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New York Public Library

More from Elyse on the the New York Public Library

One of the most invaluable tools for the History Detectives team is the New York Public Library.

Their vast amount of research material and public access makes the library a frequently used resource.

Whether it's the fate of artifacts from Coney Island or troop movements from World War II, the library has helped us crack some of our most difficult assignments.

Among its holdings are books, manuscripts, drawings, and maps spanning the entire breadth of civilization.

Their Asian and Middle Eastern division includes ancient Egyptian papyrus, Buddhist scrolls from Tibet, and lavishly illustrated books of Islamic poetry.

Their rare books division houses gems such as: the oldest book ever printed in North America and a book of psalms dating to 1640.

And the Slavic and Baltic division features the most comprehensive collection of books and etchings outside of Moscow.

President of the library, Paul LeClerc says they have in their collections, “the kind of documentation that tells the human story and individual stories in all different kinds of ways and in all different kinds of languages”.

There are more than 50 million items in this collection, and its because of this huge number that the the New York Public Library is going digital to make them available to the widest audience possible.

The library's digital imaging unit is the heart of the operation.

This is where all the items that are going out on the library Web site are photographed and scanned.

These include rare books, printed ephemera, historical maps, art prints, and many other precious artifacts.

The image is then cleaned up and uploaded to their database.

Once that's done, the original can be returned to the curatorial department where, for all practical purposes, it can be retired from casual research use.

The efforts have paid off.

In 2005, the Web site will receive 1.5 billion hits from over 220 countries around the world.

In a culture where the click of a mouse is rapidly becoming one of the main sources of information gathering, the work of the library will open the doors for future generations and a truly global audience.

More Links

New York Public Library - Search their collection online.