Category Archives: Special Events

Defying Meanies and the Status Quo

Elvis Zine Illustration

“Do you make zines?” I heard this asked a lot at the Feminist Zine Fest. I think it captures the inclusiveness of the community that convened in Barnard Hall Saturday, March 1st. Barnard zine librarian Jenna Freedman secured the space for the event, previously held at The Commons in Brooklyn. About 40 tablers in all lined the room, their tabletops covered with not only zines but lollipops, QR code tablecloths, pom-poms, pins, patches, garland, rocks, and stuffed animals. DJ Troy Frost, herself a zinester, artist and self-described “feminist supastar” provided the soundtrack.

There were zines covering topics of race, sexuality, identity, personal histories and family histories. If you were looking for a yoga themed zine, or a zine about unhelpful cats, there was a table that had it! Natsumi, a recent graduate of The School of Oriental and African Studies, grabbed a zine about Nigeria.

For those who really want to get deep in zine culture, libraries like the ones at Barnard College and the Papercut Zine Library in Cambridge, MA house thousands of zines. I chatted with Mitch from Papercut Zine Library who told me libraries play an important role in giving a home to zines and preserving the narratives of marginalized people. Zines are primary resources of people’s lives, many of whom are underrepresented in mainstream publishing. Zine libraries help to fill that void.

Some zines that caught my eye were not concerned with telling personal stories. Elvis Bakaitis, an organizer, displayed a series called Homos in Herstory (and drew the cool illustration above). Another zinester had compiled all of her favorite quotes from books she’s read since the 10th grade. A few tables over Nicole, a social studies teacher at the Calhoun School displayed some zines made by teens of various ages at the school. On the Zinefest blog Nicole talked about the process of making zines with the young women, “We had to negotiate what to include, how to represent ourselves and contributors, how to deal with conflict. So, zine making was a really important feminist praxis for me.”

Walking around the room, I wanted to read all the zines and celebrate their uniqueness. For the rest of the day I was very proud to wear a pin that read, in script letters, “don’t be mean, make a zine!”

(Artwork: Elvis Bakaitis)

Making Pins at Zine Fest

Barnard Zine Club

dj troy frost feminist zine fest

Tables at Fest

(Photos: Library Manifesto)

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The Provenance of New York City Buildings

Old and new building illustration Library Manifesto

What’s one thing city streets have in common with research? Sometimes there are dead ends.

On October 7th as part of Archives Week the Brooklyn Historical Society held a free workshop event hosted by Librarian Elizabeth Call. I left the event feeling curious about the history of the places I’ve lived, who lived there, and when they were built.

If you’re interested in a landmarked neighborhood or building, The Brooklyn Historical Society archives landmark neighborhood and building reports. For non-landmark buildings, atlases and land conveyances provide information, for instance when property changed hands. At the Othmer Library, a landmark itself, wood paneling, columns, and high ceilings shape the ambiance for research. Information about their in-house collection can be viewed here.

For researchers who can’t make it to the Society, there are many options to pursue online. It’s often helpful to go beyond the address for a property and find the building and lot number. The NYC Department of Buildings provides that and other really basic, but useful information.

Once you look up a property there may be a link to see “Actions” that include digitized files available as PDFs. Call warned that sometimes these PDFs are mislabeled and often the quality is so low they may be illegible. The Department of Buildings has many records on site at 210 Joralemon Street, but other records are located in Jamaica, Queens. Researchers might travel back and forth more than they’d expect to. Here is an example of a random address, 219 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, searched on the NYC DOB website.

Department of Buildings Screen Shot

On NYC DOB search an address on the bottom left

Department of Buildings Screen Shot

Click on “Actions” on the left bottom column to find PDFs

Department of Buildings Screen Shot

Certificate of Occupancy for 219 Dekalb

The Department of Finance offers ACRIS, an online database of property ownership records. ACRIS allows you to search property records and view document images for Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, and Brooklyn from 1966 to the present.

A fun visual supplement to document research comes from the Tax Photography Collection at the New York City Municipal Archives. First completed in the 1930s and 40s (way before Google put cars on the road for their maps), these photographs captured each building in New York City for tax appraisal evaluations. The Municipal Archives took on the task of restoring the old 35mm negatives (720,000 or so) and they’re now available on microfilm. In the 1980s the project was repeated. Elizabeth Call showed us a photograph of a charming brownstone house that in the 80s was boarded up. It’s striking to see the history of a building when it’s down on its luck and then on its comeback. Below you can compare 219 Dekalb Avenue, from the example above, in the 1980s and then a more recent image from Google Maps. The liquor store signs remains.

Tax Photography Colection Screen Shot

219 Dekalb circa 1980 from the Tax Photography Collection

Google Maps Street View

219 Dekalb circa 2013 from Google Maps

Columbia University’s Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library is another well of research materials for the real estate biographer. Real Estate Records and Builders Guide has thousands of property articles dating from 1868-1922 and the NY Real Estate Brochure Collection which covers 1920-1970 and includes floor plans, price lists, and commercial property brochures.

See the excellent research guide from Brooklyn Historical Society of what’s available outside the library.

P.S. Architecture historian and writer Christopher Gray created this practical guide for researching New York City buildings. Check out some of his research finds on the NY Times.

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An Archive Whose Subjects Are Permanent Residents

Green Wood Cemetery

Last week I spent an evening in a cemetery chapel crowded with archivists, genealogists, and Sunset Park locals. We were gathered at  Green-Wood Cemetery, where some of New York’s most infamous VIPs RIP, to hear cemetery staff highlight their collection of ephemera and records spanning their 175-year history.

Professor of archival management at Brooklyn College, Green-Wood Archivist, and boxer Anthony M. Cucchiara has dedicated some elbow grease toward making the archives at Green-Wood a usable and accessible resource. Cucchiara gave much credit to volunteers and interns who have -with Cucchiara at the helm- spent approximately 6,000 hours processing archival materials. Volunteers still meet some Saturdays to refine and continue their work.

Green Wood Box of Stereographs

Jeff Richman, Green-Wood Historian and writer, spoke about the collection and showed off some stereographs from the cemetery’s archives. Photographers, he said, were drawn to the cemetery as a peaceful break from the city scenes. Richman displayed some on tables for post-talk browsing.

Of the many types of archives housed at the cemetery, burial orders sparked my interest most. The documents can show family relationships and fill in gaps researchers might not find in U.S. census records. Burial orders are packed with useful information like official death dates and interestingly, signatures of relatives that might verify other signed documents. If you’re lucky they might also include renderings of monuments on site.

Green-Wood also introduced a program, “Green-Ealogy,” which allows you to submit research questions online. Mark Daly, Manager of Genealogical Research Services, said they receive an impressive 30 or so research inquiries a week.

Green Wood Cemetery

Brooklyn’s Green-Wood celebrates its 175th anniversary this year with an exhibit at The Museum of the City of New York.

Green-Wood has recently purchased a beautiful abandoned greenhouse that resides across the street on 5th Avenue. They plan to restore the lot into a welcome center. The cemetery offers creative programs, walking tours and trolley tours throughout the year. Check them out here.

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Prepare your archive: Sign up for ART’s Disaster Planning Symposium

Symposium Library Manifesto Cartoon

Next week, as part of an engrossing lineup of events for Archives Week, Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York is putting on a symposium titled Disaster Planning for Archives and their Communities. The event lands just weeks before the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, a disaster that many libraries and archives are still recuperating from.

Disaster planning is increasingly important as extreme weather patterns increase, buildings age, budgets shrink, and international archives become collateral damage in war. The symposium will emphasize resources and tools for an updated understanding of disasters and archiving practices.

Full disclosure, I am one of the committee members helping to put the symposium together and I am enthused to hear all of the panelist’s strategic advice. I would be thrilled to see not only archivists, but first responders and community organizers in attendance. If you are going, spread the word! Get a head start on topics with this handy Disaster Recovery Resources list from MoMA.

Archivists Round Table is an organization of volunteers that build the archivist community in and around the New York metro area. Archivists Round Table puts on educational programs and classes, often in conjunction with Metropolitan New York Library Council, for the community to share knowledge and stay in the loop on trends and issues important to archivists.

Symposium Library Manifesto Cartoon

Illustrations: Library Manifesto

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Arts and Politics in Fiction at The Brooklyn Book Festival 2013

Brooklyn Book Festival

The annual Brooklyn Book Festival took place this past Sunday, September 22nd in Downtown Brooklyn. With the grandiose backdrop of the Brooklyn court buildings, scores of publications and niche presses were set up along the sidewalks, mailing list sign-up sheets at the ready.

Joel Whitney moderated “Arts and Politics in Fiction” at the Brooklyn Historical Society. A panel of three authors, Alex Gilvarry, Rachel Kushner, and Nicholson Baker, read selection from their latest books. The readings were sprinkled with insights and anecdotes about mixing fiction and politics. The panel description read, “Art has always been a tool for political and social change. In these novels, it comes in the form of protest-pop songs, motorcycle photography and high-end fashion.” After the event, ideas circled my head as I people-watched and collected free bookmarks for the rest of the afternoon.

The author Nicholson Baker wrote a protest song for his book “Traveling Sprinkler.” Baker, known both for his essay writing and fiction, suggested there may be more truth in fiction than non-fiction. Baker said that writers need characters and a fictional landscape to grapple with their real life emotions. When Baker writes non-fiction he finds one main difficulty arises: the inconsistencies of his opinions and ideas. From one day to the next, his opinions are morphing and shaping. His answer to the complexity is to explore that inner conflict in fiction writing through characters who struggle with those same ideas.

When writing politically, authors face the challenge of finding the right prose. About words like “drone” Baker said“You can almost hear the reader say, oh god!” Certain words have connotations that overshadow any other meaning. Alex Gilvarry in his novel “From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant” takes superficial characters and puts them in a serious and scary world. He had trouble using “Bush” and “Cheney” and ended up replacing “Guantanamo” with “no man’s land.”

Rachel Kushner, author of “The Flamethrowers,” spoke about watching political dramas unfold from the comfort of her living room. Kushner has read about Autonomia Operaia (a ’70s Italian political movement) and has friends and family connections to both Italy and Occupy Oakland. The people around us inspire our politics and our writing. Kushner’s novel developed through her friend’s literature and hearing countless stories about ’70s Italy.

Though many of the vendors at the Brooklyn Book Festival were also participating in the NY Art Book Fair, I felt a very different energy at each. The best aspect of the Brooklyn Book Festival were the families and diverse crowd drawn in by the wide range of book genres. I had a blast last weekend connecting with publishers and book lovers in general. Just for fun, here are some of my photographs from the festival. Read last Monday’s Post on the New York Art Book Fair too.

Brooklyn Book Festival

Passers-by filled a bulletin board writing their current reads on Post-it notes.

Brooklyn Book Festival

The eye-catching Penguin book truck was in attendance.

Brooklyn Book Festival

“Barf Manifesto” called out to me at the Ugly Duckling Presse table.

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Selections from the New York Art Book Fair 2013

P.S.1 Art Book Fair

The small press masses united last weekend at the New York Art Book Fair presented by Printed Matter at PS1.

With no admission charged, throngs of visitors went through the museum. Publishers used to working in small studios and home offices were packed together throughout the courtyard, exhibition spaces, and the boiler room.

P.S.1 Art Book Fair

The fair included thousands of art books ranging from monographs, to academic art surveys, to artist made books, zines, magazines, and theoretical writing. The inspiration concentrated there by the art book community was almost overwhelming. With festivities starting on Thursday, it wouldn’t have been possible to see all of the special exhibits of ephemera and artists scrapbooks, panel discussions about the evolving industry, and check out the oyster bar and book signings.

Publishers were able to share the stories behind the books with visitors. “It’s a big opportunity to spread our idea of what an art book is,” said Nicola Ricciardi, an editorial assistant at Mousse Publishing who was working their booth. There were so many friendly faces, and familiar ones too. But what I enjoyed most about the fair was meeting curators and publishers in the flesh and learning about presses I had never come across before. Here are a handful of the many that impressed me.

P.S.1 Art Book Fair

1. Draw Down Books displayed books with bright, simple designs. Their title “Evil People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films” is just that; a simple catalog of the architecture that movie villains seem to love. Kathleen, a former librarian, and her husband Christopher started Draw Down Books after doing commission work for publications. They realized working for themselves might be more satisfying. When I asked Kathleen what makes a good art book, she responded “Someone who is passionate about making an art book.” A successful book takes a lot on the part of the artist to commit to making a quality product that people want to make collectible. Luckily, the artists Draw Down cold call are usually pretty happy to collaborate.

2. The Badlands Unlimited booth had print books and a Kindle featuring their e-books. I spoke to Matthew So about Badlands Unlimited’s interests in publishing original, unexpected writings and work from artists and figures more well known for other things. Matthew So gave the example of their book “On Democracy” which includes three of Saddam Hussein’s speeches about Democracy. As described on the Badlands Unlimited website, “This volume takes the speeches as an opportunity to ask what democracy means from the standpoint of a notorious political figure who was anything but democratic, and to reflect on how promises of freedom and security can mask the reality of repressive regimes.” I think it is bold to publish these writings and challenge people to think critically about how manipulative and immoral a political speech can be.

3. Three Star Books caught my eye from their incredible Billboard Book Project (A large format poster available in different sized book editions). Three Star defines a book loosely and, with artists, will build large scale books, editions, and objects of different sizes and forms. A more traditional book series that caught my eye was Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s RGB. Gonzalez-Foerster organized archival photos by color and created red, green, and blue books.

4. Issue Press, based out of Grand Rapids, MI, set up a vending machine to distribute their small, delicate pamphlets. They also had other folded up hand designed and drawn work. One that really stuck out was Time Poor. For this project artists followed John Muir’s instructions for where to go on a 24-hour visit to Yosemite. They did everything he said and hand drew a map of where they went and illustrated what they saw.

P.S.1 Art Book Fair

Thanks to Matt and  Stewart for contributing to the post, and Andrew for the top image!

P.S. The Brooklyn Book Festival was also this last weekend, look for coverage on the blog Thursday!

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Archival Leaders Advocate!

Drawings of Panelists by Natalie Pantoja

As scholars study rare documents at archives and libraries around the world, they are bringing their smartphones and using them in their research.

At the annual Center for Jewish History event Archival Leaders Advocate on Thursday, Sept. 12 a panel discussed how new technology is changing scholarly research methods and what libraries and archives might do to address those changes. The discussion centered on a new Ithaka S+R report, “The Role of Archives in Supporting Changing Research Practices.” Ithaka S+R is the research group of ITHAKA, the non-profit that provides digital access to over 1500 academic journals through its JSTOR service.

Panel moderator Jefferson Bailey, Strategic Initiatives Manager at Metro NY Library Council, relayed his recent experience at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Maryland where scholars have been doing a lot of their own digital capturing, even setting up camera stands to photograph items.

Photo Capture Archives by Natalie Pantoja

Roger Schonfeld, a co-author of the report, said that the scholars interviewed have a strong appreciation for archivists with a deep expertise and who really know their collections. Scholars also said that for the most efficient discovery tool, Google Books often trumps looking in a book’s index. Schonfeld caught my attention most when he talked about the anxiety scholars felt to be comprehensive in their research. Schonfeld suggested that some of this anxiety could be prevented with research tools that could narrow search results to the tens instead of hundreds to sift through.

Melanie Meyers, Senior Reference Services Librarian for Special Collections at the Center for Jewish History was interested in how archives are handling the growing trend of researchers using iPhones at archives to curate and compile their own portable digital archives. She asked the open question of whether it is possible to take advantage of this trend. I think there could be an opportunity, for instance, in using scholar’s iPhone photographs and linking them directly to the online finding aid.

David Ludden feels that taking iPhone photos in archives leads to a “dismembering” of archives. Ludden, a Professor of History at NYU who was interviewed for the report, raised concerns that when people photograph parts of archives, the archival materials can be taken out of context or have their contexts altered. He equated the act of digital capture to the looting of unprotected archaeological sites. Ludden concluded with a plea to JSTOR to make their research materials more affordable and widely available.

Kate Theimer, a writer and blogger about archives at ArchivesNext, suggested that the report’s recommendations lacked guidance for archivists. Theimer feels archivists are already making efforts to address the changing needs of researchers, including the continuation of digitization efforts and accessibility of finding aids.

A common theme of the evening was the challenge of providing graduate students access to research training in archives and libraries. The question made me think that archive education could start even sooner than graduate school. Perhaps exposing high school students to archives could set them on a research track that would make them research experts by the time they are starting PhD programs.

P.S. Another topic discussed was “archival silences” and theories of missing links in relation to digitization, but I plan to cover that more in depth soon!

Illustrations: Library Manifesto

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#NYFW: Textile Archive Inspiration

Blue Rider Design collection of Andrea Aranow

Continuing with the library fashion theme from Monday, today’s post is dedicated to collections of culturally rich and aesthetically diverse textiles.

If I had to wear the same thing everyday for the rest of the year, it might be an Aymaran poncho. These colorful textiles have a history dating back to 700 AD.

Andrea Aranow gathered Blue Rider Design’s large collection of unique and original textiles as a resource for designers. In 2011 she opened her extraordinary archive, in Portland Oregon, to filmmakers Aaron Rayburn and Ryan Bush. “They don’t change their mind,” Aranow says of her beloved fabrics.

Another short but captivating look into the lush Blue Rider Design archive.

The small city of Krefeld, Germany has been a silk fabric production center since the 17th century. The German Textile Museum (Deutsches Textilmuseum) explores this history through a large collection of fabrics made in Krefeld and throughout all of Germany.

A 900 year old sock.

P.S. CLOTHES: A Manifesto. What women want from the fashion industry as compiled by Rebecca Willis. “Women are deeply concerned about the behaviour of the fashion industry,” writes Willis. “Its impact on our wallets, our sanity and our planet.”

Image: Blue Rider Design

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#NYFW: Fashion Libraries and Librarian Fashions

Fashionable Librarians

Librarians are stereotypically known for making fashion statements with the ultimate bookworm accessory, glasses. With fashion week in our midst I wanted to highlight the mutual appreciation between the library world and the fashion industry.

I love the sweethearts who send photographs of their librarian outfits to Librarian Wardrobe.

The Coach company history plays an essential part in their design process. This video from The Selby is an inspirational look at the Coach archives.

This photo spread of Swedish Librarians is a “do.”

The private library of Karl Lagerfeld. I’m expecting lots of books about Regency-era collar design.

The Smithsonian’s take on America’s most prominent week of fashion.

And remember even though you may hate those shoes from a few seasons ago, to an archivist, they’re just another item for the collection.

Images: Librarian Wardrobe, Anders Kylberg for Vice Magazine.

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