NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY

NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY

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Client: The New York Public Library 
Location: New York, NY
Size: 10,000 sf
Program: Permanent Galleries
Cost: $3,000,000
Status: Completed 2002
Link to web content: The Smithsonian Institution
Role: Celia Imrey, design and managing principal - Imrey Culbert

These projects involved the gut renovation of the New York Public Library’s two main museum spaces: Gottesman Hall, completed in 2000 and The Wachenheim Room, completed in 2002, both of the NYPL’s historic main branch- The Stephen A Schwartzman Building --on 42nd street and 5th Avenue. Gottesman Hall had become marked by outdated casework, crude walls that masked windows and conflicted with the original ornate architecture, and a lighting system that provided no ambient light. In response to these problems, we designed a flexible casework system of free-standing movable wall cases with fiberoptic lighting and in-case LED lighting – the first of it’s kind. Restoration of the ornate wood ceilings and integrated lighting were a collaboration with lighting designer Suzan Tillotson of TDA.

The in-case lighting technology was the first of its kind, prompting our work to be discussed in various museum journals, see example below:

“Advances in lighting systems allow art museum visitors to view masterpieces without the harm caused by old-fashioned light bulbs…For example, Inline Culbert, New York, designed state-of-the-art display cases for the New York Public Library with a revolutionary cold lighting system comprised of spring-loaded LED bars and conductive glass that allows the light to be positioned anywhere in the case without a visible electrical connection.”
“The Impact of Technology on Art Museums,” by The Office of Policy and Analysis, Smithsonian Institution

Additionally, The projects included the temporary exhibition design for “Utopia, the Search for the Ideal Society in the Western World.”  In Utopia, transparent floating shelves holding volumes of utopic or distopic literature, like Fahrenheit 451, were available for visitors to read as a complement to the glassed-in valuables like the Declaration of Independence or Karl Marx’s original Communist Manifesto.

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