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NYPL’s Schomburg Center in Harlem reveals its complete two-year renovation

Check out the new gift shop, research spaces, and more

Jonathan Blanc/NYPL

After a nearly two-year renovation, the New York Public Library debuted a host of renovated spaces inside the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in Harlem.

The Center, located on Malcolm X Boulevard, between West 136th and 135th Streets is comprised of three interconnected buildings: The Langston Hughes Building, the Schomburg Building, and the Landmark Building. All three spaces saw renovations as part of the $22.3 million revamp.

In 2015, NYPL brought on Marble Fairbanks Architects to design the renovation, and some of the work they carried out is as follows: a complete renovation of the 112-year-old Landmark Building, which was named a national historic landmark, in January this year. Changes here include a new gallery space, new research space, and new rooms for staff as well.

The Rare Books Reading Room on the second floor of the building was also renovated; improvements were made to the Langston Hughes Auditorium, fitting it with a state-of-the-art sound system; the roofs on both the Langston Hughes, and Landmark building were replaced; and a new two-story annex was built, allowing for a larger gift shop on the ground floor, and a conference room on the second floor.

Exterior view of the new giftshop.
Inside the gift shop.

The renovations were unveiled after a ribbon cutting ceremony held earlier today that was attended by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the grandson and great-granddaughter of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the historian and activist after whom the center is named, and several other elected officials.

All those who spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday stressed the importance of investing in the Schomburg Center, especially in the increasingly divisive political climate.

“The Schomburg Center’s impact is immeasurable both in scale and importance, and its mission to preserve and protect history and spark real discussion is arguably more important than ever before,” Tony Marx, the president of NYPL, said in a statement.

“One of the most important institutions to the African diaspora has now been renovated to match the increased enthusiasm and attendance of the people of Harlem and visitors from across the globe,” New York State Assembly member Inez Dickens, who played a large part in pushing for the renovations, added.

A floor mural depicting some Arturo Schomburg’s journey to the United States.
The Moving Image section of the library on the third floor.
A section of the staff offices at the library.

The precursor to the Schomburg Center was founded in 1925 as The Division of Negro Literature, History, and Prints, and was part of the 135th Street Branch Library at the time. In 1926, the library acquired Arturo Schomburg’s massive collection of books, manuscripts, and paintings, and Schomburg himself served as the curator of this division of the library from 1932 until his death in 1938. The division was renamed in his honor in 1940, and in 1972, the overall library became one of the Research Libraries of the NYPL and was renamed Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Photo by Tanay Warerkar

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

515 Malcolm X Boulevard, Manhattan, NY 10037 Visit Website