Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Guide to the Schomburg Center's Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division: What to Expect

This guide is designed to help new researchers get comfortable conducting research in the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Check-in Points

After completing your preliminary research and making an appointment, you will be ready to view collections at the Schomburg Center. There are a few things you can do to arrive ready to conduct your research and maintain stamina during your visit.

  1. Check-in with security
    1. Our security team is an important part of our team that keeps visitors and collection materials safe by managing crowds, and directing visitors to exhibits and the appropriate research divisions.
    2. Check your coat, bags, and personal items with at Coat Check. Please reference your confirmation email to understand what materials you can bring with you to the second floor.
    3. Ask security to provide you with access to the second floor.
  2. Check-in at the 2nd-floor service desk 
    1. Once you reach the 2nd floor, check-in at the service desk to register, discuss the rules, and obtain your research materials.
    2. Throughout your visit, check-in with the librarian to update future box requests, and to set up a research consultation if needed.
  3. Engage in Self Care
    1. Remember to stand up and stretch. Walk down the hall to the restroom or the water fountain.
    2. Take a lunch break at one of the many surrounding restaurants or food trucks.
    3. If you are feeling restless, visit one of the many exhibits on display at the Schomburg Center to discover something new.
    4. Take your time with the materials to ensure that proper care is taken while handling the documents.
    5. Extend your appointment over more days if needed.

Assistive Technology

If you need assistance with using materials such as access to a CCTV, requesting a reader, or would like help using assistive apps, please contact us in advance of your visit.

If you have difficulty reading handwriting, or small text, or would like materials to be read to you, consider the free app SeeingAI as a possible solution. Don't forget your headphones!

Reading Room Sculptures/African Pieces

  • Tree of Life (African Black Wood (Mpingo))
  • Ira Aldridge as Othello by Pietro Calvi, ca. 1860s (Marble and Bronze)
  • Political Prisoner by Elizabeth Catlett, 1971 (wood)
  • Standing female figure, Bamana, Mali, ca. 1950 (wood)
  • Equestrian Figure Horseman, Bambra, Côte d'Ivoire, ca. 1950 (wood)
  • Awakening of Ethiopia= Ethiopia Awakening by Meta Warrick Fuller, ca. 1914 (Bronze)
  • Paul Robeson as Othello by Richard Barthe, 1975 (bronze)
  • Female Figure, Bamana, Mali (wood)
  • Canada Lee by Richmond Barthe, ca. 1942 (bronze)

For more information about the artwork at the Schomburg Center, please contact the Art and Artifacts Division.

Reading Room Policy

You are only allowed the following items in the reading room:

  • NYPL Library Card
  • Pencils (We will provide notepaper)
  • Laptops or tablets
  • Cell Phones
  • Cameras

All other items must be checked at Coat Check.

Please view our General Regulations prior to your visit.

Email a librarian with any questions about your visit.

Reading Room Tools

Researchers may be asked to use some of the following materials during their research visit. These tools are generally available to help protect archival materials. If you have questions about their use or think you may need something, please ask for assistance.

Out Card- Large red and yellow laminated dividers used to keep track of where folders of materials should be returned when they are removed from archival boxes.

Mylar Sleeves- Clear plastic sleeve that help to protect documents. These are often used with newspapers and other paper-based items to protect them from crumbling. Please ask for assistance before removing documents from the protective sleeve.

Book Cradles- Foam triangles used to protect the spines of rare books, scrapbooks, and bound material. Two pieces (or more) can be used to keep the spine of a book from cracking open and to protect pages from tearing. 

String and Pillow Weights- Cord "shoestring" like weights or cotton pouches filled with small beans can be used to keep documents flat, or book pages open. Weights are often used to aid in taking pictures of an item. These protect books and documents from sustaining tears. Instead of pressing on an open book spine, bending or creasing pages, ask for weights to help gently keep items open or flat for viewing.

Cotton Gloves- While it is best to handle materials with clean, dry hands, gloves can be used to protect documents from oil and moisture on the skin. Please take care if asked to use gloves, as they limit the dexterity in our hands, and sometimes cause damage to brittle paper documents.

Ethiopia Awakening by Meta Warrick Fuller