New York Public Library

Libraries are the memory of humankind, irreplaceable repositories of documents of human thought and action. The New York Public Library is such a memory bank par excellence, one of the great knowledge institutions of the world, its myriad collections ranking with those of the British Library, the Library of Congress, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Virtually all of the Library’s many collections and services are freely available to all comers. In fact, the Library has but one criterion for admission: curiosity.

Internship Spring 2014

Connor Gaudet: The New York Public Library Building Inspector is a fun and somewhat addictive way to kill time and to contribute to NYPL’s public mission of inspiring lifelong learning and providing free and open access to library materials by participating in a project that will make information accessible in an entirely new way. Building on the work accomplished by NYPL’s previous MapWarper project, Building Inspector has users complete simple tasks, which identify and collect information from historic street maps. CEGaudetPic1

The MapWarper provided tools to georectify historic maps over a contemporary map – allowing us to compare the spatial relationship between the landscape of today with that of hundreds of years ago. Building Inspector is the next step in making the information contained in these maps more accessible and more useful to anyone who might want to explore it. By giving users these tasks, NYPL is crowdsourcing the job of collecting this data from these maps in a fun and simple way. You can contribute by fixing building footprints, identifying building use and construction materials, or by entering street addresses. It’s fun for the user and all the information is collected in a database that will help us to digitally reconstruct the New York City of the past.

CEGaudetPic2 While all of this information is useful, the most important thing is the street address. The street address will act as a sort of conduit through which all other associated information will be connected to its location on the map. For example, once we have all the addresses connected with their correct locations, we can add information from resources like the US Census, city directories, and social registers. This will provide information like names, nationalities, ages, and occupations of residents as well as information on businesses that would have been located at those addresses in a particular year.

Once we have names pinned to addresses, we can start attaching other information we find associated with those peoples’ names – information from newspaper articles, court documents, arrest records, marriage licenses and birth certificates. The other thing we will be able to do is begin linking NYPL collections materials to locations they are associated with. CEGaudetpic3

The NYPL Digital Gallery has hundreds of thousands of digital images – many of them are photos or prints of locations right here in New York City.  Often, the metadata for these materials include the location depicted in the image. With this kind of information already existing in the library’s catalogue records, it can be linked to its location on the map and be accessed geographically.

CEGaudetPic4 In order for this to happen, we need to first get that basic info – building footprints, use, material, and address from Building Inspector. That’s why I encourage everyone to check out the NYPL Building Inspector. Every time you tell us the color of a footprint or the address of a building, you’re adding to the database of information that will allow us to literally put NYPL’s collections on the map, making materials more accessible and rebuilding the lost landscape of 19th century New York City. So check it out!  Kill Time and Make History: NYPL Building Inspector

Internship Spring 2011

Lygia Guimaraes: New York Public Library Barbara Goldsmith Conservation and Preservation Division (Long Island City, NY). Evaluate the preservation planning and conservation best practices in some peer institutions, to serve as a source to better plan NYPL’s own needs.


Before I start to talk about my internship at the New York Public Library Barbara Goldsmith Preservation Division (Long Island City, NY), it is important to say few words about my background and how the knowledge that I am getting  at NYPL’ preservation department is going to build up into my career as senior paper conservator/preservation administrator in Brazil.

My interest in conservation started in 1980s and from 1983 to 1985 I was in London taking my Higher Diploma Course in Paper Conservation, with emphasis in Library and Archives Materials, at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. Later I took short courses in preservation administration outside of Brazil. Back in Brazil, I started to work for the Brazilian government at the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN), in charge of the preservation of Brazilian cultural heritage since 1937, under the administration of Ministry of Culture.

At IPHAN, I am in charge of the Conservation Section of Library and Archival Materials with the responsibilities to writing and coordinating preservation projects; developing new enclosures to housing paper-based materials; performing training in preventative conservation to the curators of IPHAN’s twenty seven offices all over the country; and main library and main archives in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, Brazil’s capital.

Here are some images of the Central Archives and the work that we carried out at the conservation section in Rio de Janeiro. Images of Central Archives in Rio


What really attracted me to the New York Public Library Preservation Division, for my internship, as a paper conservator, was a completely different preservation and conservation treatment approach that I have in my institution in Brazil.

The Barbara Goldsmith Preservation Division is directed by the Assistant Director for Preservation, Ms. Evelyn Frangakis, a very respectful preservation administrator in this country, and has moved to Long Island City one year ago. With her, in the last 4 months, I have learned a lot about administration strategies to manage the preservation programs under her division, considering the complexity of the NYPL collections. NYPL has more than ninety buildings, spread among the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. The preservation programs are: Collection Care, Conservation Treatment, Field Services, Preservation Reformatting, Audio Preservation, Moving Image Preservation and the Registrar’s Office. For more information about those programs please go to the Preservation Division web site:

The main goal of my internship project was to look the staff resource allocation at NYPL’s conservation treatment laboratory and recommend a different approach for their work flow, if necessary.  To help me with this, as part of the project, I visited some peer institutions, focusing primarily on their conservation treatment workflow.  These are the institutions that were very helpful in my project:  Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, Columbia University Libraries, Harvard University Library, and University of California-Berkeley Library. Also, I talked with the NYPL’s staff in the Lab, about their practices, and how they see their work in the new space, which brought many challenges for the Registrar and the conservators in terms of security and work flow planning.

During my internship I could observe the conservators work and was able to learn new techniques, as the one used by the exhibition conservator, Ms. Myriam de Arteni, to mount works of art on paper board, using silk thread instead of paper hinges, to avoid bulk on the back of the objects. An important issue that I have learned throughout my internship with Ms. Frangakis, is that the preservation program at NYPL “must provide equitable resource distribution, consistent application of high standards, and documentation that provides metrics of progress attained [….]. We need to be as good as the collections need us to be”.  Here are some images from the laboratory, which is in charge of the conservation treatment of NYPL’s special collections. Images of NYPL lab


Laura Newsome: working at the Manuscript Division of NYPL, processing an accretion to a collection of 19th century materials.

Movie producers could learn something from looking at history. Going through the Emerson Family Papers at the New York Public Library is like reading an exciting adventure story and soap opera all in one. There are so many interesting people and fascinating stories woven through the correspondence of the Emerson family. While there are no evil twins or mysterious murders, there is romance, war, illness, adventure, and family drama.

There is the story of a mother who found out she was dying of cancer and, without telling anyone why, took one last trip overseas to say goodbye to all of her children. There is the story of an archaeologist who travels to Greece and the Middle East and the Wild West, meeting all sorts of interesting people on the way. There is the story of an American journalist in Asia who falls in love and spends the rest of her life in India. There is the story of an entomologist who tragically loses his wife, and remarries a year later to a woman with manic depression. There is the story of an army nurse during WWII who gets engaged to an air force pilot, who then goes missing in action. The woman then marries another pilot, only to get a divorce a year later. About a year after that, she marries again, this time to an academic, and they live happily ever after. You can’t make this stuff up!

Archivists rarely have the opportunity to thoroughly read through the collections they are processing. Having the chance to do this in my internship gave me an incredible insight into what researchers can potentially learn from the papers. More archivists should have the chance to do this at least once in their careers, to help them remember why we process collections and gain a better appreciation and understanding for the histories we are attempting to preserve.

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