of Nations by Emerich
de Vattel described as a dissertation on international relations.  Published in 1758, the book was very popular
with many of the Founding Fathers including Benjamin Franklin.  Upon receiving three original copies of the
book Franklin wrote in a thank you note, “It came to us in good season, when
the circumstances of a rising State make it necessary to frequently consult the
Law of Nations.”

The other
book was Volume 12 from the British House
of Commons Debates
also known as The
or as Hansards.   This was a set of 14 volumes regarding
what was said in Parliament – equivalent to our Congressional Record.

At any rate
the books weren’t exactly light reading, but it is understandable the President
would want to consult those books since historical sources indicate Washington
was getting ready to tackle some diplomacy issues with Great Britain that Fall
and his diary indicates a meeting with Chief Justice John Jay and Treasury
Secretary Alexander Hamilton on October 7, 1789. 

library’s ledger does not contain the President’s signature and does not
indicate if he checked the books out himself or if an assistant did it for
him.  Someone did write the word
“President” next to the title entries.

The books
were due one month later, but they probably 
weren’t on the President’s
mind.   He had left New York on October
15, 1789 for a tour of New England.

This article
from The Week advises in April, 1792
the librarians retired the leather-bound ledger because it was filled and
started a new one.  At some point the
records showing which books had been checked out during the late 1770s and
early 1780s went missing.

if we can lose a library book they can misplace a ledger, right?

the library isn’t keeping track of their wayward books and President Washington
has things on his mind as well such as the Whiskey Rebellion, planning a new
national capital along the Potomac River, and then there was the matter of
returning to Mount Vernon and getting settled back into private life.  I hardly think he had time to worry about two

1934, one hundred and forty two years after the library misplaced the ledger it
was found in a pile of trash at the library. 
Apparently it had survived four moves since 1792, and finally made
itself known at 109 University Place in Manhattan.

This Reuters article advises the library conducted an inventory of books mentioned
in the ledger and confirmed the books President Washington borrowed were still
missing from the library’s inventory. 

The situation was kept secret for years until
2010 when The New York Daily News
reported it.   In today’s instant news
world I can’t even imagine a secret being held for that long.

Once the staff at Mount Vernon heard the news
they instantly began to search for the books, but were unable to locate either

Considering how President Washington’s  books had been scattered over the years I’m not

 At the time of his death Washington’s
personal library contained over 900 volumes.  
His nephew, Judge Bushrod Washington inherited the President’s papers,
his home and of course, his books. 
In 1847 many
of the books that remained were sold to a bookseller by the name of Henry
Stevens.  His goal was to send the books
to the British Museum.


Outrageous!    Right?

A group
quickly raised $4,250 and saved the books. 
They were purchased for the Boston Athenaeum – one of the oldest
independent libraries operating in the United States.   Even today members pay an annual
subscription fee to use the library’s resources.

collection is all we have of the original 900 volume library since other books
owned by the President were sold at auction in 1876 and again in the 1890s.

Getting back to Washington’s late library

The folks at Mount Vernon finally searched
the Internet and found a copy of The Law
of Nations
and purchased it for $12,000.

The book was finally returned to the library on May 20, 2010 during a ceremony where James Rees, executive director of
Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, told library staff, “We express gratitude for
your patience….and for your generosity in erasing the considerable funds that
were probably owed by George Washington. 
He did not do his public duty.”

Rees statement seems a little harsh in comparison to all of the things President Washington accomplished. 

What do you think?

Schecter on Washington’s Maps at Boston Public Library, 6 Dec.

On Tuesday, 6 December, the Boston Public Library will host a talk by Barnet Schecter about his book George Washington’s America: A Biography Through His Maps.

This book is based on a collection of maps that Washington owned which were eventually bound in a single volume, now at Yale University. It traces the first President’s life through those maps, some of which he drew as a surveyor and landowner, most of which he collected as a land speculator, military leader, and political official.

The book is oversized and heavily illustrated, letting readers see the maps as Washington did. They show the territories he worried about taking or protecting, and the early growth of the U.S. of A.

Schechter is also author of The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the American Revolution.

The library is presenting this talk in partnership with the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center and the Boston Map Society. It will begin at 6:00 P.M. in the Abbey Room, in the older part of the main library.

British Library hit 500 Manuscripts Online

Since September 2010, the British Library has been digitising manuscripts and placing the results online. They have now uploaded their five hundredth item, and this blog post has a sample …

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‘Stolen’ Manuscript Found: in Library

In the 1920s, the Elisha Palmer collection was donated to Connecticut College. This contained four medieval manuscripts which went missing in the 1950s, and they were presumed stolen. However, when Ben Panciera was looking through storage boxes recently he found one of them (still inside the library). It’s a Dominican work in Latin and French and written on vellum, dates to before 1600, and its ownership can (once again) be traced back a monastery in Rouen, France. It’s still believed the other three were stolen, but you never know…

Danger Listing includes Library and Bus Station

The World Monuments Fund have recently published their biennial report, listing sixty seven of the most at risk heritage sites from across the world. Britain had seven sites newly listed, and they range from the traditional to the modern. One example of the traditional is the ruined Cistercian Abbey at Quarr, which was founded in 1132 on the Isle of Wight, and which is now in need of repair.

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Clinton Library

Happy Birthday to President Clinton! This is one I always remember because it is also mine (I’m younger than President Clinton in case you were wondering…). C-SPAN is a special on presidential libraries and you can watch them online. So I figured I’d highlight the Clinton Library today.

You can check out this handwritten draft of Clinton’s statement on the Oklahoma City bombing.

Dr. Nassir Ghaemi at Boston Public Library Tonight

I’m going outside the eighteenth century to mention that Dr. Nassir Ghaemi will speak at the Boston Public Library this evening at 6:00 P.M. about his new book, A First-Rate Madness.

Two years back, when I was at the Organization of American Historians meeting in Seattle, I attended a session where Dr. Ghaemi spoke. His topic was the intersection of modern psychiatry and history—specifically, the case of Gen. William T. Sherman of the Union Army, and his history of depression.

As I noted a year later, Dr. Ghaemi had a broader argument: that bipolar/manic-depressive disorder and schizophrenia are found at a fairly steady rate across all societies, so they most likely have a biological rather than cultural basis, and we should assume those conditions appeared with the same frequency in the nineteenth century—or the eighteenth.

In addition to Sherman, A First-Rate Madness looks at Lincoln, Churchill, Gandhi, King, Kennedy, and others from the last hundred and fifty years. It posits that at times those men’s psychological challenges made them better leaders by enhancing their “realism, empathy, resilience, and creativity.” Here’s the Boston Globe’s review (and an interview with Dr. Ghaemi about his own reading).

Are there similar examples from the eighteenth century? Unfortunately, most of our sources on people of that period describe their moods only when they’re debilitated one way or another, like Lt. Neil Wanchope or Samuel Dana. We know less about mood changes they got through without so much difficulty.

Thus, it’s easy to say that former Massachusetts Attorney General Jonathan Sewall was severely depressed when he didn’t come out of his bedroom for several months straight after the war. But was depression also why he went unusually silent during the Boston Massacre trials of 1770, and the Massachusettensis-Novanglus debate of 1774-75?

Did manic energy, empathy, and a clearer sense of risks help Robert Clive build the British Empire in India? Did depression contribute to his suicide in 1774? And did earlier personal problems—or the loss of his leadership—produce the British East India Company’s fiscal disaster in the early 1770s, which in turn led to a new tea tax and then the Boston Tea Party?

British Library buys email archive

There isn’t too much unusual in the news that the British Library has purchased a poet’s archive, but what’s interesting about their acquisition of Wendy Cope’s is that it includes 40,000 emails, their largest purchase of electronic material so far. If you’re as interested as I am in how we’re going to record e exchanges for future historians, give this article a look

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All-night scavenger hunt at the NY Public Library!

This is so cool that calling it so cool doesn’t do it justice. Just when you think “okay, it couldn’t possibly get any cooler than this,” it gets even cooler.

On May 20, 2011, five hundred pre-registered people will get to spend the whole night in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library, the newly restored 1911 Beaux Arts masterpiece that was supposed to be the glamorous venue for Carrie Bradshaw’s aborted wedding to Mr. Big and is the main branch of the NYPL system. From dusk until dawn (8 PM to 6 AM), players will explore 70 miles of stacks, including 40 miles of underground stacks that are normally closed to the public, and use their laptops and smartphones to find historical objects from the NYPL’s collection that have been secreted all over the library.

Among the historical objects are a copy of the Declaration of Independence written in Thomas Jefferson’s hand, an ancient menu, and Charles Dickens’ letter opener whose handle was made from the taxidermified paw of his beloved cat Bob. Players will be divided into teams of eight. They will be sent on quests to find specific objects via their smartphones. Once they find an item, they use a custom designed iPhone/Android app to scan its QR code on their phones to prove they’ve found it.

That would be cool enough right there, but wait, there’s more! The scavenger hunt is part of a game called “Find the Future.” Every time players find an object, they’ll be assigned a writing task inspired by the item. For instance, when they find Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, they’ll be asked how they would write a few sections of a Declaration of Independence today. Then, at the end of the night, all 500 players will combine their writings to create a collaborative book which will be published and added to the Library’s book collection! That’s how the game is won.

Can you even stand that?! There are so many levels of nerd paradise here that I can’t even stand it.

Here’s another level: The game is designed by Jane McGonical, whose brilliant TED talk on how video games can help build a better world provided invaluable input to my essay on how to make history appeal to these gaming kids today. In a Q&A about her work and “Find the Future,” she describes her wonderfully immodest aim thusly:

The game is designed to empower young people to find their own futures by bringing them face-to-face with the writings and objects of people who made an extraordinary difference. Like every game I make, it has one goal: to turn players into superempowered, hopeful individuals with real skills and ideas to help them change the world.

It won’t just be the lucky 500 who get to play. On May 21st, once the quests have been completed and all the essays uploaded to the game’s website, the game will be unlocked, people in New York will be able to play at all NYPL locations, and all the rest of us schmoes will get to play online and create our own book of answers.

If you’re 18 and older, and in New York or plan to make your way there at the end of May, submit your entry by April 21st. Entries must be no more than 140 characters in reply to the question “In the year 2021, I will become the first person to ______.” The 500 players will be selected from all the entrants by a panel of judges.


New York Public Library facade restored to gleaming

The New York Public Library turns 100 years old this year, and now that a three year, $50 million dollar restoration is complete, it can celebrate in gleaming high style.

NYPL facade before (above) and after (below)

The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building was completed in 1911, and was instantly lauded as a Beaux Arts masterpiece and an emblem of American populism. What would have been a fit abode for royalty in Europe in the United States was a library, a public palace open to all. New York City is hard on marble, though, and over the years the facade began to deteriorate, more so than people realized until conservators assessed the structure before restoration began.

A survey of the building’s condition by [architectural firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates] in preparation for the Centennial revealed severe deterioration and soiling of the façade, particularly in areas such as the Corinthian column capitals, lion head keystones and scroll modillions. The survey also revealed roof damage, severe oxidization of the building’s bronze doors and window casings, and cracking, surface loss and other problems with the sculptures, including the six colossal figures by Paul Wayland Bartlett over the columns, and the two fountains by sculptor Frederick MacMonnies, who also carved the Washington Square Park Arch and the Nathan Hale statue in City Hall Park.

Actual restoration began in 2008. Repairs included installing over 2,000 individually carved marble stones – called dutchmen – to replace damaged pieces of the façade. These replaced elements – such as the noses and chins of the lion head keystones – were carved by Master Stone Carver Shi-Hia Chen of B & H Art-In-Architecture Limited. All of the sculptures – originally carved by a series of famous artists – were repaired under the watchful eye of Mark Rabinowitz at Conservation Solutions, the fine art conservation consultant.

All told, over 7,000 instances of deterioration in the 150,000-square-foot façade were repaired, including 1,000 cracks sealed, 900 marble balustrades repaired, 350 bronze windows restored, as were the roof and the bronze doors. The Vermont marble of the entire façade was cleaned, using 200 gallons of concentrated soap. As NYPL President Paul LeClerc puts it, now it “gleams like an alabaster palace.”

NYPL window before NYPL window after NYPL pediment sculpture before NYPL pediment sculpture after

For those of you as obsessed with before and after pictures as I, you’ll enjoy the NYPL Facebook picture gallery of the restoration.

Also, here’s video of the ribbon-cutting ceremony including a fascinating description of the restoration process by architect Tim Allanbrook of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates. That starts at the 6:50 mark and is not to be missed.


Navy-Themed Sheet Music of the WWI Era (1914-1919)

Navy-Themed Sheet Music of the WWI Era (1914-1919) as drawn from Bernard S. Parker’s World War I Sheet Music. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2007. 2 vols. The purpose of this list is to provide basic information on Navy-themed sheet music of the WWI period (1914-1919) as drawn from Parker’s work. The term “Navy-themed” refers to [...]

Some new titles at the Navy Department Library

Come visit us at the Washington Navy Yard to check out these and many more books! Allah’s angels : Chechen women in war / by Paul J. Murphy An Army at the crossroads / by Andrew F. Krepinevich Attitudes aren’t free : thinking deeply about diversity in the US armed forces / [edited by] James [...]

The Library of Dream

Beachcombing has, on previous occasions, enumerated some of his preferred invisible libraries: books or collections of books that never existed save in the imagination of fantasizing authors. And he could hardly overlook a notable recent contribution to the genre, the Library of Dreams by Neil Gaiman.

For those who don’t know NG is an author of graphic novels and novels. Among his many works he has written a series built around the figure of Dream, a being (‘god’ doesn’t really do him justice) who controls the imagination (dreams, fantasies etc) of the universe.

Now in Dream’s realm there is a library and in this library are the books that great authors only dreamt, but never had a chance to actually write.

Beachcombing enjoys the other invisible collections that he has presented to date but, to his mind, Gaiman’s dreamt library beats them all, being just a little below, in wit and breadth, the Musaeum Clausum of Sir Thomas Brown.

In what follows Beachcombing has avoided Dream’s geographical works – Hotels on the Moon and the like – and concentrated on his literary collection glimpsed in the Sandman collection.

Anyone, The Bestselling Romantic Spy Thriller I Used To Think About On The Bus That Would Sell A Billion Copies And Mean I’d Never Have to Work Again  

Baum, Frank Road Trips to the Emerald City

Bramah, Ernest The Death of Kai Lung

Burroughs, Edgar Rice Tarzan in Mars

Cabell, James Branch Poictesme Babylon

Carroll, Lewis, Alice’s Journey Behind the Moon

Chandler, Raymond Love Can Be Murder

Chesterton, G. K. The Man Who Was October

Dickens, Charles The Return of Edwin Drood

Doyle, Arthur Conan The Conscience of Sherlock Holmes

Fry, Erasmus The Hand of Glory  

Gaiman, Neil Rooms

Ian and Ann’s Book of Days

Jones, Diana Wynne The Last Witch But One

Kelly, Walt Go-Go Pogo  

Lewis, C.S. The Emperor Over the Sea

Lofting, Hugh Puddleby Papers

Lord Dunsany The Dark God’s Darlings

Marlowe, Christoper The Merrie Comedy of the Redemption of Dr. Faustus

Mirrlees, Hope Chanticleer’s Dance

Matheson, Richard In Times Like These

Moore, Alan Xenon

Peake, Mervyn, The Fall of Gormenghast

Swift, Jonathan The Last Voyage of Lemuel Gulliver

Tolkein, J. R.R. The Lost Road

Various People, The Real Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy  

Webster, John A Banquet for the Wormes

White, T.H. Arthur in Avalon

Wodehouse, P.G. Psmith and Jeeves

Zelazny, Roger Beyond Chaos

Some of these books are already a little dated. Gormenghast has crumbled to dust in this world and the world of dream.

Some titles are a little self referential: Neil Gaiman and Erasmus Fry (a Gaiman character).

Some fall flat: Beachcombing would have preferred Jeeves and the Nazis (remembering Wodehouse’s WW2 brushes with notoriety) to the weak Psmith.

And some are – at least to Beachcombing – utterly mysterious: who are Ian and Ann?

However, most are  simply fabulous.

So the idea of that fascist teddybear, T.H. White describing an elderly Arthur shuffling around Avalon in ‘a cat knap of old age’ pleases: perhaps the problem, if any, is that it is too credible and would see THW overindulging himself (just for a change).

Chandler’s Love Can be Murder works better because it is the book that Chandler could never have written in his waking hours, though his therapist and the local barman would have dearly wished him to.

The Man who was October is presumably a pagan version of Chesterton’s The Man who was Thursday: Gilbert set loose from the Catholic asylum.

Pace NG, Sherlock Holmes showed that he had a conscience time and time again. But Beachcombing likes the idea of the detective worrying about how  he has almost ruined Watson’s marriage, until of course the cocaine takes hold and then oblivion…  

Beachcombing’s absolute fave though is Frank Baum’s Road Trips to the Emerald City. Half Kerouac, half Yellow Brick. The Tin Man smoking pot and the Lion living like a glorious Roman Candle, while Dorothy writes bad Beat poems.

God preserve us!

Beachcombing is going Invisible Library mad at the moment as he is considering painting a composite invisible library onto the door of his library in imitation of Dickens. Any other suggestions, do please, then rush them in. Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

Beachcombing has been playing around with a Shakespeare title He was only a Stratford Lad or a Milton poem, Jehovah in Chains? He can’t quite get them right though.


15 Dec 2010: Some wonderful ‘invisible titles’ have already been sent in including Alighieri, Dante Hot Nights with Beatrice (SY); Charlemagne, Life of Einhard (JT) (Beachcombing loves this one); Churchill, Winston Look at me now! (SY); Dux, Arthur Six Months in the Lowland British Forests and the Cavalry Charge at the Hill of Badon (JT); Grimm, Jacob, Lies My Brother Told Me (SY); Hergé Tintin and the Nazis (SY); Plato, The Closed Society and its Friends (anon); and Smith, Joseph Making Religion: A Sociological Study (Fresh Mor).

17 Dec: A second round - Polo, Marco Into Africa (Dreamon); Hanno, Dread at the Chariot of the Gods (Draemon); Christie, Agatha 1926: Harrogate Diaries (Beachcombing); Columbus, Christopher Before the Peacock Throne of the Indian Emperor (Beachcombing); Higgins, Godfrey Anacalypsis: the Missing Chapter on Christianity  (Beachcombing inspired by RR); and Casaubon, Dorothea The Key to All Mythologies (Old Timer). Mrs B is giving some serious thought to one from the gospels…

Mail Call: Navy Department Library

We like getting donations in the mail at the Navy Department Library.  Gifts like items from the original commissioning of the Battleship Missouri enhance our collections and support the research of US Navy personnel, historians, scholars, and other researchers.  Interested in enhancing our collection of materials?  Click here.

Secret sealed room found in India’s National Library

Restorers working on the 18th century Belvedere House in Kolkata, home to the National Library of India, have found a large hidden room they had no idea was there. By found I mean they discovered that it existed, not that they’ve actually gone inside because there is no visible means of entrance or egress.

The house has suffered from neglect over the decades. Last year, all 2.2 million books were moved out of the old building into a new structure on the 30-acre estate so that the Belvedere House could be thoroughly restored.

The ministry of culture that owns the National Library decided to get the magnificent building restored by the Archaeological Survey of India since it is heavily damaged. Work has already started. It was while taking stock of the interior and exterior of the building that ASI [Archaeological Survey of India] conservation engineers stumbled upon a blind enclosure’ on the ground floor, about 1000 square feet in size.

A lot of effort has been made to locate an opening so that experts can find out exactly what it was built for or what it contains. But there is not a single crack to show.

“We’ve searched every inch of the first floor area that forms the ceiling of this enclosure for a possible trap door. But found nothing. Restoration of the building will remain incomplete if we are not able to assess what lies inside this enclosure,” said deputy superintending archaeologist of ASI, Tapan Bhattacharya. “We’ve come across an arch on one side of the enclosure that had been walled up. Naturally speculations are rife,” said another archaeologist.

Among the speculations are the classics: skeletons and hoarded treasure. Apparently prisoners were known to have been walled up and left to die in death chambers during the Raj, and secret treasure rooms aren’t unheard of either. Since the ASI can’t just go knocking down walls in 250-year-old historic buildings, they have to find a way to peek inside without damaging the structure. They’ve applied to the ministry of culture for permission to drill a small hole in the walled up arch through which they can shine a searchlight.

Belvedere House was built by Mir Jafar, the eighth Nawab of Bengal, in the 1760s and shortly thereafter he gave it to Lord Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of India. It passed through various hands, private and public. Then in 1953, 3 years after Independence, the Imperial Library was renamed the National Library and the collection moved to Belvedere House.

It has long been rumored to be haunted, with lights mysteriously turning on in the ballroom and ghostly carriages seen driving up to the entrance. Certainly it has seen its fair share of intrigue. Hastings had a duel on the grounds with supreme council of Bengal member Sir Philip Francis in 1780. (Hastings had called him “void of truth and honor” in his private dealings, most likely referring to a number of affairs with ladies possibly including one Baroness Inhoff, a guest of Hastings’ at Belvedere House.)

Photo by Avrajyoti Mitra

Photo by Avrajyoti Mitra


George W Bush Library Ground-breaking

Ground was broke for the George W Bush Library on Tuesday. The library is scheduled to be open in February of 2013 and will be at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Some facts about the new library:
  • The Bush Center will sit on a 23-acre lot on the campus of SMU in Dallas, Texas, and include the George W. Bush Library, which includes the archives and museum, and the George W. Bush Institute.
  • The design includes a 15-acre urban park featuring native landscaping and includes a rainwater collection system that will provide 50 percent of the irrigation needed.
  • The site will feature a Texas Rose Garden, possessing the same proportions, solar orientation, and formal organization as the White House Rose Garden.
  • The Archives for President Bush, the first President of the 21″ Century, contain 80 terabytes of digital information, including 200 million e-mails.
  • There are more than 43,000 artifacts from the Bush Administration on file with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
  • The Bush Institute already has active fellows working in the areas of human freedom, education reform, global health, and economic growth.
  • The Bush Center was designed by architect Robert A.M. Stern and landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh.
  • The general contractor is Manhattan Construction Co., which also built the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.

Do You Owe The Library Any Late Fees?

I don’t know about you, but I love to read books. I’m frequently seen at our local Borders and at our local library. In fact, I’m known to walk out of our local library with a huge stack of books, ready to explode out of my grip and all over the floor!

And…yes…I’ve helped the local government by paying my fair share of late fees over the years. Fortunately, my home county of Loudoun doesn’t charge late fees. They just freeze your card. :-(

But the neighboring county of Fairfax DOES charge late fees, and come to think of it, I still owe them about ten bucks. :-(

Well, ten bucks is nothing compared to what George Washington apparently owes the New York City Library. According to The Associated Press, George Washington, if alive today, “might face a hefty overdue library fine.”

For more on this story, read “George Washington Racks Up Late Fees at NYC Library.”

So, the next time you owe late fees, reflect on the fact that you’re in good company. :-)