The library is part of HSNY’s new 2,000-square-foot space which is lined with bookshelves and timekeeping displays alongside luminous arched windows and areas to read, research, and gather. It’s located on the fifth floor of the General Society Building on West 44th Street, a historic New York City site that holds eclectic organizations like the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art and the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen which has its own multi-level library.
While research appointments can be made, anyone can stop by to browse. Since opening, the Jost Bürgi Research Library has attracted broad interest for its diverse materials that make it among the largest horological libraries in the world. A perusal of its shelves reveals a history of sundials and a book on the Loch Ness Monster (because it was authored by a horologist).
“We’ve had a novelist writing about a character who’s a watchmaker; people who work at auction houses and watch collectors who are researching pieces; visitors searching for members of their family who worked as watchmakers; journalists who want to include technical background in their articles; aspiring amateur watchmakers; and academics who are interested in theoretical ideas about temporality and physics,” said Miranda Marraccini, HSNY’s librarian.
Alongside the library, HSNY is using its space to host watchmaking classes and exhibitions, such as a presentation of watches collected by James Arthur, who in the 1930s envisioned a “Temple of Time” for New York City.
“Every day I learn something surprising about how time affects elements of the human experience,” Marraccini said. “I’ve learned about automata, colonialism, jukeboxes, miniature painting, astrolabes, French Revolutionary politics, and radioactivity. All of those topics have something to do with the way we measure and imagine time. Time touches everything, which is why I think Fortunat collects so broadly.”