New York Public Library celebrates 100 years

May 10, 2011 3:07:02 PM PDT
The New York Public Library is one of the largest in the U.S. and turns 100 this year.

But it's not all about books.

In fact, books only make up a fraction of the library's collection.

"It's universally seen everywhere as one of the greatest library's in human history," said Paul LeClerc, the Library's President.

The noble building on Fifth Avenue, the flagship of the New York Public Library, but inside you won't find just books.

"Right now we have more than 60 million items and books only make up 25% of that 15, 14.5 million," LeClerc said.

So what else is there?

Well there is a new exhibit celebrates the building's 100 years and all that the library holds.

The exhibit includes photos, prints, ephemera, objects, and even a lock of hair belonging to Mary Shelly.

"It really is nothing less than the memory of humankind and that's very powerful," said Thomas Mellins, the Public Library's curator.

Curator Thomas Mellins was charged with sifting through the treasures to find elements that reflect all that the library holds.

He divides his exhibition into four parts: observation, contemplation, creativity and society.

"This is a hand written score, it's wonderfully expressive," Mellins said.

The music practically levitates.

Can't you image Virginia Wolf using a walking stick in her final days, Malcolm X with his briefcase, E.E. Cummings pounding away at his typewriter, and some items are quite controversial.

It's a powerful distinction which emphasizes the power of knowledge, but with so much of the library's collection becoming available online; you might wonder what people will use the library for in the next 100 years.

The library's president says it will be a destination for writers.

"They'll seek to write here because of the ambiance and the collections," the president said.

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