Tribute builds upon the Library’s ongoing commitment to scholarship and access to collections
The New York Public Library on Thursday announced it has officially dedicated its Center for Research in the Humanities in honor of former NYPL President Vartan Gregorian, whose extraordinary leadership revitalized the Library and helped solidify its position as an indispensable civic and educational institution. The Library’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the name change during their quarterly meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 15.
The new Vartan Gregorian Center for Research in the Humanities is dedicated to furthering the Library’s mission to engage, inspire, support, and connect a growing community of scholars worldwide — all of which were priorities of Gregorian during his tenure as NYPL President from 1981-89.
Located in the heart of the Library’s flagship Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the Gregorian Center is both an homage to its namesake’s enduring legacy and a physical manifestation of all of the progress and growth in the Research Library over the last decade. That progress includes substantial investments in collections, programs, and access to public space, highlights of which are outlined below.
Lead support for the Gregorian Center is provided by Carnegie Corporation of New York, where Gregorian served as President from 1997 until his death in 2021. The Library is also grateful for the generosity of Gregorian’s many friends and colleagues: Bloomberg Philanthropies, Agnes Gund, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos, Annette de la Renta, Fiona and Stanley Druckenmiller, Barbara G. Fleischman, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harold W. McGraw III Foundation, Abby and Howard Milstein, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The Rockefeller Foundation, and The Edward John and Patricia Rosenwald Foundation.
The 8,000 square feet space, which was part of the Schwarzman building’s recent $200 million renovation project, provides a vibrant work environment for up to 400 researchers, including 40 scholars on paid fellowships. Additional highlights of the Gregorian Center include:
- Dedicated spaces to support researchers and fellows by offering long-term access to collections and staff expertise in quiet workspaces, while simultaneously building meaningful and sustained connections between researchers and the Library.
- This includes four study rooms (Scholars Reading Room, Shoichi Noma Reading Room, Frederick Lewis Allen Room, and Wertheim Study) which scholars can apply to use.
- The rooms will also hold books from Gregorian’s personal library.
- Public events, programs and classes for researchers and visitors to learn more about the collections. Programs include:
- Friday Afternoon Lecture Series: A new public lecture series, offering insights into books written with NYPL support and topics related to the library’s collections and exhibitions. Programs are held on Fridays at 2 PM.
- Research 101 Series: Tailored for both experienced and novice researchers, this series of classes, lectures, and workshops offers comprehensive resources to advance research and fulfill information needs effectively
- Class Visits: Staff work with educators to design class visits that use the Library’s remarkable collections to foster creative inquiry, build critical thinking and information literacy skills, and inspire wonder and excitement around the process of research.
“It is impossible to overstate the impact of Vartan Gregorian. He is known as the savior of the Library, but I would argue his work to guarantee free access to knowledge for all at a time of enormous challenges also saved New York City. This naming honors that important legacy and underscores the significance of the Library’s mission, especially on behalf of a growing community of scholars worldwide. More and more it feels like we find ourselves in a moment not dissimilar from the one in which Vartan led the Library. At a time when once again people are counting New York City out, we will take inspiration in what he was able to achieve and navigate these choppy waters together,” said NYPL President Anthony W. Marx.
“The Vartan Gregorian Center for Research in the Humanities has a mission to inspire, engage, and connect a growing community of researchers from all over the world, all while providing access to the Library’s remarkable collections,” said Brent Reidy, the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Research Libraries. “It is an amazing resource for all, aptly named after our legendary former president who dedicated his life to providing free access to knowledge. I am excited to see the scholarship this site will support in the years to come.”
“The headline over the beautiful New York Times obituary of our father referred to him as the ‘Savior of the New York Public Library.’ He was so many things to so many people, but those words spoke eloquently to his journey and essence, the spirit of hope and enlightenment that defined his life and the central role that libraries played in it,” said Vahe, Raffi, and Dareh Gregorian. “We are deeply grateful that this center will perpetuate his legacy of humanism, with Patience and Fortitude standing watch over our beloved Literary Lion.
“If you knew Vartan, you know that he loved libraries, as Andrew Carnegie did before him. Vartan referred to them as an oasis for renewal of one’s imagination and the development of one’s mind—a necessity for every community,” said Dame Louise Richardson, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. “We are delighted to honor his legacy as one of the NYPL’s great champions by supporting the Vartan Gregorian Center for Research in the Humanities. I cannot think of a more fitting tribute than a space for scholars to allow their imaginations to take flight amidst the extraordinary resources of this great library.”
The renaming of the Gregorian Center is just the latest example of the Library’s ongoing commitment to scholarship and access to its collections.
Notable developments in recent years under NYPL President Anthony W. Marx include:
- Global Studies Curators: Over the past five years, the Library has appointed three global studies curators, each working across general and special collections, fostering a more collaborative approach to collection development and research support.
- Hiba Abid, Curator, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.
- Hired in 2022, Abid is the first curator of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the Library.
- Paloma Celis Carbajal, Curator, Latin American, Iberian and Latino Studies (hired in 2018, first of its kind)
- Hired in 2018, Carbajal is the first curator of Latin American, Iberian and Latino Studies at the Library.
- Bogdan Horbal, Curator, Slavic and East European Collections
- Horbal was hired in 2018.
- Hiba Abid, Curator, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.
- Increased Fellowships: the Library has seen a remarkable increase in the number of fellowships, with a growth of over 50% in the past three years, rising from 18 in 2020 to 28 today. This expansion also includes diversifying review panels, which has resulted in more diverse applicants.
- Milstein Research Stacks: The Library has transformed an additional 55,700 square feet of raw space beneath Bryant Park into a second floor of the cutting-edge storage facility that can safely preserve and store over 4 million books and archival materials on-site, representing a historic milestone for the Library.
- Shared Research Collection: Launched in 2017 in collaboration with Columbia, Princeton, and Harvard, this initiative has made the Library’s volumes accessible to patrons through a shared catalog, more than doubling the research catalog from 10 million volumes to an impressive 24 million volumes.
- Expanding Digital Access: Over 120,000 items have been digitized and made available through Digital Collections in the last five years, bringing the total number of items digitized to 865,983.
Gregorian led the Library during a time of extraordinary financial and social insecurity in New York City. He is widely credited with restoring the Library after years of neglect and building the foundation that enabled it to become the preeminent civic and educational institution it is known as today. Following a decade of fiscal crisis in New York City and disinvestment in the Library, he forged strong relationships within city government and in the philanthropic sector. The hard work paid off: he restored hours of service across branches, renovated many historic locations, and significantly grew the Library’s endowment. Gregorian also strengthened the circulating collections with a focus on multilingual and multicultural materials, grew the education and literacy programs, invested in curators and expert staff in our research libraries, increased the capacity to process and preserve the Library’s collections.
About The New York Public Library
For over 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With over 90 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars. The New York Public Library receives approximately 16 million visits through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.