The Sketchbook Project as a time capsule, or how many hidden books can we find?


As I've said before, this project sort of has a mind of its own. Its truly mind blowing to think of what is living within these walls. How does one calculate the immenseness of something like this. How can I ever see them all, understand them all, know who these people are... Ugh, its overwhelming sometimes.

Yesterday morning, before heading out of town for our jaunt at Bonnaroo this week, I ran into the library to make sure I had photos for instagram for the next few days. As I quickly pulled books in my sleepy, pre-coffee zone, I suddenly found what appeared to be a letter written by a child. On the front cover printed in black and white and glued down in an amateur sort of way was a photo of a woman. The edges were curling and the photo was faded. Page after page, written with childlike purpose, was a letter to his dead mom asking her to return.

The artist is not listed, nor does it seem like they want to be found. How many books are like this? How many times have people used The Sketchbook Project to hide away a secret? This is not the first time we have randomly come across a call for love, help or just a sad memory where it seemed they used the library as a hiding place.

I've called Brooklyn Art Library a 'living' time capsule before. What I mean by that is that it keeps growing. It's not buried under the earth for some future generation to find. It's hidden in plain sight. That book about the mother's death was always there for us to find. In theory anyone could view it, but whether they do or not, it's preserved for the future. It will continue to be seen, touched and connected with and will forever be a part of this larger story. The time capsule that is The Sketchbook Project.

As we launch this new year of The Sketchbook Project, I wonder if the harder times of our world push people to share more. Does a sketchbook allow for some sort of false privacy? What will future generations think of this? Do we even understand the magnitude of what we have? 36,000 creative people have shared their voice with us. A vision, a snippet of life in a foreign country. The imagination of a 5 year old from California, mixed with a story of loss from somewhere far away. Can we ever really wrap our heads around this?

I'm not really sure we have the answers. I'm honored to be able to spend so much of my life within the walls of these books. I am the gatekeeper to a million spreads, a thousand stories and hundreds of memories.


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Steven Peterman