"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

New York Minute

I’ve used efficient, modern-looking microfilm machines, but not at the main branch of the New York Public Library. The machines there are so temperamental that I half-expect a wise-ass bird poke his head out as if I lived in an episode of “The Flinstones.”

That said, there are few things I enjoy as much as digging through old newspapers and magazines on the hunt for research material. It’s taxing on the eyes, your back gets sore leaning over, you often have to fight threading the damn machine up, and sometimes you don’t get what you came for. Other times,  you find things by accident. Oh, those happy accidents.

Along the way,  a forgotten world comes alive, especially in the newspapers–advertisements, headlines, stories and pictures. And there are so many  writers I’ve never heard of before. Plus, there is the thrill of putting in the time to track things down that you can’t find on-line and there’s so much stuff out there that is not on the web it’s not even funny.

The wife calls me a nerd. Guilty as charged.


1 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 13, 2012 11:02 am

I haven't used one of these since college, I bet, but I used to love it. The trouble was that I was supposed to be collecting research for a paper or something and I would wind up killing hours lost in the movie section, the sports, advertising, et al.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 13, 2012 12:19 pm

I don't know what you could possibly mean. LOL

3 RIYank   ~  Jun 13, 2012 12:20 pm

I used to use them in high school, at the main branch. Man, I haven't thought about those things in ages. I'm actually surprised they still exist -- why hasn't the NYPL just digitized all that stuff?

4 RagingTartabull   ~  Jun 13, 2012 12:36 pm

I can easily spend a good 4 hours aimlessly wandering the Times archives.

also, here's a very good baseball story from Greg Hanlon at Capital:


5 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 13, 2012 1:30 pm

3) Do you know how much stuff there is? I'm sure it's way too expensive to ever take on a project like that.

What's funny is that the machines are so cranky. You'd think that the NYPublic Library would at least have nice ones.

6 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 13, 2012 1:32 pm

[3] I have a friend who's an archivist librarian at Harvard, and she says its actually not very easy to digitally archive that stuff so that its both searchable and error free. If you just want it scanned in, then no problem - but most places bother to try to make it searchable, which means they have to correct errors from the scanning process.

[0] "The wife calls me a nerd. Guilty as charged."

Aren't we all? And on that note, I'll bet you'll enjoy this as much as anyone I've shared it with, Alex. So true and yet so amusing:


(h/t Keith Law's dish)

7 RIYank   ~  Jun 13, 2012 1:59 pm

[5] [6] But Google is doing it, and to even more stuff than the NYPL has on microfilm. (Waaaaaaay more.)

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver