News | February 10, 2023

New York Public Library Acquires East Village Eye Archive

The East Village Eye records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library

Promotional map of the East Village, circa 1986

The New York Public Library has acquired the collection of the East Village Eye, the 1980s newspaper that documented the development of the East Village and played a pivotal role in establishing the “downtown scene” during a transformative decade.

“The New York Public Library is committed to preserving the rich and diverse history of New York City, from its earliest years through the 20th and 21st centuries. In unparalleled detail, the records of the East Village Eye capture a neighborhood, a city, and a culture during one of the most complex and controversial decades in New York’s history,” said Julie Golia, Associate Director, Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books and Charles J. Liebman Curator of Manuscripts.

“In real time, the Eye chronicled the evolution of the punk movement, the growth of hip-hop, the rise of HIV/AIDS, and the early careers of Basquiat, Mapplethorpe, Fab Five Freddy, and many others—along with the stores, bars, dance halls, and other locations that shaped everyday life in the East Village. We look forward to welcoming scholars, students, artists, and many other researchers to explore this remarkable collection.”

Founded in 1979 by Leonard Abrams, who served as its editor-in-chief throughout its eight-year run, the Eye was a small publication, but one with global cultural reach. At its height, it boasted a circulation of about 10,000 copies a month, which included newsstand sales in New York City and at various outposts across the United States, as well as subscribers from around the world. Contributors included resident advice columnist Cookie Mueller, Richard Hell, and David Wojnarowicz, and the newspaper featured images from dozens of acclaimed photographers early in their careers, from Patrick McMullan to Andres Serrano.

Highlights of the collection include:

* A full print run of all 72 issues of the East Village Eye in pristine condition (no other public institution possesses a complete print run of the periodical);
* Extensive administrative records and founding business documents for the magazine, including correspondence with staff, contributors, advertisers, and readers over the course of the Eye’s eight-year run;
* Founder Leonard Abrams’s handwritten pocket planners showing his relationship with artists, musicians, businesses, and writers across the neighborhood and beyond;
* Promotional materials created by the Eye, including maps and guides of the East Village and invitations and flyers for Eye-affiliated parties, openings, and events;
* A rich collection of photography of the downtown scene by a roster of acclaimed photographers employed or engaged by the Eye, including Marcia Resnick, Eric Kroll, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, and others;
* Candid and behind-the-scenes snapshots of Abrams and the Eye staff and contributors at work and as participants in the neighborhood’s vibrant nightlife;
* A significant collection of original art, mixed-media collages, and comic-strip panels by artists including Lynda Barry, Tuli Kupferberg, Joseph Nechvatal, Melora Walters, and others.

 “The Library’s acquisition of the East Village Eye archive is the perfect outcome of our years-long search for the best home for these materials. I can't think of another institution with the breadth and depth of interest, the institutional strength, and the dedication to the common good that compares to The New York Public Library,” said Leonard Abrams, founder and editor-in-chief of the newspaper.“The paper covers a time when it wasn't always easy to love New York City, but we always knew how important it was to bring these voices to the public and to preserve them.”