Since its opening on May 23, 1911, The New York Public Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street and its world-renowned collections have inspired people of all ages. On May 23, 2011, NYPL celebrated the Centennial of its iconic building with a spectacular gala and a rededication ceremony. In addition, a weekend festival from May 20-22 welcomed the public to visit the Schwarzman Building and attend a plethora of special events, while other programs and activities connected to the Centennial continued at the Schwarzman Building and numerous other NYPL locations through the end of 2011. The Schwarzman Building also hosted a major exhibition in honor of the Centennial called Celebrating 100 Years. A selection of Centennial-related highlights is featured below, including links to original content, photos, videos, and more.
The New York Public Library's Centennial Festival is made possible through an endowment established by family and friends of the late Richard B. Salomon, and by Bank of America, The Skeel Fund, MetLife Foundation, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Asprey, Wells Fargo, Celeste Bartos, The Wall Street Journal, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Titan, WABC-TV/Channel 7, Penguin Classics, Engine Yard, and Gotham Magazine.
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Gottesman Exhibition Hall
One hundred years ago, The New York Public Library opened its landmark building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street dedicated to preserving its varied collections and making them accessible to the public. Over time, the Library has radically expanded its holdings, but its founding goals are as central today as they were in 1911. Library curators past and present have been guided by the philosophy that all knowledge is worth preserving.
In Celebrating 100 Years, guest curator Thomas Mellins gathered more than 250 thought-provoking items from NYPL’s vast collections, a fascinating demonstration of how the Library has encouraged millions of individuals to gain access to a universe of information for more than a century. The first Gutenberg Bible acquired in the Americas is included, as are dance cards, dime novels, and John Coltrane’s handwritten score of “Lover Man.” Organized into four thematic sections — Observation, Contemplation, Society, and Creativity — this major exhibition highlights the collections’ scope and their value as symbols of our collective memory. Indeed, Celebrating 100 Years also documents changes in the way information has been recorded and shared over time, beginning with samples from the Library’s collection of Sumerian cuneiform tablets (ca. 2300 BCE) and culminating in selections from the Library’s 740,000-item Digital Gallery.
The New York Public Library's Annual Exhibitions Program is funded through the extraordinary leadership support of Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman. Additional support is provided by the Bertha and Isaac Liberman Foundation, Inc., in memory of Ruth and Seymour Klein.
MetLife Foundation is the Lead Corporate Sponsor of the Centennial Exhibition Celebrating 100 Years and related programming.
May 14-December 31, 2011
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Wachenheim Gallery
The Wachenheim Gallery focuses on the history of The New York Public Library, from its founding and original collections to the construction of its Beaux-Arts building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, which was dedicated by President William Howard Taft on May 23, 1911, to the ongoing work of the Library through the century.
Using the on-site exhibition Celebrating 100 Years as an embarkation point, NYPL created a limitless digital "quilt" as a way to engage and inspire a diverse community of online users. Visitors to the website can decide what in the Library’s vast collections is most important, interesting, or even bizarre, and add a "square" to the quilt by uploading a photograph, sketch, personal essay, or artwork inspired by NYPL or its collections. NYPL’s Digital Gallery, with its 740,000+ images, served as the primary source for digital quilters, but many contributors featured original content, such as personal photographs and collage work. Unique contributions include submissions by photography students from the Bronx High School of Science, who wrote short essays about their reaction to or feelings about the work and its importance to the collection; students from Curtis High School in Staten Island; artists; scholars; and library users from around the world.
As part of the Centennial celebration, the Library launched Biblion: The Boundless Library, a free iPad app that makes items from NYPL’s vast collections available in a new form, the digital magazine, in which readers experiment with a fresh way of reading, processing information, and exploring one topic or theme in depth. The premiere issue of Biblion, which debuted on May 17, focused on the 1939–40 New York World’s Fair and featured more than seven hundred items from the official records of the fair, which are held in the Manuscripts and Archives Division. The app takes users all but literally into the Library’s legendary stacks and opens up hidden parts of the collections and the myriad storylines they hold and preserve.
Apple Names Biblion the Best Education iPad App of 2011 Biblion: The Boundless Library received Apple’s top accolade as best Education iPad App of 2011. It was also named one of Wired magazine’s "Outstanding Apps for Readers." The popular app, with more than 140,000 downloads, puts the World’s Fair right at your fingertips, letting you explore documents, images, films, audio, and essays in the Library’s stacks through its revolutionary navigation.
Centennial Book Launch presented by Penguin Classics and New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)
May 19, 2011 | Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central Terminal
Jay Walder, MTA Chairman; Paul LeClerc, NYPL President; and Kathryn Court, president and publisher of Penguin Books gathered for a special book launch of Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public Library at 100, NYPL’s free Centennial book published by Penguin Classics. Guests enjoyed a special appearance by the Harlem Globetrotters; readings by actress and singer Martha Plimpton, writer Wesley Stace (aka John Wesley Harding), and 2009 National Book Award winner Colum McCann; and music by Tin Pan Blues Band from Music Under New York. Earlier that morning, with the help of the MTA, 25,000 copies of Know the Past, Find the Future were distributed FREE on buses and subways, in parks and neighborhood libraries, and to selected bookstores throughout New York City. The book features essays by more than 100 luminaries from New York City and around the world and photographs of ea3ch author with a favorite item from the Library’s collections. After the reading, contributors signed copies of this future classic. Read More ->
Find the Future: The Game
May 20, 2011
Famed game designer and best-selling author Jane McGonigal brought her act to The New York Public Library and used NYPL’s remarkable and awe-inspiring collections to create a one-of-a-kind game in honor of the 100th birthday of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. For the first time in its history, the Library opened the doors of its 42nd Street building overnight and allowed 500 participants to tackle 100 "quests." During the night, players were given unusual access to the Library’s stacks as they completed real-world missions with virtual clues and online collaboration — all inspired by works from the Library’s collections. The contributions of the 500 players were collected into a book that will find a home in the Library’s collections. Read More ->
May 21-22, 2011
Patience and Fortitude, the iconic marble lions that stand guard outside the Schwarzman Building, were also included in the Centennial celebration. Artist Nathan Sawaya used 60,000 gray LEGO blocks to create mini versions of the lions. The two LEGO Leos — half the size of the actual lions — were nearly six feet long and three feet wide.
Building and Stack Tours
May 21-22, 2011
During the Centennial Weekend Festival, visitors discovered the history and architecture of the magnificent Stephen A. Schwarzman Building through free tours of the building and its fabled stacks. During the guided stack tours, visitors got a rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse of the miles of shelves that house the Library’s preeminent holdings.
"A sectional view of the New York Public Library." Print, 1911. NYPL, Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection. Digital ID 805999.
Cutting-Edge Theater: Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway Collide
May 21-22, 2011
Following its lauded production of Gatz at the Public Theater, Elevator Repair Service joined forces with artist Ben Rubin and statistician Mark Hansen to present Shuffle, a new performance piece that provided a fresh look at literature we thought we knew. The script was generated in real time by computer algorithms that recombined phrases from classic works by Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway. Read More ->
Centennial Ice Cream
May 21-22, 2011
Visitors sampled ice cream provided especially for the Centennial celebration by Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory — for free!
"The Ice-Cream Vendor." Cigarette card, ca. 1922-1939. NYPL, George Arents Collection. Digital ID 1815995.
Fortitude’s Founding Father Brew
NYPL teamed up with the Coney Island Brewing Company in Brooklyn to create a beer fit for a Founding Father — a porter based on George Washington’s handwritten "small beer" recipe, which is in the Manuscripts and Archives Division. The two institutions brewed a very limited amount of "Fortitude’s Founding Father Brew" to toast the 100th birthday of the Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. The public had an opportunity to taste the beer at a free event by Shmaltz Brewing Company on May 18, 2011. Tastings were also served to guests at the Centennial gala on May 23, 2011. Read More ->
"Tranquil Joy." Hand-colored etching. England, ca. early 18th century. NYPL, George Arents Collection. Digital ID 1599638.
Dog on Fleas Family Concert
May 21-22, 2011
The Dog on Fleas family concert presented a performance for the whole family, featuring inventive music with trombone slides, fancy footwork, and singing. Read More ->
Live from the NYPL and The Moth Present Between the Lions: Stories from The New York Public Library
May 21, 2011
This special Centennial performance presented five storytellers — poet Lemon Andersen, author Ishmael Beah, author and journalist Jennifer 8. Lee, poet Sharon Olds, and NYPL’s own Paul LeClerc — each with a story about how the Library has inspired, rewired, edified, or demystified their lives. Read More ->
Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups Presented by The New Yorker
May 21, 2011
The New Yorker staged Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups, featuring David Hyde Pierce, Anika Noni Rose, and Gabriel Byrne reading three iconic works of short fiction from the magazine’s archives. It was a nightcap of humor, chills, and captivating narratives interpreted by a beloved trio of voices as one New York institution saluted another. Read More ->
Children’s Storytelling Festival
May 22, 2011
Performers from the Storytelling Center of New York City shared tales for listeners of all ages. Read More ->
Photo: Jane Hoffer
Visiting the Collections: A Discussion with Contributors to Know the Past, Find the Future
May 22, 2011
Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker led singer Rosanne Cash, novelist Patrick McGrath, Imam Khalid Latif, and other contributors to Know the Past, Find the Future2 — the Library’s special Centennial book — in a lively conversation about their favorite items in the Library’s collections. Read More ->
Photo: Courtesy of Penguin Classics
The New York Public Library: The Architecture and Decoration of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
May 22, 2011
This beautiful volume by Henry Hope Reed and Francis Marrone, published by W. W. Norton & Company, features new color photographs by Anne Day and provides a meticulous look at the magnificent Beaux-Arts building designed by architects Carrère and Hastings. Read More ->
Photo: Courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company
May 23, 2011
More than 800 guests celebrated at an event that raised $2.3 million for the Library. Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, broadcast journalist Barbara Walters, novelist Uzodinma Iweala, Library President Paul LeClerc, and Chairman Catie Marron were among those who spoke at the gala. Guests dined in the Library’s many reading rooms and other spaces, and were entertained by Staten Island’s P.S. 22 Chorus, the Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Choir, and New York City Gay Men’s Chorus. Bank of America is the Lead Sponsor of the Centennial Gala.