New York Public Library Card Now Gives You Free Access to 33 NYC Museums

If you're one of the 8.5 million people living in New York City, take note of this: When you sign up for a library card from the New York Public Library, you can get access to 30,000 free movies (including many from the Criterion Collection) and also some 300,000 Free eBooks. But that's not all. A new initiative lets members of the New York Public Library (plus the Brooklyn and Queens libraries) to sign up for a Culture Pass and thereby gain free entrance to 33 museums across NYC. The list of participating museums includes some big ones--the Met, Morgan, Whitney, Frick and Guggenheim. Also the MoMA, Brooklyn Museum, and Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and more. Find a complete list below.

The Culture Pass website has more information about this new program. The website is also where you will need to actually make reservations to visit the museums. According to Hyperallergic, "Each cardholder is eligible for one pass per cultural institution annually and allowed to reserve two impending visits at any given time."

New Yorkers, you can sign up for library cards via these links: New York Public Library, Brooklyn Library, and Queens Library.

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Participating Museums

  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • Brooklyn Children's Museum
  • Brooklyn Historical Society
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • Children's Museum of Manhattan
  • Children's Museum of the Arts
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • The Drawing Center
  • The Frick Collection
  • Historic Richmond Town
  • International Center of Photography
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
  • The Jewish Museum
  • Louis Armstrong House
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Morgan Library & Museum
  • Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1
  • Museum of Chinese in America
  • Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
  • Museum of the City of New York
  • New York Transit Museum
  • Noguchi Museum
  • Queens Historical Society
  • Queens Museum
  • Rubin Museum of Art
  • SculptureCenter
  • Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
  • Society of Illustrators
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • Sugar Hill Children's Museum
  • Wave Hill
  • Whitney Museum of American Art

via Hyperallergic

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Dozens of M.C. Escher Prints Now Digitized & Put Online by the Boston Public Library

In addition to the iconic scene in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, or appearances in animated TV shows and video games, M.C. Escher’s work has adorned the covers of albums like Mott the Hoople’s 1969 debut and the speculative fiction of Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges. A big hit with hippies and 1960s college students, writes Heavy Music Artwork, his mind-bending prints became associated with “questioning accepted views of normal experience and testing the limits of perception with hallucinogenic drugs.” While he appreciated his cult following, Escher “did not encourage their mystical interpretations of his images.” Replying to one enthusiastic fan of his print Reptiles, who claimed to see in it an image of reincarnation, Escher replied, “Madame, if that’s the way you see it, so be it.”

Rather than illustrate higher states of consciousness or metaphysical entities, Bruno Ernst writes in The Magic Mirror of M.C. Escher, the artist intended to create practical, “pictorial representation of intellectual understanding.” Illustrations, that is, of philosophical and scientific thought experiments. The son of a civil engineer, Escher began his studies in architecture before moving to drawing and printmaking.




The challenge of creating built environments—even seemingly impossible ones—always seemed to occupy his mind. Along with themes from the natural world, a high percentage of his works center on buildings—inspired by formative early years in Rome and his admiration for Islamic art and Spanish architecture.

In the 50s and 60s Escher’s art piqued the interest of academics and mathematicians, an audience he found more congenial to his vision. He corresponded with scientists and incorporated their ideas into his work, meanwhile claiming to be “absolutely innocent of training or knowledge in the exact sciences.” In the 50s, Escher “dazzled” the likes of mathematicians like Roger Penrose and HSM Coxeter. In turn, notes Maev Kennedy, he “was inspired by Penroses’s perspectival triangle and Coxeter’s work on crystal symmetry.”

For all the excitement he created among mathematicians, it took a bit longer for Escher to get noticed in the art world. When Penrose’s uncle showed Escher’s version of the perspectival triangle to Picasso, “Picasso had heard of the British mathematician but not of the Dutch artist.” Escher’s fame spread outside of the sciences in part through the interests of the counterculture. He may have shrugged off mystical and psychedelic readings of his prints, but he had an innate penchant for the marvelously weird (see his copy of a scene, for example, from Hieronymus Bosch, above, or his surreal print Gravity, below).

See the prints pictured here and a few dozen more digitized in high resolution at Digital Commonwealth, courtesy of Boston Public Library, who scanned their Escher collection and made it available to the public. Zoom into the fine details of prints like Inside Saint Peter’s, further up—a finely rendered but otherwise not-especially-Escher-like work—and the labyrinthine Ascending and Descending at the top. Whether—as Harvard Library curator John Overholt confesses—you’re a “nerd who loves M.C. Escher” for his mathematical mind, an artist with a mystical bent who loves him for his hallucinatory qualities, or some measure of both, you’ll find exactly the Escher you’re looking for in this digital gallery.

via Kottke/John Overholt

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

1,600 Occult Books Now Digitized & Put Online, Thanks to the Ritman Library and Da Vinci Code Author Dan Brown

Back in December we brought you some exciting news. Thanks to a generous donation from Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, Amsterdam’s Ritman Library—a sizable collection of pre-1900 books on alchemy, astrology, magic, and other occult subjects—has been digitizing thousands of its rare texts under a digital education project cheekily called “Hermetically Open.” We are now pleased to report, less than two months later, that the first 1,617 books from the Ritman project have come available in their online reading room. The site is still in beta, so to speak; in their Facebook announcement, the Ritman admits they are “still improving the whole presentation,” which is a bit clunky at the moment. But for fans and students of this literature, a little inconvenience is a small price to pay for full access to hundreds of rare occult texts.

Visitors should be aware that these books are written in several different European languages. Latin, the scholarly language of Europe throughout the Medieval and Early Modern periods, predominates, and it’s a peculiar Latin at that, laden with jargon and alchemical terminology. Other books appear in German, Dutch, and French. Readers of some or all of these languages will of course have an easier time than monolingual English speakers, but there is still much to offer those visitors as well.




In addition to the pleasure of paging through an old rare book, even virtually, English speakers can quickly find a collection of readable books by clicking on the “Place of Publication” search filter and selecting Cambridge or London, from which come such notable works as The Man-Mouse Takin in a Trap, and tortur’d to death for gnawing the Margins of Eugenius Philalethes, by Thomas Vaughn, published in 1650.

The language is archaic—full of quirky spellings and uses of the “long s”—and the content is bizarre. Those familiar with this type of writing, whether through historical study or the work of more recent interpreters like Aleister Crowley or Madame Blavatsky, will recognize the many formulas: The tracing of magical correspondences between flora, fauna, and astronomical phenomena; the careful parsing of names; astrology and lengthy linguistic etymologies; numerological discourses and philosophical poetry; early psychology and personality typing; cryptic, coded mythology and medical procedures. Although we’ve grown accustomed through popular media to thinking of magical books as cookbooks, full of recipes and incantations, the reality is far different.

Encountering the vast and strange treasures in the online library, one thinks of the type of the magician represented in Goethe’s Faust, holed up in his study,

Where even the welcome daylight strains
But duskily through the painted panes.
Hemmed in by many a toppling heap
Of books worm-eaten, gray with dust,
Which to the vaulted ceiling creep

The library doesn’t only contain occult books. Like the weary scholar Faust, alchemists of old “studied now Philosophy / And Jurisprudence, Medicine,— / And even, alas! Theology.” Click on Cambridge as the place of publication and you’ll find the work above by Henry More, “one of the celebrated ‘Cambridge Platonists,’” the Linda Hall Library notes, “who flourished in mid-17th-century and did their best to reconcile Plato with Christianity and the mechanical philosophy that was beginning to make inroads into British natural philosophy.” Those who study European intellectual history know well that More’s presence in this collection is no anomaly. For a few hundred years, it was difficult, if not impossible, to separate the pursuits of theology, philosophy, medicine, and science (or “natural philosophy”) from those of alchemy and astrology. (Isaac Newton is a famous example of a mathematician/scientist/alchemist/believer in strange apocalyptic predictions.)

Given the Ritman’s alacrity and eagerness to publish this first batch of texts, even as it works to smooth out its interface, we’ll likely see many hundreds more books become available in the next month or so. For updates, follow the Ritman Library and The Embassy of the Free Mind—Dan Brown’s own Dutch library of rare occult books—on Facebook.

Enter the Ritman's new digital collection of occult texts here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Download 150 Free Coloring Books from Great Libraries, Museums & Cultural Institutions: The British Library, Smithsonian, Carnegie Hall & More

A news alert for fans of coloring books.

You can now take part in the 2018 edition of #ColorOurCollections–a campaign where museums, libraries and other cultural institutions make available free coloring books, letting you color artwork from their collections and then share it on Twitter and other social media platforms. When sharing, use the hashtag #ColorOurCollections.




Below you can find a collection of 20 free coloring books, which you can download, print, and color until you can color no more. Also find a complete list of 150 coloring books over at this site maintained by The New York Academy of Medicine Library.

To see the free coloring books offered up in 2016, click here. And 2017, here.

The image up top comes from The British Library.

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Boston Public Library Launches a Crowdsourced Project to Transcribe 40,000 Documents from Its Anti-Slavery Collection: You Can Now Help

We can hardly understand America without understanding American history. Can we understand American history without understanding slavery? Many a historian would answer with an unqualified no, and not simply because they want to see Americans meditate on the sins of their ancestors: plunging into the controversies around slavery, seeing how Americans made arguments for and against it at the time, can help us approach and interpret the other large-scale legal and moral battles that have since raged in the country, and continue to rage in it today.

The Boston Public Library's Anti-Slavery Collection, one particularly important resource in that intellectual effort, could use our help in making its considerable resources more readily available. "For the past several years, we have been diligently cataloging and digitizing manuscript correspondences from our Anti-Slavery collection," writes the BPL's Tom Blake, all of which "document the thoughts, transactions, and activities of the abolitionist movement in Boston, Massachusetts, and throughout New England."




Now, "in order to make this collection more valuable to researchers, scholars, and historians we are pleased to announce the launch of a new website which will make these handwritten items available for you to transcribe into machine readable text."

It's no small job: the collection contains roughly 40,000 pieces of "correspondence, broadsides, newspapers, pamphlets, books, and memorabilia from the 1830s through the 1870s," including the work of some of the most notable American, British, and Irish abolitionists of the day. But the combined efforts of everyone willing to transcribe a few documents, will, in Blake's words, "allow the text corpus to be more precisely searchable and better suited for natural language processing applications – helping researchers better understand patterns, relationships, and trends embedded in the linguistics of this particular community." Which, ultimately, will help us all to better understand America. If you'd like to lend a hand, you can create an account and start transcribing at the Anti-Slavery Collection's site today.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Free: Download 10,000+ Master Drawings from The Morgan Library & Museum’s Online Collection

It’s hard for the casual browser to know where to begin with a collection as vast as the master drawings belonging to the Morgan Library & Museum.

The Library’s Drawings Online program gives the public free access to over 10,000 downloadable images, drawn primarily from—and in—the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries. Many images are fleshed out with inscriptions, information on provenance, biographical sketches of the artist, and, in over 2000 instances, images of the verso, or flip side of the paper.

Researchers and similarly informed seekers can browse by artist or school, but what if you don’t quite know what you want?




You could tour the highlights, or better yet, bushwhack your way into the unknown by entering a random word or phrase into the “search drawings” function.

Knowing that the internet is crazy for cats, I made that my first search term, but the results were skewed by an 18th-century Dutch artist named Jacob Cats, whose work abounds with cows and sheep.

Caricaturist Al Hirschfeld’s portrait of Kathleen Turner in the 1990 Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  is unavailable for viewing due to copyright restrictions. (It’s easily viewable elsewhere…)

And the Where’s Waldo-esque excitement I felt upon an anonymous artist’s Mountain Landscape with Italian-Style Cloister faux-Bruegel dissipated when I realized this return owed more to the abbreviation of “catalogue” than any feline lurking in the pen-and-ink trees.

Next I entered the word “babies.” I’m not sure why. There certainly were a lot of them, almost as many as I encounter on Facebook.

Returning to the pre-selected highlights page, I resolved to let the experts pick for me. I saw a charming rabbit family by John James Audubon and the old favorite by William Blake, top, but what really grabbed me was the first page's final selection: Honoré Daumier’s Two Lawyers Conversing, circa 1862.

Part of the Morgan's recently closed Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection exhibit, the subjects' dress may be archaic, but their expressions are both humorous and evergreen. Lawyer. I had my search term.

My favorite of the seven search results is illustrator Edmund J. Sullivan’s Soumin an' Roumin from 1914. One of a dozen or so drawings Sullivan made for an updated edition of George Outram's Legal and Other Lyrics, it shows "an old woman in a farmyard surrounded by livestock fleeing three monstrous lawyers wearing wigs and robes and armed with hideous talons instead of hands and feet. One … chases a cow with a scourge, the thongs of which end in scorpions.”

Download that one for all your lawyer friends or your lawyer spouse… upload it to a t-shirt if you’re crafty.

Claud Lovat Fraser’s set design for Pergolesi's short comic opera La Serva Padrona (or The Maid Turned Mistress) at the Lyric Hammersmith doesn’t depict any lawyers, to the best of my knowledge, but he himself was one—also a caricaturist, lampooning the literary and theatrical luminaries of his day, and a soldier whose life was cut short due to exposure to gas in World War I.

In addition to the Morgan’s particularly well-fleshed-out artist bio for this work, the verso is a treat in the form of a printed announcement for the Chelsea Arts Club Costume Ball.

Browse the Morgan Library & Museum’s Drawings Online in its entirety here, or narrow it down by artist, School of Art, or personal whim.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her New York City  on February 8, when she hosts Necromancers of the Public Domain, a variety show born of a single musty volume - this month: Masterpieces in Colour, Basten-Lepage. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

China’s New Luminous White Library: A Striking Visual Introduction

MVRDV, a Dutch architecture and urban design firm, teamed up with Chinese architects to create the Tianjin Binhai Library, a massive cultural center featuring "a luminous spherical auditorium around which floor-to-ceiling bookcases cascade." Located not far from Beijing, the library was built quickly by any standards. It took only three years to move from "the first sketch to the [grand] opening" on October 1. Elaborating on the library, which can house 1.2 million books, MVRDV notes:

The building’s mass extrudes upwards from the site and is ‘punctured’ by a spherical auditorium in the centre. Bookshelves are arrayed on either side of the sphere and act as everything from stairs to seating, even continuing along the ceiling to create an illuminated topography. These contours also continue along the two full glass facades that connect the library to the park outside and the public corridor inside, serving as louvres to protect the interior against excessive sunlight whilst also creating a bright and evenly lit interior.

The video above gives you a visual introduction to the building. And, on the MRDV website, you can view a gallery of photos that let you see the library's shapely design.

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