“Why do 18th century English paintings have so many squirrels in them, and how did they tame them so that they wouldn’t bite the painter?” It’s easy to find answers to such perplexing questions today. A quick Google search explains that squirrels were once desirable pets, and that domesticating them could be achieved in six simple steps.
But in 1976, when the question was first posed to a librarian at the New York Public Library (NYPL), the internet hadn’t yet made everything ridiculously easy. Unable to answer the query, the bemused librarian who received it typed it onto a reference card and filed it away.
Recently, a staff member found the recipe box (labeled “Interesting Reference Questions”) containing it and hundreds others asked between the 1940s and 1980s while cleaning out a desk. NYPL has since been posting pictures of its contents to Twitter and Instagram under the hashtag #LetMeLibrarianThatForYou.
“People came to the library for reference, but also for info on buying and selling, looking for inspiration, crafty project ideas, and even to find photos,” it wrote. “In a world pre-Google, librarians weren’t just Wikipedia, they were people’s Craiglist, Pinterest, Etsy, and Instagram all rolled into one.”
The library told Gothamist that while it always tries to answer such inquiries right away, the ones in the box were likely those for which it didn’t have an immediate response. Some are amusing (“Is it possible to keep an octopus in a private home?”), while others are heartbreaking (“Is it proper to go to Reno alone to get a divorce?”). Seen together, they’re a testament to what might be one of humankind’s greatest attributes — our unquenchable curiosity.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very New York art events this month, including Lee Lozano, Cindy Sherman, Tokuko Ushioda, Anas Albraehe, and more.
The art establishment was never quite sure what to do with a self-taught artist like Basquiat, who owed as much to bebop and William S. Burroughs’s cut-up technique as he did to African influences.
International audiences have free access to the media collections of MMCA Korea, Sharjah Art Foundation, and ArkDes through this subscription-based art streaming platform.
Kadish’s fossil-like heads, forms, and figures remind us that every civilization, including our own, eventually collapses.
In every role she held, Vendryes advocated for marginalized people and celebrated the cultural contributions of the Black and queer communities.
Convened by Erika Sprey, Lamin Fofana, Sky Hopinka, Emmy Catedral, and Manuela Moscoso, the public program unfolds this summer at CARA in New York City.
Stanton, who died of AIDS complications in 1984, left behind an engaging body of work, a moving tribute to a bygone generation of creative minds.
Baz Luhrmann’s film Elvis and Danny Boyle’s miniseries Pistol are both overly fixated on the influence their respective musicians’ managers had on them.
The Bay Area art book fair is back this July with free programming at three different on-site venues, new exhibitors, and fundraising editions from renowned artists.
In the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision, arts workers and reproductive rights organizations are collaborating on educational resources for accessing safe procedures.
The couple launched the Futureverse Foundation, a grantmaking organization that aims to “help keep the metaverse widely accessible.”
The museum’s “pay-what-you-wish” policy will remain in place for New York State residents and tri-state students, but out-of-state adults will pay $5 extra.