SAM Library in NYC in Storage?

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Postby magicam » 11/09/05 03:31 AM

Don't know if this has been discussed here, but I just heard that the SAM library in the New York Public Library is no longer available to magi and has been put in storage. Is this true?

If it's true and is not a truly temporary thing, that's one more for the folks who argue against donating or selling magic books to an institution, let alone a public library.

Clay
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Postby CHRIS » 11/09/05 06:38 AM

Clay,

don't worry. Sooner or later most of magic literature will be available electronically anywhere all the time.

Best,
Chris
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Postby magicam » 11/09/05 07:32 AM

Good one, Chris! ;)
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Postby MaxNY » 11/09/05 02:08 PM

I ran into some problems six or seven years ago. The "storage", is believed to be basement shelves. You had to be a card carrying conjurer in order to convey clearance,...Clay.Either a legitimate Poetic License, or S.A.M. card was all you needed. I think they had problems with people ripping out pages, so the powers that be, thought a better form of protection was in order.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 11/09/05 02:31 PM

As I remember it, the NYPL was looking to get rid of them because of space. The problem was where the SAM library began and ended. No one had the list, except for a few collectors. In the end, as I remember it, there isn't access to it, as they were place in someone's basement on Long Island.

Speaking of the NYPL, they used to have great garage sales in the 1970's. You could pick up signed Herrmann, Kellar, Houdini etc. items for a dollar a pop.
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Postby Pete Biro » 11/09/05 02:41 PM

GET THOSE BOOKS OUT OF ANY BASEMENTS... NOW

I lost over 300 rare books with a burst pipe. Our insurance people say NEVER STORE IN BASEMENTS OR UNDER BEDS... (TOILETS CAN RUN OVER).
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Postby Guest » 11/09/05 06:57 PM

I can believe that they had problems with ripped out pages. I am surprised that they had any books left. In the early days of the Magic Castle Harry Coles was librarian and I was assistant librarian. I can tell you that our losses were shameful. We had books that had been in Houdini's library and had his marginal notes. All were stolen. We had hardbound copies of books that were published as paperbacks. For example, we had many of the Jack Chanin paper backs that had been rebound into a hardback book. Included in that was one title that Jack himself did not have a copy of. He was surprised to see that we did. Of course, it, too, was stolen.

I do believe that among collectors of magicana there are a certain number of light fingered types.
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Postby Richard Lane » 11/09/05 07:48 PM

Clay:
This is the current situation regarding magic books at the New York Public Library.

Almost everything that comprises the magic collection has been held offsite in New Jersey for the last few years.

Type MZC as the call number into the link below to see the whole list of 1284 items.

http://catnyp.nypl.org/search/

Originally it was just until the new Theatre Collection space at Lincoln Center was all tricked out. (It is a nice space to research.) Then the holdings faced a conflict over space and demand. On site they decided to keep 'The Encyclopedia of Magic and Magicians,' 'Magic Magazines of the Second Millennium' and 'The Annals of Conjuring.' Maybe a couple of others. In the rare book room you can read Mr. Caveney's 'Carter the Great' delivered with white gloved reverance.

A complete file of Mahatma trussed up in string has to be unceremoniously bounced around on a shuttle from New Jersey and it can take days to arrive. You can only order up 5 items at a time from this spectral holding. And only three bound volumes of a magazine are permitted per order. A regular black hole of data. (I've never been asked for my S.A.M. credentials by the way.)

These books have been boxed for so long, librarians freely admit they do not know what is lost, misplaced or escaped. They also admit they will never be re-integrated into easily accessible Manhattan stacks.

I did hear a rumor that the Parent Assembly was attempting to extricated some of the holdings. Tom Klem maybe? I hope, hope this is true. I can't describe or count the frustrations I've encountered with the current system.

If anyone in NY is trying to pull out some of these titles from the abyss and would like a Manhattan resident to help join the cause, please drop me a line.

p.s. Many items at the 42nd St branch that escaped straight magic classification, e.g. 'FitzKee's Contact Mind Reading Exposed,' have been very carefully removed by a razor blade. Thanks jackass.
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Postby Pete Biro » 11/10/05 10:38 AM

A the time Loyd E. Jones had the most complete, valuable library of magic books in the world.

One night he told me he was working on his will and decided to leave the entire collection to his Alma Mater, Cal Berkeley.

I told him NO WAY... no, please... they will be buried in some obscure basement and rot away.

No, he said, they will take good care of them.

I said, don't believe me... but go there and see what's there and what the care and interest is.

He got back and immediately dropped that item from his will. He couldn't believe what a disaster the library was.

(Note: as an aside my wife's father was a famous western artist and the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City wants us to leave his archives to them. So... we are going there when we can to check out how they take care of things.)

Anyway, thankfully, Loyd then put the library of for sale and gave me first refusal.

Like a fool I refused as I didn't have SPACE for the collection.

My high school mate Byron Walker did.

Without revealing numbers I would say the investment has beat the stock market, gold, oil, you name it... maybe increasing 200-300 times in value.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 11/10/05 10:58 AM

Originally posted by Richard Lane:
...Originally it was just until the new Theatre Collection space at Lincoln Center was all tricked out. (It is a nice space to research.) ...
It was a nice thing while it lasted. There one could peruse Ponsin, Decremps, Robert-Houdin, Edward Victor... now truly history it seems. :(
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Postby magicam » 11/10/05 11:19 AM

Thanks to all who have provided first-hand reports of their experiences with the SAM Collection. From these accounts one can only draw a deep sigh of sadness.

Thanks to Pete Biro who managed to help Lloyd Jones see the light, as it were. As perhaps is obvious, Im not very enthusiastic about the idea of magic collections going into institutions almost as a rule, they lose interest quickly or shunt the magic memorabilia off to the corners of the institution. Look at what happened with the Mulholland collection, much of the Houdini collection at the Library of Congress remains in boxes, uncataloged, etc.

The Burlingame/Rybolt/Jones library is in good hands with Byron Walker, and Byron has done so much work in adding and upgrading that the library is far different from what it was when Byron purchased it.

I visited the SAM collection in March, 1979 while doing research for HGC, and as I recall, found it fairly easy to look at books. I cant recall if there were limits on the number of books I could look at in a sitting, but I do remember the library staffer commenting that the collection was not used that much.

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Postby Guest » 11/11/05 01:04 AM

For those wondering about some of the horror stories above, please read, "The Preservation of Magic" by Leo Behnke, and/or "Double Fold-The Libraries Assault on Paper", by Nicholson Baker, before you consider certain libraries, universities and other institutions, to donate to.
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Postby Tom Klem » 11/29/05 02:27 PM

Mr Robert Lane and Genii Forum Readers:

Some of the books donated by the SAM to the NYPL were scaned and put on to microfilm then the books were disgarded. This is the fate of a copy of H.J. Burlingame's 1897 book "Herrmann The Magician - His Life; His Secrets". Many others were stolen. cut up and a few are recover and in the Parent Assembly storage locker.

This material is safe but not catalogued or conserved for a good future. After much conversation we at PA#1 decided to move this material into Manhattan. The material then will be digitally cataloged and we will start the long road to conserving this collection. I will doing this for the Assembly.

Best,

Tom Klem

Archivist of the S.A.M.Parent Assembly
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Postby Guest » 11/29/05 05:51 PM

The WORST policies have been by those institutions, that micro-filmed books, newspapers,or periodicals, and then DISPOSED of the originals!
Reality is that properly cared for, the original paper, can outlive the micro-film. What is left, are selective, out-of-focus film/photo copies that give the reader no idea of the original.
For example, Nicholson Baker says, the most complete run of the N.Y. Times, is not in the U.S. but England.

We need more who will rescue and preserve history, from those seeking to impress others with the latest toys they can get grants for.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/29/05 07:36 PM

There was an enormous article about the subject Diego raises in The New Yorker a few years ago.
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Postby magicam » 11/29/05 08:26 PM

Tom: Thanks for the update on the collection, and thanks also for your help in getting it organized. I hope the SAM holds a decidedly different view on preserving these books than the NYPL did!

Diego: Setting aside the issue of longevity vis--vis microfilm and paper (Ive no clue on that question), I could not agree with you more. I think Ive noted this before, but microfilming destroys most bibliographical evidence. A bibliographer needs the physical item in order to fully document the book in question. Imagine if many of the 17th, 18th and 19th century works had been microfilmed and then trashed. Much of the 20th century textual criticism of the great authors would not have been possible!

Richard: any chance you can come up with the New Yorker issue? Id love to read that article.

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Postby Guest » 11/29/05 08:38 PM

The New Yorker article, came out around 2000-2002, and it was written by Nicholson Baker, expanding it to his book.
I watched him on C-Span, at a Librarian's conference, give a presentation of how libraries are dumping truckloads of material, whether they copied it or not.
I was stunned, when a librarian,(?) told Mr. Baker, that libraries should not be just warehouses for books and other papers,(!) but should be for what people enjoy.
No doubt that bozo is very proud of the puppet shows, or other programs she arranges to get attention for, as long as those pesky books don't get in her way.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 11/29/05 10:20 PM

Originally posted by Magicam:
Richard: any chance you can come up with the New Yorker issue? Id love to read that article.
Try his book:

Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper (Random House)

I'm sending, under separate email, something Baker wrote about the San Francisco and NY libraries discarding 100,000's of books.
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Postby magicam » 11/29/05 11:53 PM

Bill:

My thanks for the reference and the e-mail. I'll get that book.

It is stunning to hear of these things. If the SFPL trashed some of the titles as claimed by Baker, then magic books must surely be at risk - maybe some were part of the purge last decade. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, it is this callous kind of attitude which may cause some books to be lost forever, and if this sort of thing happens elsewhere with enough frequency, it seems almost certain that researchers 500 years from now (assuming we don't blow ourselves up) will lament the permanent loss of certain titles. In other threads on this forum, there has been discussion about the role of printed books versus e-books. Regardless of ones position on this question, I hope everyone recognizes that printed books will always play an essential role in civilized society.

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Postby Guest » 11/30/05 12:48 AM

Baker states that even the Library of Congress, has not always been the best preservationists...so guess what is happening on a local level....
In Leo Behnke's, book, he notes magic books are especially vunerable: They may not be called for often, ironically because they are rare and known to few, and therefore it is later decided, "Hardly anyone asks for those books.", and the end up in the library's parking lot sale, or in the case of San Francisco, in steel drums in a landfill.
INVESTIGATE AND DECIDE WHAT/WHERE WOULD BE THE BEST VENUE FOR YOUR COLLECTIONS.
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Postby Tom Klem » 11/30/05 06:23 AM

Dear Clay:

I will be conserving the Parent Assembly archive. By this I mean saving the material in its orginal form. Nothing will be disgarded or destroyed.

I will digitally photographing the material to create a visual guide to the material. Some of the materials are old newsprint and very fragile.

I am new to the magic world. I have been an S.A.M. member for only 3 years. I come to magic as a artist/historian and former archivist. I am thrilled to see how well magicians keep their history. Thank god you do for all of us.

Tom Klem
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Postby Pete Biro » 11/30/05 11:16 AM

Tom: You sound like the perfect guy for the job. Glad to see you are willing and able.
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