New York Public Library brings ‘Treasures’ to light this fall

New York Public Library brings ‘Treasures’ to light this fall
The New York Public Library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Photo: Jonathan Blanc / NYPL.

The New York Public Library’s “Treasures” exhibition puts over 250 rare objects from its collection on display

The New York Public Library is dipping into its collection to present a trove of rare selections this fall. The exhibition, fittingly titled “Treasures,” opens to the public at the library’s 42nd St. and 5th Ave. location on Sept. 24, with free timed tickets now available to reserve online.

Installation view of the New York Public Library’s “Treasures.” Photo: Jonathan Blanc / NYPL.

And while there will certainly be books on display (among them: a Gutenberg Bible owned by bibliophile James Lenox, one of Shakespeare’s First Folios and a copy of “The Negro Motorist Green-Book,” to name a few), the exhibition gathers a wide selection of over 250 rare objects from the approximately 45 million items held in the library’s collection.

Highlights are slated to include Virginia Woolf’s walking stick; sheet music from Beethoven and Mozart; artworks by Henri Matisse, Édouard Manet, Andy Warhol, Faith Ringgold, Romare Bearden and Edward Hopper; a handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson; manuscripts from Maya Angelou, Tom Wolfe, Malcolm X and Mary Wollstonecraft; Charles Dickens’ writing desk, chair, personal copy of “A Christmas Carol” and his paper knife, featuring a handle made from the paw of his deceased cat; and much more.

Lock of Beethoven's hair. Photo: Robert Kato.
Lock of Beethoven’s hair. Photo: Robert Kato.
Excerpt from "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou, copyright © 1969 and renewed 1997 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House.
Excerpt from “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou, copyright © 1969 and renewed 1997 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House.

The works collected in “Treasures” span 4,000 years of history, and the exhibition aims to “showcase items that tell stories and spark further thought, curiosity, investigation and research,” according to a press release from the library.

“To move forward and make real and essential progress as a society, we need to understand what came before us. We need to learn the stories that have contributed to our collective story, the awe-inspiring, the heartbreaking, the infuriating, the spectacular, and the simple,” Anthony W. Marx, president of the New York Public Library, said in the announcement. “This is at the heart of the Library’s mission: to preserve and present fact and truth so anyone — now or generations from now — can explore it, learn from it, understand it in new contexts, and use it to grow and create a better, brighter next chapter.”

Hunt-Lenox Globe. Photo: Robert Kato.
Hunt-Lenox Globe. Photo: Robert Kato.
Umbrella belonging to “Marry Poppins” author P.L. Travers. Photo: Robert Kato.

Marx, who became president of the storied institution in 2011, noted that though the “collections have always been accessible to the public, we have long aspired to share these treasures even more broadly, ensuring that everyone can feel goosebumps in their presence and hopefully, be inspired to learn more and to join in shaping the narrative of history that this exhibition makes so clear is always contested and never finished.”

Set to rotate over time, the objects will be shown in the library’s newly restored and renovated exhibition space, Gottesman Hall, in its Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Included with the items will be stories contextualizing the selections.

1773 poetry collection by Phillis Wheatley. Photo: Robert Kato.
1773 poetry collection by Phillis Wheatley. Photo: Robert Kato.
Coco Chanel shoe. Photo: Robert Kato.
Coco Chanel shoe. Photo: Robert Kato.

“My hope is that visitors will gain renewed understanding and appreciation for the variety and diversity of the Library’s special collections, and how the objects featured in the exhibition have been preserved for future generations,” Declan Kiely, director of special collections and exhibitions at the library, said. “Additionally, I hope that visitors will recognize the thoughtfulness and scholarship of the Library’s curators, librarians and specialists who select and interpret our collections for this exhibition. We seek not only to engage visitors but also to educate and delight — and I hope that the ‘Treasures’ exhibition fulfills this aspiration.”

More information about “Treasures,” including how to reserve timed tickets, can be found on the New York Public Library’s website.

Top Image: The New York Public Library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Photo: Jonathan Blanc / NYPL.