Archive Dedicated To Preserving Long Island And City's History Turns 100
Hidden from the daily hustle and bustle that is the Queens Library’s Central Branch, there is a quiet, tranquil place that serves as home to one of the city’s most extensive and diverse collection of historical documents.
And for the past century, this diamond in the rough has remained mostly a secret to many folks, until now.
The Archives (formerly the Long Island Division) is celebrating its 100th anniversary and is still waiting to be discovered by those thirsting for historical information on their neighborhood, borough or all of New York City.
This mecca to Queens and Long Island history began the same year the Titanic sank and the Girl Scouts were founded.
The collection preserves resources that address the social, political and economic history of the four counties of Long Island: Nassau, Suffolk, Kings and, of course, Queens.
Located on the second floor of the Central Library in Jamaica, the Archives contains 75,000 items including numerous books, photographs and maps.
Many treasures just waiting to be discovered by the public contained in the Archives’ holdings include documents such as the Tongan Charter, which the English governor Thomas Tongan issued in 1686 to create the town of Jamaica.
The most valuable and heavily used items in the collection are the E. Belcher Hyde and Sanborn Company Maps.
The bound volumes, created for the fire insurance industry, real estate developers and local governments, assist the researchers in their study of land ownership, and most notably, the changes in street names and geography of the borough of Queens.
The oldest item in the collection is a patent for land in Gowanus, Brooklyn dating from the 1640s; the same time period as the arrival of the Dutch.
“We’re still growing, and we haven’t stopped learning. As long as there are people who are interested in their communities and families, we’ll be here,” Archive Division Manager Judith Todman said.
As part of the Queens Library’s ongoing effort to make the collection much more accessible to our customers, the Archives has digitized a good portion of its photographic collection. This can be found at www.queenslibrary.org.
According to Todman one visitor to the Archives was so impressed saying, “I’ve [been] to a lot of big-name institutions, and I’ve found a treasure trove in this room. It’s so rewarding.”
The Archives at the Central Library branch is located at 89-11 Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica. No appointment is necessary and may be visited Monday 10 a.m. until 9 p.m., Tuesday 1 p.m. until 7 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. until 5 p.m. The helpful and knowledgeable staff can be reached by calling, 718-990-0770.