Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Week Eight: Dewey Library, University at Albany-Albany, New York

Stained glass windows and murals
I’ve worked at five different libraries in Albany, and the Dewey Library at the downtown campus at the University at Albany, is my favorite when it comes to architecture.  The Dewey Library serves the graduate students of the University at Albany but that doesn’t mean you can’t stop in and see the beautiful stained glass windows and murals.

When I was first a graduate student, I assumed the Dewey Library was named for Melvil Dewey, the developer of the Dewey Decimal System.  I was mistaken.  The library is actually named for Thomas Edmund Dewey, who was a three term Republican governor of New York from 1943-1955.  He ran for president in 1944 and 1948 but did not win the election.  While in office, Dewey implemented the NYS Thruway and improved public library systems.

What you first notice when you walk inside the library are the beautiful murals.  Painted by William Brantley Van Ingen in 1937 and 1938, these murals stretch for 4,500 square feet, encompassing the walls on the first level.  These murals were a part of the depression era’s Works Progress Administration, which was a part of Roosevelt’s New Deal program.  This program employed thousands of artists, commissioning them to improve the interiors of public buildings.  Van Ingen painted the murals in his New York City studio on 23 different 13’x14’ canvas panels.  He was eighty years old.  For more pictures and information on the Dewey Library murals, please visit their website at https://library.albany.edu/dewey/murals/history.

The middle window was donated by the class of 1910.
The stained glass windows are another reason to stop in the library.  Donated by various graduating classes of the State Normal College and the New York State College for Teachers, the stained glass windows are breathtaking.  The first window was donated by the class of 1910. "Finis Coronat Opus", or "The end to a crowning achievement," are the words that accompany a woman wearing robes and holding a scroll.  It is likely that this window was created by The Chapman Stained Glass Studio on Quail Street.

I love all of the windows but my favorite is the one donated by the glass of 1923.  This is a beautiful scene of white trees and yellow flowers, and I love how the colors change throughout the day and night.  To view a full description of the stained glass windows at the library, you can go to their flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ualibraries/sets/72157601326137704.

As I said before, you don’t have to be a student to enjoy the beautiful murals and stained glass windows.  Anyone can stop inside and take a look at the artwork.  Booklets on the murals are available at the library and if you have any questions, you can always ask the librarian at the reference desk!  If you live in Albany or are just passing through, take ten minutes to walk around the first level and enjoy the library’s beauty.
Piece of the Dewey murals

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