Monday, November 9, 2009

Library of Human Imagination

Being a lover of books, I was oohing and aahing over the libraries in this list of the 20 most beautiful on All of the libraries but one are institutional: the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.; Trinity College Library, Dublin; Rijkmuseum Library, Amsterdam. But one pair of photos was captioned "Jay Walker's Private Library." Who was this Jay Walker?, I wondered. He is, as it turns out, a man who values ideas and has had many of his own. He holds more than 200 patents and founded and chairs Walker Digital, which dreams up new ways for businesses to operate and serve customers, including the innovations behind This has made him a billionaire and given him the resources to build his Library of Human Imagination at his home in Ridgefield, Connecticut. It is not an accumulation of rare first editions, but instead his own 3-story, 3,600-square-foot cabinet of curiosities. His treasures - which he likes to juxtapose to make mind-expanding connections (like a 16th c. map with a modern map that was carried to the moon and back) - include:

  • A trilobite, a clutch of dinosaur eggs, and a raptor skeleton
  • A box of prosthetic eyeballs
  • An original Sputnik 1 satellite
  • The first English translation of the Bible and the first book to include illustrations of surgery on humans
  • Part of a meteorite
  • A globe of the moon signed by 9 of the 12 astronauts who walked on it
  • A 1943 napkin on which Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) outlined his plan to win World War II
The library was built in 2002 and is open to groups and guests by special invitation. It features Escher-styled wood tiling, bridges panelled with glass etched by Clyde Lynds, and a custom soundtrack. "It's an engagement space," says Walker, who gets excited about things that changed the way people think. Here is a video of him illustrating the concept. Members of his own think tank often meet there. Lucky!

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