The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University will reopen its iconic building on Tuesday, Sept. 6, following a 16-month renovation that upgraded the library’s climate-control system, expanded its classroom space, and restored the architectural landmark to its original luster.
“We are excited to welcome back researchers and visitors to the library — an architectural masterpiece that has been adapted to meet challenges created by an ever expanding collection, changing technology, and the evolving nature of the library’s mission,” Beinecke Library Director Edwin “E.C.” Schroeder said. “The renovation ensures that the Beinecke Library will remain a world-class center for teaching, research, and scholarship for decades to come.”
The building’s architectural features — its exterior grid of granite and Vermont marble panels, six-story glass stack tower, and sculpture garden by sculptor Isamu Noguchi — have been refurbished to fully preserve architect Gordon Bunshaft’s modernist masterpiece, which opened in October 1963. Chicago-based HBRA Architects led the design work witjh assistance from New Haven-based Newman Architects.
The bulk of the comprehensive renovation project concerned replacing the library’s mechanical infrastructure — its plumbing, electrical, heating, and cooling systems — much of which was original to the building. Machinery in the building’s sub-basement, including room-sized air handlers and chillers, was replaced with state-of-the-art equipment. The building’s security and fire-suppression systems were also upgraded.
The project doubled the number of classrooms in the library from two to four. One of the new classrooms will function as a lab space in which students will have the ability to study the physical structures of books and experiment with inks, papermaking, and printing.
The building closed for renovation in May 2015. In preparation for the project, five miles worth of collection material — the equivalent of about 255,000 books — was relocated to the Yale University Library Shelving Facility. The six-story stack tower was cleared of its 180,000 volumes, which were moved to protected areas within the building.
Yale’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible — one of 21 complete copies of the first book printed in moveable type still in existence — and John Audubon’s “Birds of America,” temporarily housed at the Yale University Art Gallery and Peabody Museum of Natural History, respectively, will return to permanent display in the Beinecke’s public exhibition space.
During the building closure, the library provided scholars access to its collections via a temporary reading room in Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library, where faculty and students continued to study collection material in a temporary classroom.
To give library staff time to prepare for the reopening, there will be no access to the Beinecke’s collections until the doors open on Sept. 6. The library will resume hosting Yale classes on Sept. 19.
Two exhibitions will mark the reopening. One will showcase recent acquisitions to the library’s collections, featuring a broad range of material including medieval manuscripts, early and contemporary photography, and the papers of celebrated writers. Items on display will include photographs of Abraham Lincoln from the Meserve-Kunhardt Collection of 19th century American photography, a collection of letters from James Baldwin, additions to the Ezra Pound papers, and selections from archives of playwright Paula Vogel and writer David Rakoff.
The second exhibition, “Destined to be Known: The James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection at 75,” celebrates the 75th anniversary of Yale’s collection of African American arts and literature named for civil rights advocate and renowned man of letters James Weldon Johnson. Founded in 1941 by Carl Van Vechten, the collection contains the papers, works, and memorabilia of African American writers and artists from the 18th century through modern times. It features the archives of Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Zora Neale Hurston, among other luminaries.
The library will host an open house for the public on Saturday, Oct. 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.