Best Of

Best Pandora’s Box Disguised as an Archive


Following the city’s 2012 approval of New York University’s $6 billion plan to expand its downtown campus, the righteous and razor-tongued Fran Lebowitz cut to the heart of the matter: “It really should be stopped from being called NYU, because it really has nothing to do with New York. It is suburban — to the core. Those buildings they built on the south side of Washington Square Park are giant pieces of suburban junk. They have no place in any city — even cities we hate!” (Where’s Fran’s MacArthur Award?) Stowed inside that junk pile, however, is a cultural treasure chest brimming with the spirit of dissent: The Downtown Collection at the Fales Library. Under the direction of Marvin J. Taylor, it has provided a welcoming home since 1994 for the archives of artists, writers, thinkers, and collectives with roots in the neighborhood. There you can sift through the Exit Art archive, bury yourself in Kathy Acker’s notebooks, or watch hundreds of hours of parties and performances via Nelson Sullivan’s videos. David Wojnarowicz, Martin Wong, Tim Dlugos, María Irene Fornés, Lynne Tillman, Guerrilla Girls — open up any of these Pandora’s boxes and see what ferocities you unleash. With 12,000 books, 90,000 pieces of media, and 7,000 feet of manuscripts and archives in the Fales’s continually expanding collection, perhaps one day downtown might be able to take the neighborhood back.

By appointment only, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–4:45 p.m.

70 Washington Square South, 3rd floor, Manhattan