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A renovation to Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library enables a hallowed institution, once available only to credentialed scholars, to respond to an expanding mission by accommodating undergraduates, graduate students, and others, encouraging greater connections between authentic original artifacts and the growing number of people who want to learn about them.
The Beinecke is an architectural icon, designed in 1960 by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Its collection of 500,000 rare books and more than 1 million volumes make it one of the world’s most important research facilities. The building originally accommodated roughly 25 staff and a modest level of acquisition of rare material. Today, the library has nearly 90 staff members and acquires roughly 12,000 printed items, 1,000 linear feet of archives, and 1,000 individual manuscripts annually.
The project included replacement of every piece of mechanical and electrical equipment, invisibly and carefully inserted into the existing building fabric, with new systems that are energy efficient and able to support the life of the building for future generations. New security systems and fire protection systems were installed, and technology was upgraded to better serve patrons. Two new classrooms were created, and back-of-house administration spaces reconfigured for changes in function. The work goes beyond the systems and functional changes to include finishes and furniture. Every aspect of the building fabric and its use was considered, and the work was carried out without changing the building’s unique architectural character.
Changes reflect the importance of research, teaching, consultation, and visibility as primary functions, and the understanding that the library, at the heart of Yale’s campus, is central to Yale’s educational and research mission. Newman collaborated on this project in association with HRB.