Archive for the ‘NYC’ Category

I’ve really been enjoying the Valentine’s Day posts coming my way through Facebook and Google Reader today from museums and archives.  Here are few highlights:

The Morgan Library has an illustration of St. Valentine from The Hours of Catherine of Cleves.

The New Yorker celebrates the day with a post about the exhibit The Loving Story at the International Center of Photography (through May 6).  It is made up of photographs, taken originally for Life Magazine, of Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving.  Their interracial marriage lead to the Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia, which struck down anti-miscegenation laws in 16 states.

The NYPL Digital Collection has dozens of great Valentine’s Day cards.

And my favorite: Wellesley has posted its collection of the love letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, written between January 1845 to September 1846.

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A few weeks ago, Red Fox Books, in Glens Falls, NY, announced the sad news that it would be closing, the victim of a particularly bad local economy and ebooks.  Now St. Marks Bookstore, in NYC’s East Village, is threatened.  I remember going to this store when it was still actually on St. Marks Place when I was visiting NYC in college; it was always a highlight of my trips and seemed like a portal to the world of the city and the life I wanted to live here.  Some books from those trips still sit on my bookshelves.  I’ve never completely cozied up to the store’s (relatively) new space on 3rd Avenue, which is very slick and modern and a little sterile, compared to the funky warmth of the old space.  But the content of the shelves still can not be beat.  There is currently a petition drive to ask Cooper Union, the shop’s landlord, to lower its rent so the store can survive.   Peter Cooper founded Cooper Union–which still has free tuition–specifically to make education accessible; I hope the school will consider helping save a beloved local bookstore a part of that mission. I’ve signed the petition, and now I’m going to buy a book.

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Sometimes, you can encounter women’s history outside of textbooks, women’s history classes, and monographs–and it is always very exciting to me when it happens.  This week, I have read two great blog posts on sites not devoted to women’s history.  The first is Louise Bernikow’s article “The Radical Rich,” on NYCityWoman, about 3 wealthy women who fought for suffrage in NYC. There are some great lines in this piece- from the opening sentence (“By the early 20th century, New York was a city of women in revolt”) to the description of Alva Vanderbilt Belmont (“Like a lioness loosed from her cage, Belmont became an important strategist and leader for suffrage”).  There is also a fantastic slideshow.  The second post is Susan Amper’s post about Anna Katharine Green’s mystery novel The Leavenworth Case, published in 1878.  Amper notes, “Green’s first novel predates the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes by nine years, yet it seems much more modern.” I can’t wait to read it.

Another great site in women’s history this summer is the exhibition “Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore” at The Jewish Museum, on the Upper East Side.  It offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Claribelle and Etta Cone, siblings who helped introduce avante-gaurde modern art to the US through the amazing collection they amassed and their friendship with Matisse.  It is open until Sept. 25–see it if you can!


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Tuesday was the 128th Anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge.  It is one of my favorite NYC sites–I wrote about my personal history with the bridge as part of the NEH Along the Shore workshop last summer.  In that workshop I also learned that Irish immigrants protested the opening celebration of the bridge, as the date coincided with Queen Victoria’s birthday

For your enjoyment–a television commercial for the 100th anniversary, with appearances by some great ’80s characters.

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This past weekend, the New York Public Library celebrated the centennial of the magnificent building which houses its research collection with a series of events.  The one I was the most excited about was the tour of the stacks.  As many of you know, the  42nd Street research library is a closed stacks  institution.  Users fill out a form and submit it, and 20 or so minutes later the book appears at desk in the middle of the reading room. The forms until very recently were sent downstairs, to the 7 floors of stacks below the reading room, by pneumatic tubes, but I believe, sadly, that system has at last been made obsolete.  Anyway, the whole process seems very mysterious and slightly magical to someone like me, who has has spent countless hours in the building.  Most people on the tour seemed to feel the same way, especially the woman who had tears in her eyes she was so excited about seeing the stacks.  Perhaps not surprisingly, once we got down to the stacks, I felt like I was in a Wes Anderson movie set, in a charming thicket of  old card catalog cases, shoots and conveyor belts, call slips and (of course) books.

There is also a wonderful exhibition of some of the library’s treasures.  Highlights for me were seeing Virginia Woolf’s walking stick, Jack Kerouac’s diary that served as the basis for On the Road and the first book published by Europeans in the Americas, from the 1500s.  The oddest item might have been Charles Dicken’s letter opener–the handle was the paw of his beloved cat Bob, who had passed away. The exhibition’s curator Thomas Mellis is making a series of videos about some of the artifacts.

Another highlight–models of the library’s famous lions (Patience and Fortitude), made of Legos.

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I’ve been meaning to see the exhibit “The Diary: Three Centuries  of Private Lives” at the Morgan Library since it opened in January, but I only managed to get there today, 2 days before it closed.  I’m glad I finally made it, as it is a fascinating window into the ways people have recorded their thoughts for themselves and for posterity.  Standouts for me were the joint diary kept by Sophia and Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charlotte Brontë’s diary entry that spun into a dramatic fantasy world. If you can’t make it to the museum, there an extensive online exhibit and some great podcasts on the website.

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On April 7, there will be an event to celebrate the publication of Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography at the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation. Born in Austria in 1904, Chaim Gross emigrated to the United States in 1921.  He became a well known sculptor, working primarily in wood, and was a founding teacher of sculpture at the New School.  The event will take place in his studio, which is filled with his work. I don’t believe the models from the picture linked to will be there; if so, they are likely to be clothed.

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As I mentioned earlier, Hosmer considered Louisa, Lady Ashburton her wife for many  years.  I am sure they would both applaud Congressman Jerry Nadler’s attempts to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.  I’m pround to call Nadler my representative.

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Help the NYPL

I am the daughter of a librarian, and I love libraries.   As in, one of my favorite things in the world is to go to a new library.  When I worked at the Harriet Jacobs Family Papers and had to hire interns and staff members, I would always make sure to tell them they would need to do research at the 42nd Street research library.  (The one with the lions).  If their eyes lit up in excitement, they were hired.  I knew they were researchers at heart.

The New York Public Library, like so many institutions these days, is facing a budget crisis.  The budget for buying books has been cut by 26%.  For its Friends Spring Book Fund  Campaign, it has two angels, however; NYPL Trustee Tim Barakett, and his wife Michele, will match every dollar given with two of their own, up to $100,000.  So please consider contributing, even a small amount; your money will have triple the punch.

Speaking of the NYPL, I was thrilled to learn that the Jefferson Market Branch has added Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography to its collection.   My mother worked at this branch when I was a baby, and it is now my local library, so it means a lot for it to be there.  (I’m especially honored after learning of the budget cuts.)
If you haven’t visited, stop by the next time you are in Greenwich Village–it is a beautiful building, originally a courthouse, designed by Frederick Clark Withers and Calvert Vaux in the 1870s.  Don’t miss the spiral staircase.  And Sex and the City fans should make sure to also visit the garden next door–it is where Steve and Miranda got married.

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Last week, the NY Times had an article about an app that lets you locate NYC landmarks.  And of course I was thrilled the piece highlighted the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, which is on the Bronx Community Campus, where I work.  It was actually the first Hall of Fame in the United States and was designed by Stanford White.  Someone at the NY Times seems to have quite an interest in the campus (which was originally built as the NYU uptown location).  There was had a less-than-flattering article about the Hall and its present condition in Dec. 2009, as well as a more positive one about the entire campus in 2006.

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