Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Schomberg Center

Since I was unable to attend the field trip of the NY Public Library with you on Thursday, I decided to take a virtual online tour of the Schomburg Center, which is located on Malcom X Boulevard, and is a part of the NY Public Library. Here is a link for the virtual tour, which is also where I got all of my information from: http://www.nypl.org/sites/default/files/Schom-self-guide.pdf.

I chose the Schomburg Center, because of its dedication to preserving extremely diverse cultures, African and those of African descent. For over 80 years the Schomburg Center has been collecting art, books, documents etc. and using them to educate people about Black culture all over the world. I believe it is vital to preserve cultures, especially such complex cultures as the African and the descendants of Africans, because of the hardships they went through, the battles they fought and the challenges they have over come. I hope to visit the Schomburg Center in person and benefit from the resources it has to offer.

The Schomburg Center, which derived from the Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints, is a research library for Black Culture. The Division of Negro Literature, History, and Prints was originally a special collection within the 135th St. Branch Library in 1925 during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. The division was later on named after Arturo Schomburg, whose large collection the division gained in 1940. In 1972 the Schomburg Collection became a research library, which expanded greatly in 1991 with the addition of the Langston Hughes Auditorium and the American Negro Theatre.

The Schomburg Center's lobby is named after none other than Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. Schomburg was a Puerto Rican of African descent. Schomburg was a bibliophile who collected things that had to do with African history and culture. He was the curator of the Division of Negro History, Literature, and Prints until his death in 1938.

The Center's second lobby is named in honor of the late Langston Hughes. Hughes is one of the most influential artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes emigrated from Missouri to New York at age 19 (1921). He studied at Columbia University and published his famous poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" in Crisis magazine, also at the age of 19. Hughes was a playwright, poet, novelist, librettist and humorist and became "Harlem's Poet Laureate".

The "site specific public art installation, dance floor and peace memorial" , also known as a "cosmogram" was made by Houston Conwill in honor of both Schomburg and Hughes. Conwill was inspired by Hughes' poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". The cosmogram includes "seven edited fragments of the poem" which are "positioned symbolically at relevant geographic locations". The last words of the poem are in a fish shaped body in the center of the cosmogram. Hughes' cremated remains are interred beneath this. The cosmogram includes texts and art having to do with the diversity of African cultures.

The Center includes many different collections varying from rare books that document the history of Africans around the world, manuscripts, photographs documenting the culture of people of African descent, arts and artifacts, and moving images. To find out more about the Schomburg Center visit: http://www.nypl.org/locations/schomburg.

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