What do Mesopotamian cuneiform from the 3rd-2nd millennium bce, the manuscript of The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot (1921-22) and Malcolm X’s briefcase have in common? They’re all currently being shown to the public, for free.
The New York Public Library’s current exhibition, Celebrating 100 Years, is a treat for anyone who has no idea what the library has in their possession.
The exhibition, which opened on May 14, features artifacts that captures the spirit and mind of humanity spanning the past decade. Some items featured are a lock of Mary Shelley’s hair, which was sent to Thomas Jefferson Hogg in 1815, a Klu Klux Klan’s man’s robe and hood from the early 20th century and Virginia Wolf’s walking stick.
Although certain pieces may offend some, the curator Thomas Mellins has stated, “The objects I selected reflect the concepts of range and diversity in numerous ways, including subject matter and the time and place in which the work on display was created. But the encyclopedic nature of the Library’s holdings can be seen in another way, as well. Most of the items in the exhibition are of clear historic or artistic value. But the inclusion of some, such as a board game or Beatles trading cards, may confound. Still other items may disturb. The library, however does not function as our collective conscious; it is our collective memory. The Library’s collection rests upon the fundamental notion that all knowledge is worth preserving.”
Mellins said that his main goal was, “To show the depth and breadth of the Library’s remarkable collections. The collections constitute an irreplaceable tool for understanding our world. I hope that Celebrating 100 Years will serve as a point of entry for visitors, a glimpse into the Library’s vast holdings, occasioned by the 100th birthday of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.”
His past work includes curating an exhibition on the history of Lincoln Center at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Celebrating 100 Years is free, and will be open through December. Open hours are Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10am to 6pm, Tuesday and Wednesday from 10am to 8pm, and Sunday from 1pm to 5pm.