July 16, 2009 | News
By Irene Gashurov
A virtual photographic exhibition of the newly redesigned Morgan Library was mounted this July on the Mina Rees Library’s Digital Murray Hill website. The website provides a visual presentation of the Manhattan neighborhood’s changing landscape over the last hundred years (http://murrayhill.gc.cuny.edu). The newest installation on Digital Murray Hill bundles scholarship, images and high-tech web design to create a spectacular overview of the Morgan Library’s history.
At the centerpiece of the collection are exquisite photographs of the Morgan’s towering steel-and-glass atrium and interior by art historian Ralph Lieberman juxtaposed with historic photographs from the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association. “Every time I open Ralph Lieberman’s photographs of Pierpont Morgan’s personal library, they give me a sense of the richness of the original museum building,” says Mina Rees librarian Angela Sidman, co-creator of the project. “It clues you into how the Morgan was meant to be seen.”
Sharing equal billing with the splendid imagery is the website’s interactive design, which allows viewers many avenues to explore the virtual multisensory environment. The rich and intuitive web design reveals the Morgan Library through different eras; a keyword search for “mansions” will bring up palaces of 19th-century robber barons and 20th-century tycoons in high-resolution brilliance. The images of the Morgan’s grand Renaissance Revival buildings and the newly added Renzo Piano atrium can be enlarged or displayed as thumbnails, compared with related images, or grouped together to show the building’s changing face over time. Visitors can also view the landmarks on an interactive map of the neighborhood, and a Flickr page lets users of the site to contribute their own photos of Murray Hill. “People are dazzled by the maps and their ability to let you visualize the neighborhood through different prisms,” says Sidman.
Kevin Reiss, co-creator of the Digital Murray Hill and systems librarian at the Office of Library Service was responsible for implementing the site and designing its look and feel. “The site is successful because the descriptive information attached to each image is very detailed,” he says, “this detail interacts very well with the technologies used to deploy the website and lets you explore the content at a deeper level.”
CUNY’s history has always been intertwined with New York’s and this view of Murray Hill”home to the CUNY Graduate Center”underscores those ties. “The value of Digital Murray Hill is in capturing the relationship CUNY has with the outside world,” says Reiss. “The site traces the development of a historic neighborhood. And that’s of interest to everyone: CUNY scholars, architecture buffs, real estate business and the community at large.”