Brooklyn Public Library: An Open Book (Foyer Cases, Part II), Curated by the Brooklyn Collection

September 26, 2013 - February 2, 2014
Central Library, Foyer Gallery Cases
This exhibition includes photographs, maps, and ephemera drawn from the Library’s archive in the Brooklyn Collection, and casts an eye on Central Library’s tumultuous past as well as its exciting future, giving patrons a new perspective on a familiar place.

The history of Central Library at Grand Army Plaza, including blueprints, historic photographs, and atlases that tell the story of Central Library’s evolution.

Unique in its development, Brooklyn Public Library began life as a library system devoted to the creation of strong branch libraries emphasizing neighborhood service. It was nearly 20 years after the creation of the present day Brooklyn Public Library that ground was first broken for the creation of a central building, and an additional 30 years before the building was completed. For decades, a single wing of the half-constructed building stood alone on Flatbush Avenue as political grappling, war and financial instability left the Library’s fate in question.

This exhibition includes photographs, maps and ephemera drawn from the library’s archive in the Brooklyn Collection, and casts an eye on Central Library’s tumultuous past as well as its exciting future. Covering everything from its early ill-fated design as a monstrous Beaux Arts confection to behind-the-scenes views of library work, this exhibition will give patrons a new perspective on a familiar place, from the golden screen above the doors to the hidden stacks deep underground.

1942 BPL Program CoverFoyer Cases
In the nearly thirty years that had passed since breaking ground on the Central Library building in 1912, the modernist aesthetic, with its clean lines and austere façades, had taken hold and rendered Almirall’s plan passé. The new library building would be briskly modern, and the very shape of the building—with two wings stretching out like the covers of an open book—would reflect the purpose of the institution itself.

The Flatbush Avenue wing was stripped of its ornamentation and repurposed to fit the new, Art Deco building envisioned by architects Alfred Morton Githens and Francis Keally. The distinctive gold figures on the columns flanking the main entrance were designed by sculptor Carl P. Jennewein, and the bronze grille figures —the cast of which was subject to much internal debate—were created by Thomas Hudson Jones. The result was a truly unique and beautiful piece of municipal architecture that critic Lewis Mumford declared superior to New York Public Library and the Library of Congress.

Please visit the other Brooklyn Public Library: An Open Book exhibition displays in the Foyer Cases (part I), Grand Lobby, Balcony Cases, Lobby Gallery, and the Brooklyn Collection on the second floor at Central Library.

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