New York Public Library’s Picture Collection
During an in-person visit to the NYPL Picture Collection I casually inquired about their new Instagram takeover program, volunteering myself as a guest curator, and left my card with the front desk librarian. Six months later their director contacted me and asked if I was still interested!
From there I began brainstorming and collecting subject headings to research using their digital collections. The director and I communicated via email and I laid out my goals for the takeover.
In my proposal I began by recalling a sign in my neighborhood library asking patrons to submit their answers to this question: In one sentence, how would you describe a library to a person who’s never been to one?
In that moment my mind went blank. But the next day I had my answer: The library is like visiting a new city with avenues full of intriguing information that feel safe and exciting to explore.
This is how I feel when I use the NYPL Picture Collection and Digital Collection: like I can follow my intuition through as many twists and turns as I desire. Each of those paths is of my own making and I can stay on them for as long as I want or I can veer down another just by entering a new search term. When I’m on those routes I’m encountering clues that fuel my curiosities, many of which are mundane but exist nonetheless.
As I use the Collections, I’m attuned to sparks that draw me into a picture and give me the sense that it will resonate with my friends, community, and beyond. That’s where visual literacy comes into play: being able to recognize cues that connect what I see in the image to what I experience. For example, when I see pictures of people doing things I do or using the same tools that I use, I feel less alone in the world, less like I’m fumbling around and doing something wrong.
Sharing parts of the Collections during an Instagram takeover is a way to uncover and highlight threads of daily existence through different time periods and curiosity about life and how to live it. Asking questions such as:
- How does a modern woman wear a vintage hat?
- Furniture innovations for storing books
Ways to visualize data like a person might have in a bullet journal or to-do list
Wearing menswear for women
What is the best way to arrange a desk to be efficient and aesthetically pleasing?
How do you display flowers in a casual manner?
Brainstorming subjects to research in the digital collections to be shared during the guest Instagram takeover. Photos by Laura Glazer.