CSHL Map and Bluepint Collection

The following is another post in our series highlighting the collections that are being processed through the NHPRC Basic Processing Grant.

“To put a city in a book, to put the world on one sheet of paper -- maps are the most condensed humanized spaces of all...They make the landscape fit indoors, make us masters of sights we can't see and spaces we can't cover.”
― Robert Harbison, Eccentric Spaces

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is listed on the Historic Register of Places in New York. Our Map and Blueprint Collection is the only place to find many of the unique maps dating from the 1890s.  Even the local historical societies do not have these maps, which represent the history of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. This Collection is truly a record of the evolution of the property, buildings and institution in its entirety.

The Cold Spring Harbor Map and Blueprint Collection consists of topographical maps, architectural drawings, pencil drawings, pencil sketches, and blue prints of the grounds and buildings over the course of 140 years.

These records have been stored on site since their creation, originally in administrative offices under various Laboratory Directors until their removal to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives.  Most of the material designates the sibling institutions that commissioned the work:  Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Long Island Biological Association and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Despite their historic importance, the storage of the Map and Blueprint Collection has been deficient.  Many of the documents had foxing as seen on this map of lands leased to the Carnegie Institute, 1908.   

Others fell prey to insect damage as shown on this 1928 rendering of the George Lane Nichols building section.

While the damage can be repaired, it is usually disproportionally expensive to the cost of proper storage.

Fortunately, we were able to stabilize the entire Collection which should at least halt the progress of damage.  Appropriate storage boxes, tubes and paper were procured. Approximately 40 hours were spent boxing, wrapping and preserving the Collection. 
Now that it is stabilized, this Collection can be used with its related Collections: the Carnegie Institute of Washington, Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, Long Island Biological Association and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to study and appreciate the many aspects of our history.  On the surface, the maps and blueprints show the physical expansion of the lab from a rural, seasonal facility to multiple campuses larger than many universities.  On closer perusal, one can see how the types of buildings commissioned demonstrate the Lab’s changing focus from marine biology to genetics to cancer research. Expansion, development and renovation exploded under the leadership of Dr. Watson in 1968 and the number of prints and blueprints post 1970 reflect this. It is our hope that now that this Collection has the proper care and organization, it can be used to supplement historical displays both physically and digitally.

- E.P., Project Archivist

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