MHNA Members Visit Library for Private Tour
Sunday, February 5, 2017
By: Elaine Silber
Where can you find miles of marble, a room the size of a football field, and hundreds of thousands of books, periodicals, maps and photographs? At the New York Public Library, of course! The Preservation & Design Committee’s Fall fundraiser was held at the Stephen A. Schwarzman building on Fifth Avenue in late October. Library docents Hilda Jaffe, and Nina Liebman, a library volunteer and P&D committee member, led a private tour of the library to a sold-out crowd.
The tour began in beautiful Gottesman Hall, the only room in the library with a solid wood ceiling. Poet Garrettt Buhl Robinson read one of his poems and Ken Weine, VP for Communications, talked about the upcoming plans for the library including the renovation plans for the Midtown Library branch. Visitors then split into two groups and listened attentively to the guides who were a treasure trove of information. Guests got to see the magnificent Map Room which has one of the largest collections of maps in any public library in the world, from 17th Century antiquarian sheet maps to the Google maps of the present.
Although this library is not a circulating one, you can take out children’s books from among the 40,000 books in the Children’s Division and visit Christopher Robin’s stuffed bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, while you’re there. On the third floor, you can find special collections, which are available by appointment only. In addition, there is a huge free online digital collection with some 800,000 images available. Some of the digital items include original prints and drawings, recipes, photos and original music compositions.
One of the most fascinating rooms, the Berg Collection, holds American and British literature and artifacts, including one of the world’s largest collections of Virginia Wolfe’s manuscripts and photos. Ben Franklin’s glasses and Charles Dickens’ writing desk are prominently displayed.
Murals and paintings abound in the stunning McGraw Rotunda. One of the highlights of the tour was the recently re-opened Rose Reading Room that had been closed for a two-year repair of the ornate ceiling. It is the largest room in the library. This room is for research, and its wooden tables, large windows and brass lamps make the room both majestic and cozy. Newly cleaned and painted, the room positively sparkles.
This Beaux Arts building, designed by John Carrère and Thomas Hastings, and designated a New York City landmark in 1967, is a gem, as are the two tour guides who are so knowledgeable about its history.
After the tour, members were treated to a delicious food and wine reception at Butterfield 8 with a chance to finally sit down!
Photo: Guides Hilda Jaffe and Nina Liebman