The New York Public Library on 42nd street is an institution and landmark in New York City. It first opened it's doors in 1911 and stands as a monument and instrument for higher knowledge and public access. I have working for them in their Photographic Services Department for the past 4 years under my good friend Peter Riesett. There I've had a unique privilege and responsibility of handling some truly amazing relics for digital photo archiving. Some of the more memorable items for me have been: Charles Dicken's notebooks, a Declaration of Independence broadside, Jack Kerouac's writings and drawings, and Walt Witman's scribbled poems.
The building itself is as impressive as it's astounding collection of historical materials. It sits on the eastern side of Bryant Park on 5th Avenue between 40th and 42nd. It looks like a roman palace or temple from the outside. Just to enter the front doors you have to ascend 2 large flights of marble steps, then once inside it's entrance you still have to climb all the way to the 3rd floor to enter the reading rooms. It think it's supposed to make you feel like your elevating yourself consciously and physically. You can not check out books or anything from this branch, it's strictly a reference library. You look up what you want to see, and a library page retrieves it and gives it to you. Other than books, the library has exibitions and parties, a map room, a terrific photography collection, and areas devoted to the preservation of it's collected items. It's solid marble walls remind me of a bank vault dedicated to harboring knowledge.
There is a great amount of the NYPL's book collection now available to view for free on the web due to it's partnership with Google to digitize the library's books. This began in 2004, and while it seems a tremendous undertaking, it sticks with the institutions philosophy to make materials available for the public. It can be accessed on the CATNYP part of the the NYPL's website. The area I have been involved with at the library is it's digital gallery and filling orders of prints and scans. You can view the digital gallery and purchase a print, or a digital file to use for personal or commercial use.
Our goal in the Photo Services Department is to produce an accurate reproduction of a material (either digital or film) without risking any harm to it. Once it's been done, there should not be a need to revisit the material for imaging use, and therefore it will last longer. We use a Hasselblad 555 ELD body with a Phase One P30 back to do the digital shots. A Cambo Legend 4x5 film camera is there for transparency reproductions. Microtek 9800XL scanner does flatbed repro work with our various Mac computers. Capture One DB and Adobe Photoshop are the software's of choice. As well as mailing you a print, transparency, or disc, we can also FTP your images to you electronically. In this way we provide high-tech solutions to archive and distribute historic material anywhere in the world.
I love using my knowledge of photography to work archiving important historical items. I get the chance to handle history, and make it accessable to future generations of curious minds.