Monday, June 20, 2011

Library vs Museum (Redux)

As promised, I went to what my children call the "wide library" and I call the "main library" at 42nd Street to see the children's book illustration exhibit (very small and not worth a separate trip, but the children's room itself is - more on that below) and the centennial exhibit.  And just outside the centennial exhibit are the Lego Lions!  It was quite a day if you like that sort of thing which, of course, I do.

The exhibit showcases the great variety of objects the library owns, which is staggering.  From a Gutenberg Bible to diaries of Malcolm X, from original scores by Beethoven to works by Matisse, from a lock of Mary Shelley's hair to a model for the set of Sunday in the Park with George, from e.e. cumming's typewriter to a Ku Klux Klan robe, from art by Kiki Smith to Charles Dickens' letter opener (incorporating, creepily enough, his cat's paw)... it was just amazing. 

The New York Times review of the exhibit criticizes its lack of focus.  But to me that was exactly the point.  To show the vastness and diversity of items the library has collect.  And it raised the question for me, again: what is the difference between a library and a museum?

As for the "wide library" itself, it manages to be both grand and peaceful.  A real oasis in the city.  More so than some of the better-known museums, which are often so busy that it is hard to get close enough to see whatever you came to see. 

The children's room, worth a trip even without the exhibit, is cheerful, with lovely murals mostly featuring New York locations, the standard cut-out cardboard book characters and bright-colored, inviting furniture.  I wanted to move in. 
Have you been to any NYPL exhibits?

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