The New York Public Library will today unveil plans for a $22 million renovation of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, one of the world’s leading research and cultural institutions devoted to the black experience.
“One of the Schomburg Center’s core missions is preservation. Everything we do flows from preserving the rich legacy of black people here and around the world,” said Schomburg Director Dr. Khalil Muhammad. “If the building isn’t preserved, if the infrastructure isn’t modernized, then we cannot ensure that our treasures will survive another 90 years. We are so grateful to New York City, the Ford Foundation, and Citi for being major funders of this essential renovation project.”
The multi-year renovation project — led by Marble Fairbanks Architects, Westerman Construction Company, and the City Department of Design and Construction — will involve a series of improvements to the Center, including:
- An increase in square footage of the Center’s popular gift shop, which will be relocated to the front of the building on the ground floor.
- A complete renovation of the Schomburg’s second floor reading room and an expansion of its Rare Book Collection vault. A new conference room connected to the reading room and improved staff spaces will also be added.
- The 9,000 square-foot interior of the Schomburg’s landmark building (built in 1905) will receive exterior renovations and have its interior reconfigured to provide improved public areas, a new interactive gallery space for youth and teens, and compact storage for Schomburg’s Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division and the Art and Artifacts Division.
- The addition of a high-definition LED signage system in the Schomburg lobby that will be visible on the street, bringing Schomburg’s programming and collections into the Harlem community.
- Video displays and artifact vitrines will be added to the building’s east façade, allowing for outdoor digital exhibitions.
Streetscape and landscape improvements–sidewalk paving, benches, and vegetated landscaping–to give New Yorkers a quiet space to congregate and view the screens and outdoor exhibitions.
- Upgrades to the Center’s Langston Hughes Auditorium — including a state-of-the-art sound system and better central controls — and the Schomburg HVAC system.
The current project is actually phase II of a broader renovation of the Schomburg Center. Phase I was completed in 2007, and included a new lobby and scholar’s center, and a refurbished main reading room. The current phase is expected to be completed in early 2017.
The renovations come at a time of record use at the Schomburg Center: the Center saw a 26 percent increase in overall attendance in the last three years, and a 39 percent increase in program attendance. The Center, celebrating its 90th year, was also awarded the prestigious 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, presented by First Lady Michelle Obama in Washington, D.C. in May.
The current phase of the project is made possible with funding from City Council member Inez Dickens, the City Council Speaker, the Mayor’s Office, New York State construction grants supported by State Senator Bill Perkins and State Assemblyman Keith Wright, and the Ford Foundation. Additionally, the Schomburg Center received a Federal New Markets Tax Credit towards the project. The $10 million allocation was facilitated by Citi in partnership with Carver Federal Savings Bank, the largest African-American operated bank in the United States. The financing was structured by Monge Capital.
Read the Complete Announcement
See Also: Learn More About the Schomburg Center
See Also: Visit Digital Schomburg