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Shelf Life

Property of the Pandemic

From face masks to diaries, institutions are collecting artifacts from daily life under COVID-19. One itinerant museum has preserved letters from landlords to tenants for posterity.

Shelf Life

Lost in Transit

An artist acquires a collection of unclaimed rings gathered from New York City's subway system, instigating an unconventional search for their origins and values.

Radicals and Real Estate

This is what democracy looks like: not only public squares, but office buildings. In the Lower East Side, the Peace Pentagon was the source point for four decades of resistance.

Shelf Life

Do You Remember How It Was?

Residents recall a decade of upheaval in the East New York Oral History Project.

Shelf Life

Seeding the Next Epoch

Seed libraries can restart agriculture after disasters. But what of useless plants? Two artists save the spontaneous, weedy species that serve no purpose but their own.

Shelf Life

Has Any City Ever Planned for Love?

For Shelf Life, a film made in 1964 provides an enduring lens through which to look at density's delights.

Shelf Life

Architecture in the Basement

In the first installment of Shelf Life, Janet Parks, curator of the Avery Drawings and Archives at Columbia University, takes us through its architectural underworld, uncovering the collection's treasures.

Urban Memory Infrastructure

A city needs memory like it needs streets, trees, and people. But how do we build an infrastructure to contain and deliver the city's history? Ben Vershbow, former director of NYPL Labs, talks with Shannon Mattern about libraries as stewards of the past in the age of Google Maps.

Profiles in Public Service

Actionable Cartographies

The New York Public Library’s geospatial librarian Matt Knutzen discusses his stewardship of half a million maps and 20,000 atlases and the contemporary applications of this vast, historical collection.

Making Meaning Together: The Triangle Fire Open Archive and Open Museum

Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani tells the story behind an innovative memorial to a century-old tragedy with an evolving and enduring legacy for labor rights, building codes and the challenges of commemoration.