The “Most Secretive Library in the World”: The Future Library Will Collect 100 Original Manuscripts by Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell & More, to Be Read for the First Time in 2114

Should intelligent life of some form or another still inhabit the planet in the year 6939, such beings might come upon an “800-pound tube of an alloy of copper and chromium called Cupaloy” that was buried 50 feet beneath what was once Queens. The first time capsule, lowered under the Westinghouse exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair contains “35 items one might find in any run-of-the-mill Smith family household,” as Jinwoo Chong writes at Untapped Cities, “including copies of Life magazine, a Sears and Roebuck catalog, cigarettes and seeds of wheat, corn, alfalfa and soy.”

The Future Library, a time capsule-like project presently in the works, takes a very different approach to the concept. “A forest is growing in Norway,” explains an introductory video on creator Katie Paterson’s website. “In 100 years it will become an anthology of books.” The books that will be printed from 1,000 trees planted in Nordmarka, north of Oslo, will not, however, transmit mining and navigational instructions, but a full range of human emotion and personal experience. Or so we might assume. Unlike the 1939 time capsule, we'll never know what's inside them.




Scottish artist Paterson has planned a library of 100 creative works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry—one manuscript submitted every year until 2114, when she intends them all to be printed in 3,000 copies each and read for the first time. Almost none of us will be there to witness the event, yet “the timescale is… not vast in cosmic terms,” she says. “It is beyond our current lifespans, but close enough to come face to face with it, to comprehend and relativize,” unlike the incomprehensible future of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine or the far-off world for which Westinghouse designed their capsule.

Nonetheless, technological, and perhaps even evolutionary, change has increased exponentially in the past several decades, as have the possibilities for global extinction events. Margaret Atwood, the first author to submit an unpublished, unread manuscript to the Future Library in 2014, is characteristically less than sanguine about the existence of future readers for her manuscript, entitled Scribbler Moon. “It’s very optimistic to believe that there will still be people in 100 years,” she says in the short video above, and “that those people will still be reading.” Atwood imagines a near-future that may not even recognize our time.

Which words that we use today will be different, archaic, obsolete? Which new words will have entered the language? We don’t know what footnotes we will need. Will they have computers? Will they call them something else? What will they think smartphones are? Will that word still exist?

Writers for the project are chosen by the Future Library’s board of trustees. After the canny selection of Atwood, they chose the equally on-the-nose David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas, who calls the library “the Ark of Literature.” It is a strange ark, filled with animals few people living now will likely ever see. "The world's most secretive library," The Guardian calls it.  In 2016, Icelandic novelist and poet Sjón submitted his mysterious text. The fourth work came from Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, who named the project “a secular act of faith.”

The latest writer chosen is Man Booker-winning South Korean novelist Han Kang, who described the Future Library as a literal expression of the writer’s thoughts on their duty to posterity: “I cannot survive 100 years from now, of course. No one who I love can survive, either. This relentless fact has made me reflect on the essential part of my life. Why do I write? Who am I talking to, when I write?” Did Jane Austen imagine her readers of 100 years later? Could she ever have imagined us?

Not only is the Future Library an act of literary faith, but it is an ecological one. “The next 96 years do not look promising for the seedlings,” writes Merve Emre at The New York Times, “which are more vulnerable than their ancestors to all manner of man-made disasters.” The project symbolically binds together the fates of the book and the trees, making “the physicality of culture palpable by insisting that we confront the long, laborious process of preserving language.”

In 2020, the collection of manuscripts will be moved to a “Silent Room” in Oslo, a “womb-shaped chamber facing the forest, lined with wood from its trees.” Visitors can come and venerate these secretive future relics in their ribbon-wrapped gray boxes. But their contents—should the ambitious endeavor go as planned—will remain as elusive as the shape of our collective future 100 years from now.

via NYTimes

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

The Library of Congress Makes Thousands of Fabulous Photos, Posters & Images Free to Use & Reuse

The history of the venerable Library of Congress demonstrates the vast importance that the founders of the U.S. accorded to reading and studying. It may be one of the country’s most durable institutions, “the oldest federal cultural institution in the nation,” it proclaims. While partisan rancor, war, and violence recur, the LoC has stolidly held an ever-increasingly diverse collection of artifacts sitting peacefully alongside each other on several hundred miles of shelves, a monument to the life of the mind that ought to get more attention.

Touting itself as “the largest library in the world,” its collections “are universal, not limited by subject, format, or national boundary, and include research materials from all parts of the world and in more than 450 languages.”




Its first materials were, of course, books—including over six-thousand books purchased from Thomas Jefferson’s private collection after the British burned the original library down in 1814. Now, it “adds approximately 12,000 items to the collection daily,” in every possible format one can imagine.

And since its digital collections came online, anyone, anywhere in the world can call up these vast resources with an internet connection and a few clicks. Though we tend to take such things for granted in our fervidly distracted times, a little reflection should remind us of how incredible that is. But before we wax too rhapsodic, let’s remember there’s a business end to the LoC and it’s called the U.S. Copyright Office, that guardian of intellectual property that both ensures creators can profit from their labors and prevents the free and open use of so many enriching materials long after those creators have need of them.

But the Library has done its digital users a service in this regard as well, with its “Free to Use and Reuse Sets,” a sizable collection of images that the Library “believes… is either in the public domain, has no known copyright, or has been cleared by the copyright owner for public use.” (The use of the word “believes” seems to leave room for doubt, but if you got it with permission from the LoC, you’re probably safe.) Need photographs of Abraham Lincoln—and scans of his speeches, letters, and “dueling instructions”—for that book you’re writing? You’re covered with this gallery. Need a collection of classic children's books for your website (or your reading pleasure)? Here you go.

From the graphic genius of vintage WPA and travel posters to iconic jazz portraits by William Gottlieb to baseball cards to endlessly quaint and quirky American roadside attractions to pictures of dogs and their people… you never know when you might need such images, but when you do you now know where to find them. Want to know what’s in the set called “Not an Ostrich”? A valkyrie cat named Brunnhilde, for one thing, and much more here.

The Library currently highlights its “Poster Parade”—a set of posters from the 1890s to the 1960s featuring “travel, commercial products, war propaganda, entertainment, and more”—in collaboration with Poster House, a museum opening in New York next year. These range from delectable art nouveau ads to shouty broadsides telling you to drink your milk, brush your teeth, or have “More Courtesy.” Sensible prescriptions, but we also need more knowledge, study, and thought. Start at the LoC’s Digital Collections here and harvest your free to use and reuse images here.

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

 

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” Gets Released on Instagram as a Digital “Insta Novel”: It’s Free from The New York Public Library

Back in August, we highlighted a new initiative by the New York Public Library. An institution that's hip with our times, the NYPL released on Instagram a digital version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in the Halloween spirit, comes a digital adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's classic tale, "The Raven." They write:

"The Raven" includes a unique series of animations produced by Psyop and Studio AKA that takes readers on an ominous procession through a stark psychological landscape where the differing perspectives of both the Raven and Poe’s protagonist are depicted. The viewpoints steadily intercut and converge as the animation builds to its disquieting climax, as the door creaks open revealing “darkness there and nothing more.”

Read "The Raven" on Instagram here. And keep an eye out for NYPL's upcoming adaptation of "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka. It's due out by the end of the year.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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RIP Todd Bol, Founder of the Little Free Library Movement: He Leaves Behind 75,000 Small Libraries That Promote Reading Worldwide

"The Little Free Library: Billions and billions read."

In the 2013 Ted-X talk above, Todd Bol, founder of the Little Free Library movement, expressed the desire that one day, he might be able to boast that his labor of love had surpassed McDonalds with regard to the number of customers’ served.

It's closing in...




Bol, who passed away earlier this month, was inspired by Andrew Carnegie's mission of repaying his own good fortune by establishing 2,509 free public libraries.

The Little Free Libraries are vastly more numerous if less imposing than Carnegie’s stately edifices.

Some, like the prototype Bol crafted with lumber salvaged from a garage door in his late mother’s honor, resemble doll houses.

One in Detroit is a dead ringer for Doctor Who’s TARDIS.

There’s a bright yellow one emblazoned with characters from The Simpsons, autographed by series creator Matt Groening.

Others are housed in repurposed suitcases, storage cabinets, or newspaper honor boxes.

While the non-profit Little Free Library store sells several sturdy, weatherproof models and its website hosts a healthy collection of blueprints and tips for DIYers, Bol was never doctrinaire about the aesthetics, preferring to leave that up to each volunteer steward.

He seemed proudest of the libraries’ community building effect (though he was also pretty chuffed when Reader's Digest ranked the project above Bruce Springsteen in its 2013 feature ”50 Surprising Reasons We Love America.” )

While not entirely devoid of naysayers, the goodwill surrounding the Little Free Library movement cannot be underestimated.

A steward who posted news of his dog’s death on the side of his library received sympathy cards from neighbors both known and unknown to him.

A steward who specializes in giving away cookbooks, and invites patrons to snip herbs from an adjacent garden, frequently wakes to find homemade quiche and other goodies on the doorstep.

And when an arsonist torched a Little Free Library in Indianapolis, the community rallied, vowing to get enough donations to replace it with 100 more.

To date, stewards have registered over 75,000, in 85 countries, in service of Bol’s “Take a book, Leave a book” philosophy.

Find a Little Free Library near you, learn how to become a steward, or make a donation on the project’s website.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 12 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The New York Public Library Lets Patrons Check Out Ties, Briefcases & Handbags for Job Interviews

Once upon a time, pubic libraries’ circulating collections were limited to books and other printed materials.

Then audio recordings and movies entered into the mix.

Telescopes…

Board games…

There's a library in Ohio that lets its patrons check out guitars.

And now, New York Public Library cardholders can borrow a necktie, briefcase, or businesslike purse for a one-time, three-week lending period.

The New York Public Library Grow Up program at the Riverside branch is modeled on similar initiatives in Philadelphia and Queens.

The branch is situated across the street from two high schools, and librarian Thaddeus Krupo told Crain’s New York Business that the program was launched in response to the high number of students taking advantage of the library’s free career resources, such as printed sheets of job interview tips.

Most of the kids from Fiorello H. Laguardia High School Of Music & Art and Performing Arts (aka the “Fame” school), one of New York City’s most competitive public schools, can be presumed to have a tie or two in their closets, along with whatever else they’re required to wear onstage for their various concerts and performances. They're also being trained in how to present themselves in an audition-type situation.

Such universal assumptions don’t necessarily apply to the massive Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Complex next door. Students there tend to have a rougher time of it than their neighbors across 65th street.

While Laguardia coasts on its reputation, MLK has never really gotten out from under the troubling stories left over from its bad old days. (Its original incarnation was ordered closed in 2005 as part of sweeping citywide educational reforms. These days, the building houses seven smaller schools.)

Hopefully, the library's teen patrons won’t seek to complete their professional look by checking out pants and pumps. The Grow Up program isn’t set up to provide the full-body coverage offered by likeminded non-profits Dress for Success and Career Gear… though its borrowed bags and ties are cleared to attend prom and graduation.

via Mental Floss

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 24 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Conserve the Sound, an Online Museum Preserves the Sounds of Past Technologies–from Typewriters, Electric Shavers and Cassette Recorders, to Cameras & Classic Nintendo

The unmistakable zip and whirr of a rotary phone, the ungodly squeal of dial-up modems, the satisfying thunk of a cartridge in a classic Nintendo console, a VCR rewinding, the click-clack sound of a Walkman's buttons…. I date myself in saying that these sounds immediately send me back to various moments in my childhood with Proustian immersion. The sense of smell is most closely linked to memory, but hearing cannot be far behind given how sound embeds itself in time, and most especially the sounds of technologies, which are by nature fated for obsolescence. A museum-quality aura surrounds the Walkman and the first iPods. These are triumphs of consumer design, but only one of them makes distinctive mechanical noises.

As analog recedes, it can seem that noisy tech in general becomes more and more dated. It is hard to hear the rubbing of thumbs and fingers across screens and touchpads. Voice commands make buttons and switches redundant. How much tech from now will one day feature in Conserve the Sound, the “online museum for vanishing and endangered sounds”?




Its collection gives the impression of a bygone age, quaint in its dozens of examples of mechanical ingenuity. The visual juxtaposition of handheld film cameras, typewriters, car window handles, electric shavers, boom boxes, stopwatches, and so on has the effect of making these things seem all of a piece, assorted artifacts in a great hall of wonders called “the Sound the 20th Century.”

At the top of the site's "Sound" page, timeline navigation allows users to visit every decade from the 1910s to the 2000s, a category that contains only two objects. Other displays are more plentiful, and colorful. The 1960s, for example showcases the incredibly sexy red Schreibmaschine Olivetti Dora further up. It sounds as sleek and sophisticated as it looks. The virtual display case of the 30s holds the sounds of a twin-engine propeller plane and a handful of beautiful moving and still cameras, like the Fotokamera Purma Special above. It also features the humble and enduring library stamp, a sound I pine for as I slide books under the self-checkout laser scanner at my local branch.

Given just the few images here, you can already see that Conserve the Sound is as much a feast for the eyes as for the ears, each object lovingly photographed against an austere white background. In order for the full nostalgic effect to work, however, you need to visit these pages and hit “play.” It even magically works with objects from before our times, given how prominently their sounds feature in film and audio recordings that define the periods. You’ve likely also noticed how many of these products are of European origin, and many of them, like the robotic head of the Kassettenrekorder Weltron Model 2004, are perhaps unfamiliar to many consumers from elsewhere in the world.

Conserve the Sound is a European project, funded by the Film & Medienstiftung NRW in Germany, thus its selection skews toward European-made products. But the sound of a fan or an adding machine in Germany is the sound of a fan or adding machine in Chile, China, Kenya, or Nebraska. See a trailer for the project at the top of the post, and below, one of the many interviews in which German public figures, scholars, librarians, technicians, and students answer questions about their mnemonic associations with technological sound. In this interview, radio presenter Bianca Hauda describes one of her favorite old sounds from a favorite old machine, a 1970s portable cassette recorder.

via WFMU

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

The New York Public Library Puts Classic Stories on Instagram: Start with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis Soon

I'd be happy if I could think that the role of the library was sustained and even enhanced in the age of the computer. —Bill Gates

The New York Public Library excels at keeping a foot in both worlds, particularly when it comes to engaging younger readers.

Visitors from all over the world make the pilgrimage to see the real live Winnie-the-Pooh and friends in the main branch’s hopping children’s center.

And now anyone with a smartphone and an Instagram account can “check out” their digital age take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandno library card required. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.




Working with the design firm Mother, the library has found a way to make great page-turning use of the Instagram Stories platformmore commonly used to share blow-by-blow photographic evidence of road trips, restaurant outings, and hash-tagged weddings.

The Wonderland experience remains primarily text-based.

In other words, sorry, harried caregivers! There’s no handing your phone off to the pre-reading set this time around!

No trippy Disney teacups...

Sir John Tenniel’s classic illustrations won’t be springing to animated life. Instead, you’ll find conceptual artist Magoz’s bright minimalist dingbats of keyholes, teacups, and pocket watches in the lower right hand corner. Tap your screen in rapid succession and they function as a crowd-pleasing, all ages flip book.

Elsewhere, animation allows the text to take on clever shapes or reveal itself line by linea pleasantly theatrical, Cheshire Cat like approach to Carroll’s impudent poetry.

Remember the famous scene where the Duchess and the Cook force Alice to mind a baby who turns into a pig? Grab some friends and hunch over the phone for a communal read aloud! (It’s on page 75 of part 1)

Speak roughly to your little boy,

 And beat him when he sneezes:

 He only does it to annoy,

 Because he knows it teases

CHORUS

 (In which the cook and the baby joined)

 ‘Wow! wow! wow!’ 

Navigating this new media can be a bit confusing for those whose social media fluency is not quite up to speed, but it’s not hard once you get the hang of the controls.

Tapping the right side of the screen turns the page.

Tapping left goes back a page.

And keeping a thumb (or any finger, actually) on the screen will keep the page as is until you’re ready to move on. You’ll definitely want to do this on animated pages like the one cited above. Pretend you’re playing the flute and you’ll save a lot of frustration.

The library plans to introduce your phone to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis via Instagram Stories over the next couple of months. Like Alice, both works are in the public domain and share an appropriate common theme: transformation.

Use these links to go directly to part 1 and part 2 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on Instagram Stories. Both parts are currently pinned to the top of the library’s Instagram account.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Join her in NYC on Monday, September 24 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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