This weekend I desperately needed some museum inspiration but was having such a hard time deciding on one to visit (I know tough life, right?)... The Met? The Whitney? MoMA? The New Museum? So many places were crossed off of the list because either I had been recently or the current exhibitions weren't quite doing it for me. I had near scrapped my museum plan when I saw an obscure photo of marble walls on instagram geotagged at the New York Public Library. Although not a museum exactly, it had all of the museum like qualities I was looking for and believe it or not despite being a native new yorker I had never been inside the flagship site at Bryant Park!
Often I have had a coffee or lunch just outside the building at the dark green cafe tables found throughout Bryant Park, but on this visit I noticed the pristine landscaping and appreciated the beauty of the public space.
The entrance to the library was simply magnificent. The intricate details carved into marble and grandiose columns somehow welcomed me and prepared me for an experience greater than my expectations. The museum offers a 30 minute video discussing its history and collections which I highly recommend sitting through. It was there that I learned more about the site's construction (1902-1911) which was atop the former site of the Croton water reservoir among many other things.
The library had an interesting start. It was 25th Governor of New York, Samuel J. Tilden (for which Fort Tilden in the Rockaways is named for), who left much of his fortune after his death to create "a free library and reading room in the city of New York." It was his gift and an agreement with the Astor and Lenox libraries of the time that created NYPL. I realized what a huge gesture this truly was at the time and still today to offer everyone a place to learn and develop. And for this to be such a magnificent space it truly speaks to the mission of the library.
Now that I have discovered the main library I plan to go and take advantage of the space and collections in addition to my local branch. On this trip the Rose Reading room, an even more grandiose space the size of a football field, was closed for renovation but will be opening again early next year. I am looking forward to discovering that as soon as it does!
Click here learn more about the libraries history. Also fun fact, did you know that the Bryant Park Lawn sits a top underground stacks for the library!? In the 1980s when the Park was in disrepair the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation renovated the park to include this subterrane for the library!