The New York City Archives Map

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Happy New Year! I’m so happy to start the year sharing a project that is very special to me and took over two years of head scratching, procrastination, and a good amount of sleeve rolling to complete. I unveil to you…The New York City Archives Map!

The map features items from eleven archives around the five boroughs.The archival objects were selected by a staff member or archivist of each museum, library, or organization. From an heirloom tobacco jar in the Bronx to a circus tramp’s jacket down in Coney Island, I had so much fun drawing and getting to know each of these amazing collections through one object’s story. The map is 16 x 24″ and can be downloaded here.

I want to thank all the archivists and staff members I corresponded with from each repository. Since I didn’t have space on the map to include their names I will list them here:

Natalie Milbrodt and Ian Lewis from Queens Memory, Madeline Thompson from WCS Archives, Stephen Sinon and Nick Leshi from the Mertz Library, Pamela Graham and Chris Laico from Columbia University Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research, Maira Liriano from the Schomburg Center, Emily King from NYU Fales Library, Ruby Johnstone from the Coney Island Museum, Alexandra Dolan-Mescal from Queen College Archives, Cara Dellatte from the Staten Island Museum, Nancy Kandoian from NYPL Map Division, and Jen Hoyer from Interference Archive
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A Plea For Peace From The Archive


In theory, archives preserve the stories of history’s winners and losers without forwarding an ideology or serving a fight for power. Over the last few months, the archive stories that struck me most related to the aftermath of misdirected political decisions and times of social turmoil. The first story, about volunteers who relay the trauma of Hiroshima survivors, made me think about the long term impacts of war. The second, a look inside remnants of Cold War era East Germany, seemed poignant given the current fears of a growing police state in the U.S. Both stories brought to mind the importance of archives in military and political history.

Summer 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the only two nuclear weapons ever used in war. Coverage in the New York Times introduced me to a special oral history project in Japan that involves denshoshas – volunteers who tell the stories of aging Hiroshima survivors. Before telling stories on their behalf, denshoshas spend at least three years shadowing the survivor. Giving the past a messenger keeps memories alive and human. The same way families pass down stories from generation to generation.

Japan’s Shinzo Abe is their first Prime Minister born after World War II. It is one thing to read about war in history books and another to have experienced war first hand. The Pacifist movement that came from the traumatic events of the war may be threatened by Abe’s reach for more military action with allies. In the U.S. I’m seeing a lot of politicians talk flippantly about the use of military force and weapons. In an Iowa stump speech, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz spoke brutally about bombing ISIS. “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.” This draconian tone underlines the need to consider history, and the repercussions of military action on civilians.

Wars leave behind stories of people and survivors. Wars also leave behind stories about governments. The Cold War archive at the Wende collects these messages together and preserves them. While others were leaving the old German Democratic Republic, Justinian Jampol went deep inside, collecting remnants of the old Socialist Unity Party in East Germany. Jampol crept into abandoned nuclear bunkers and found propaganda and secret police materials. The Cold War archive now lives in Los Angeles. L.A. is an unlikely home for European spyware but many donations came from perpetrators who fear being outed in Europe.

“People don’t like to think about our past and sometimes how we behaved,” said Jampol. “But we need to because it’s only by that process of discovery can we understand ourselves and remember why we did the things we did.” The survival of these stories could serve as cautionary tales; proof that oppression and war have long lasting effects. We like to think these stories are history, but the language and proposals of today’s powerful say otherwise. Archivists should collect stories of those persecuted around the world and collect the voices of governments as they try to sway the public and create their own versions of history.

Artwork by Natalie Pantoja based on pin archived at The Interference Archive.

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Django Girls just wanna have fun


It’s no secret that tech companies continue to be a boy’s club – today women make up only 15% of technical roles at tech companies. Luckily, there is a movement gaining momentum to reverse that trend. Leading the way are organizations like Made with Code, Black Girls Code, and Girl Develop It, which urge women not to be intimidated by code.

Another one of these inspiring organizations is Django Girls. Created by “the Olas”, Ola Sitarska and Ola Sendecka, Django Girls provides resources and support by way of online tutorial and workshops with expert coaches to help female attendees build a blog from scratch.

In less than a year after it’s founding, Django Girls workshops have been held in 24 countries all over the world, a testament to the growing interest many women are expressing in code. The online tutorial, an easily digestible intro to the Django framework and Python language, is used for the workshop but has been used by over 30,000 people online.

I recently attended a Django Girls event in New York which felt like a birthday party and workshop combined. With free food, booze, a photo booth and balloons, attendees were made to feel like VIPs. Guest speakers, male and female, told their personal stories about getting started with code and overcoming impostor syndrome and insecurities.

One day is not enough to learn how to code, but in the industry, sometimes a little bit can go a long way. Beginners can use resources like Stack Overflow or find meetups to ask questions and work through technical obstacles.

Before we wrapped up the workshop, all the girls were sent home with a rubber duck that represented a powerful message. In “rubber duck programming” developers who hit a wall talk through their problem to a rubber duck. The theory is that talking through a problem is often all that’s needed to find the solution.

I really liked taking part in Django Girls. Take a look at their events page. Hopefully there’s one on the calendar near you.

For more information about gender diversity in technology and computing check out National Center for Women and Information Technology.

Some more photos from the Django Girls NYC event in March:





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Wanderlist #3 Liyuan Library

This library is a temple, inside a meditative forest.

Living in New York has its big-city annoyances, like getting elbowed in the back while riding the train, getting splashed with dirty rain water when a cab speeds over a puddle, or finding a nice table at a cafe to dive into a good book — only to have the barista turn on an old Might Mighty Bosstones album to distract you from your moment of zen. When I heard about this small library, on the outskirts of Beijing, it fit my fantasy of a quiet place to sit down with a book and read.

Beijing, China, is more than thirteen times the square-mileage of New York with millions more people. How does one find solitude in a city that size? Wouldn’t it be nice to leave the big city for just a few hours and meditate with a book?

Liyuan library is shaped like a box and is small, around 1,900 square feet. It’s clad in firewood, sourced from the forest it stands in, which filters the natural light that streams into the library. The interior’s cascading floor creates private reading nooks. The steps of the giant staircase do double duty as shelving, and are laid out with seat cushions. Book cases cascade too, and no book looks out of reach.

I read that visitors are encouraged to bring three books to drop off and leave carrying away one. I’d be curious to see what travelers have left. To protect the floors visitors are asked to remove their shoes. My dream would be to have the entire library to myself with a cup of tea, warm socks, and a stack of interesting reads, perhaps about travel.

Most of the information I found about Liyuan library was about its architecture. I’d love to know more about the collection or Beijing library culture in general. If you know of any good resources feel free to comment or contact.

A photo posted by Brian (@mrbrian88) on

A photo posted by Helen (@herenguh) on

A place for quiet reflection in the heart of the mountain #LiYuanLibrary #????

A photo posted by Helen (@herenguh) on

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About last month…


Don’t let the cold get you down, there’s lots to be happy about. Here are some links and stories that caught my gaze in the last few weeks.

Children’s book illustrator and provocateur Tomi Ungerer has a mesmerizing show at The Drawing Center right now. Ungerer gave life to an array of dreamy places and characters. Ungerer recently wrote a two part essay you can read via Phaidon, titled “Whatever you’re up to, make yourself noticed!”


These temporary literary tattoos. I would rather have a line from Oscar Wilde or T.S. Eliot on my arm.

Snapshots from an iconic 1960’s fashion photographer’s archive. The slideshow was put together by The Cut for an exhibit of photographs by Gösta Peterson, who was known for choosing eccentric models.

A look inside the library where another famous manifesto was started, The Communist Manifesto. The Library, Chetham, is Britain’s oldest public reference library.

Lastly, picking up the pieces in Ferguson, Missouri. Archivists and historians acknowledge how fresh the wounds are and recognize the importance of documenting the destruction of parts of their city.

Illustration from Tomi Ungerer’s Moon Man.

Another one for the books


We’re two days into 2015 and I’m still nailing down my resolutions. One thing I know for sure is this year I’m going to jump into projects I’ve been putting off because they’re hard or I haven’t felt ready. Expect to see more personal essays and stories on LM.

Before jumping into the year ahead, here’s a look back at some links from November and December to round out 2014.

The Sketchbook Project, an archive of over 30,000 artists’ books, resides at The Brooklyn Art Library in Williamsburg. The sketchbooks, filled with drawings, collages, notes to self and confessions to readers, have been digitized and cataloged and are now available to browse online. When you search the database of sketchbooks, you are essentially looking through images from the imaginations and dreams of artists around the world. My friend Shoko wrote a cool feature about the project on her blog.

This summer, when schools in Ferguson, MO closed amid protests and riots spurred by the police shooting of Michael Brown, the Ferguson public library stayed open, hosting classes to give people a place to go. Now with help from Twitter and writer Neil Gaiman, the library is getting financial support from around the country. What will they do with the money? Scott Bonner, the head librarian plans to purchase more “healing kits” for children. The kits can be borrowed and include books about dealing with traumatic events and a stuffed animal that children can keep. There’s even talk of the library hiring a second full time librarian.

With so many conflicts making headlines, this quote featured on The Paris Review caught my attention. “If every head of state and every government official spent an hour a day reading poetry we’d live in a much more humane and decent world…” The author? Mark Strand, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1999, who died in November. I had never read Mark Strand’s poetry before, but, after reading tributes to him, I instantly took to his work.

We were given a glimpse into authors and artists appraisal of their own work when Christie’s auctioned 75 annotated first editions this Fall. Beloved author and illustrator Eric Carle found fault with his popular work The Very Hungry Caterpillar writing, “I have often tried to recreate the soul full look of the moon — never succeeded!” The New York Times Magazine has all 75 works available to peruse.

I am envious of the second annual Jealousy List. At year’s end Bloomberg Businessweek compiles some of the stories they wish they had had the know-how to publish over the last 12 months. Topics include: venture philanthropy, offender-funded justice, and the unexpected mass appeal of “Serial.” Hey, there’s nothing wrong with lusting after a story.

2014, it’s been sometimes scary, a little disheartening, but fascinating and inspiring too. I am so grateful to friends for reading and I thank anyone who has stumbled upon and continued to read Library Manifesto this year!



Images via The Sketchbook Project. From top: Stacie Spencer, Aimee Rudic, Maria M. Rodriguez

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Holiday Crafting with Library Manifesto


Today being Christmas Eve, it seems an apt time to share some festive literary tree ornaments. I made them using a neat catalog of rare books from the wonderful Honey & Wax Booksellers. The images of first edition book covers, with beautifully designed lettering, ornate borders, and darling details, inspired different variations of a DIY tree decoration. (I also used them as gift tags.)

I like simple crafts and this idea, if you couldn’t already tell, is the simplest. All it took was a circle cutter, scissors, and a little glue. I also used ribbon and baker’s twine for hangers. First, using a circle paper cutter I made a front and back circle, then I glued the ribbon or twine on the inside of the back circle and fastened the top circle over it with glue. For a bit of decoration, I used needle and thread to secure the hanger. I let it dry for a moment, and voila! My tree looked infinitely smarter.


I saw the cover of this first American edition of Ulysses on display in an exhibit of Ernst Reichl‘s work at Columbia University last year. I love how the title spans the height of the book, with lines stretching up, down and across the cover. A nerdy detail: Including the book’s spine, I found, added dimension.

This two sided ornament is my favorite. Mitsou is a wordless story of a runaway cat, the picture book was created by the artist Balthus when he was 13 years old. It’s a wonderful reminder of the imagination of young creative minds.




An even simpler method: Choose a page with compelling books on both sides and a hole punch. This John Keats title page is as immaculate as any traditional tree ornament!


Wishing you the best holiday season. Thank you for reading. Next week, I’ll have an end of year reading list.

Weaving an online textile archive


This fall the Andrea Aranow Textile Design Collection launched Textile Hive, an interactive database and window into its digitized collection. The Andrea Aranow collection includes some 40,000 pieces from complete garments to fabric swatches, sourced from 50 different countries. Textile Hive was designed by Andrea Aranow’s son, Caleb Sayan, who started the project five years ago. With the application, Sayan hopes to broaden the audience of the archive to anyone with an internet connection. (You’ll also have to pay a membership fee.)

Aranow got her start in clothing in New York in 1967 when she opened Dakota Transit. There, her handmade leather and snakeskin garments gained the attention of high profile clients like Jimi Hendrix and Betty Davis. When Aranow lived in Peru, doing cultural research for a museum in the 1970s, she became interested in collecting handwoven and industrial fabrics. She traveled in South America, the Middle East, Europe and Asia, often with her two young sons, acquiring fabrics for museums and her own collection. That work grew into what is now one of the largest private textile archives in the world.


While Aranow is still consulting in New York, Sayan moved the collection to Portland, OR and started building Textile Hive.

When Sayan began digitizing the archives, he had little knowledge about building an online research tool of this scope and size. Sayan tried finding examples of archival terms and taxonomies to work from. He looked at the cataloging system used at The Textile Museum in Washington D.C., but it wasn’t a good match. Sayan and his team landed on a taxonomy with over 19 categories, like culture, era, embellishments, and luminescence, and over 2300 terms.



Sayan built custom software to create the experience he had in mind. “I view the application itself as an augmented tool for interacting with the collection,” Sayan said.

Users have different access points into the collection including by place of origin on a map or by cultural aesthetic. Another search tool pins textiles side by side for comparison (shown above). One cool feature brings researchers into the space, where they can browse virtual drawers and shelves that correspond to the physical archive.

Textile Hive was created for art historians and fabric lovers, but would delight anyone with an appreciation for beautiful objects. “I wanted to show how this collection is different from a museum collection, in that it had a point of view and was personal,” said Sayan.

The finished product is a multi-layered application, as unique as the archive it was born from.

Watch a short video about Andrea Aranow and the digital collection here.

Images courtesy of Andrea Aranow Collection/Textile Hive.

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An unquiet cataloger

photo(5)“What is the greatest joy of Arabic cataloging?” asks Jessamy, “I will tell you: serious works with rhyming titles.”

The creator of Ghilafaat, a curious sounding Instragram feed and Tumblr site, Jessamy Klapper gives followers a glimpse of newly published Arabic and Persian book covers with a candid piece of commentary. Jessamy has access to a conveyor belt of interesting new acquisitions, from poetry to short stories to textbooks, as a cataloger at Columbia University.

Ghilafaat is a made-up plural of ghilaaf, the Arabic word used to refer to a book cover. Jessamy’s posts are a compelling look into the world of Arab and Persian literature. Ghilafaat is the only place I see these covers and imagery.

“Ghilafaat are the fleeting impressions and ideas you get from glancing at the cover of a book,” said Jessamy. “The things that make you want to turn back and look again…or hurry away!” Some covers stand on their own as works of art. The designs incorporate colorful typography, photography, playful illustrations, and collage. Others are more subdued. For a simple cover with a black and white portrait, Jessamy writes, “Here’s Ahmad Reza Ahmadi looking pensive again, this time on the cover of Naser Saffarian’s study of the poet’s work: A Poet Unlike His Poems.”

Jessamy shares these books because she loves the material. “Sometimes I am already familiar with the book or author before it arrives – I tend to highlight those books as well, just because I’m excited to see them! It’s like spotting a familiar face in a crowd of strangers.”

Here are three of Jessamy’s favorite posts from Ghilafaat:

1. I loved the Nowherelanders, for exactly the same reason I wrote in the original posts. I’d love to do translations of the Nowherelanders’ individual bios.


Meet the fascinating faces of Nowhereland! This is catalogued as a collection of short stories, but it’s almost like an art catalog. Each story is presented as the bio of a particular character, photographed and presented in detail. I love these ugly-cute-strange doll-sculpture-people. My Persian professor was so enamored of them, he got his own copy. Author/artist: Alireza Mir’asadullah. #persian #art #fiction #books #bookcovers #dollmaking #sculpture #mixedmedia

2. This book is one of my favorites because it has gorgeous illustrations, and it’s a bilingual edition. The book I photographed here is actually the second copy I’ve cataloged – the first one passed through before I created Ghilafaat & I thought I had missed my chance!


Gorgeous watercolor illustrations on (and inside!) this bilingual volume on the Emir Abdelkader. #art #arabic #french #history #books #bookcovers #coverart

3. This book isn’t really one of my favorite covers, but I wanted to share something that illustrates another side of this project – sometimes the books make me laugh. This one is a sort of tabloid-style ‘expose’ on the life of a star from Egyptian cinema’s Golden Age – Su’ad Husni. It has all the markings of something you would see on your way out the grocery aisle; insensitive, sensational questions in bold type, references to heretofore unseen documents, a glamorous photo of the starlet made ominous by a black background…On top of everything else, the author Samir Farraj has added a sort of pen name: ‘Ibn al-Shati” This title translates to Son of the Beach, and I’m really not mature enough to let something like that slide. ghila_3

WAIT, wait, wait—am I cataloging acquisitions at a respected research institution, or am I in line at the grocery store (of golden age Egyptian cinema, that is)? “Suad Hosny: did she kill herself, or was she murdered?” This macabre piece promises to include heretofore unseen documents and also declares that this “book is considered a historic document.” By whom, we don’t know. Side note: Author Samir Farraj seems to have a nickname of sorts “Ibn al-Shati’” which literally translates to ‘Son of the Beach.’ Hmm. #arabic #egypt #suadhosny #egyptiancinema #scandals #books #bookcovers

Top Image: Jessamy at the library, taken by Natalie.

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