Frick Art Reference Library
The Frick Art Reference Library, associated and housed with The Frick Collection art museum and galleries, is a gold mine for art research. Besides reference books on every imaginable subject of art, and a huge picture collection, they have art auction catalogues for hundreds of auction houses, going back 150 years, in the original hard copies (which are so much faster to use than microfilm), stored in the building.
A fellow researcher whispered her testimonial the first time I visited as, “They have the catalogues!”
I have found several Donatus Buongiorno paintings in catalogues on file at the Frick.
Plus, the librarians know their stuff backwards and forwards and are terriers when on the chase. (Thank you, Suz!)
New-York Historical Society
I used this institution primarily for its New York City directories which are on open shelves, making them more efficient and faster to use than microfilm.
Common in the pre-telephone 1800s, city directories listed the addresses where people lived and/or worked so you could send a letter or telegram. Most stopped publishing in the 1920s when they were superceded by telephone books.
At N-YHS, the directories are on 20 or so feet of open shelves. Since I researched 1890 to 1920, my relatives were in the books on the far right side of the stacks.
One day, I was curious about the books on the left side, knowing they were old. I wondered “Who’s in those?” Picking one from the 1700s, I enjoyed the thrill of looking up Alexander Hamilton.
New York Public Library
May I just say, I adore the New York Public Library.
From my earliest impression in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to my grandfather’s 1970 memoir where he reported going to the newly opened main building in the evenings after work in the 1910s to read the latest trade magazines on pattern making (his job), to the building being across West 42nd Street from the office where I had my first job in New York in 1980, this building is New York to me.
My family research project turned me into an active user for the first time, and, oh my, what a fabulous experience. I’ve used the reference books and computer databases in Room 300, Art & Architecture, extensively and have played stump the librarian with many of the fabulous, patient professionals who work at its desk. After spending countless hour in Room 121, Local History and Genealogy, a retired librarian informed that it was originally called the “Technical Room” and is indeed the very room my grandfather visited 100 years ago.
I’ve called up 50-year-old books that no one has read in decades from stacks under Bryant Park (30 minutes) and Italian-language books from deep storage near Princeton, New Jersey (2 days.) Librarians have written me passes to local university libraries (Fordham, Columbia) for access to documents NYPL doesn’t have, and they have brought in Ph.D. dissertations on inter-library loan from out-of-town universities (2 weeks.)
What’s not to love about this place?