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‘New York City’ by Ramya Ramana

The Aerogram is an online magazine that shares with its readers a variety of South Asian stories and perspectives.

It’s produced in North America, and was founded by multimedia journalist and writer, Lakshmi Gandhi (@lakshmigandhi); editor and writer, Pavani Yalamanchili (@_pavani); and former copywriter and social media coordinator, Kishwer Vikaas (@phillygrrl), who now works at a public interest law firm. Writer Rohin Guha is a contributing editor.

Earlier this month they shared on Twitter this incredible poetry performance by Ramya Ramana (@Ramyaramana). Ramya is New York’s 2014 Youth Poet Laureate. She was asked to speak at the inauguration of New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who was sworn into office on 1 January 2014.

Here’s Ramya performing her poem, ‘New York City’, which she wrote for the inauguration:


You can find out more about Ramya Ramana in this interview Pavani Yalamanchili did with her in late November last year, for The Aerogram.

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Escape into online treasures #1

Without a doubt, among the great wonders of digitisation are the treasures it’s opened to the world.

In December last year, the Vatican Library and Oxford University’s Bodleian Library launched a project to make freely available online ancient texts from their incredible collections.

Both institutions have been digitising their collections prior to this. But the present project allows them to increase digital access on a much larger scale.

The Bodleian trove disseminated online last month includes no less than its Gutenberg Bible (1455).

The project’s been supported by a ₤2 million award from the Polonsky Foundation. You can read more about the foundation here, and about one of the trustees driving the project, Dr Leonard Polonsky and the foundation’s reasons for supporting the project. Continue reading

A curator’s abiding passion for books

Paul Brunton. Picture supplied by Paul Brunton.
Paul Brunton

An interview with Paul Brunton, emeritus curator at the State Library of NSW

The State Library of New South Wales is one of those places you just can’t miss.

Maybe it’s the grand sandstone architecture of the Mitchell Library, looming like an immoveable dowager beside the freeway to the eastern suburbs. Or is it the location, between the lush peace of the Botanical Gardens and the tough political arena of state parliament? It’s a large library too, with a glass-fronted contemporary wing on Macquarie Street.

Thousands of children (and more than a few adults) have looked at the Mitchell Library with awe: what is that place, alive with the vistas, whispers and magic of books? It’s the library that all libraries lead to, in New South Wales.

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Photograph by Greg O’Beirne, 2006.

So it seems entirely appropriate that the person who grew up to become an emeritus curator at the State Library of New South Wales found his passion for books as a nine-year-old in his local suburban library. Continue reading

An abiding passion for books (part 2)

Paul is well known for his talks. He has a natural gift for telling history so vividly that the characters seem to burst free from their letters and journals, suddenly alive in the room, brushing page, ink and the ages from their clothes.

‘I’m flattered and honoured when people comment on it,’ he says, ‘but I’m not conscious of doing it.

‘My parents influenced me in my love of history. They seemed to know a lot when not a lot of Australian history was really known.

‘They took the family to the few places of historical interest there were in Sydney at the time: Vaucluse House and the Experiment Farm at Parramatta.

Vaucluse House. Photo © Brett Broadman, for Sydney Living Museums
Vaucluse House. Photo © Brett Broadman, for Sydney Living Museums

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An abiding passion for books (part 3)

As one who’s been so close to the many magnificent collections in the State Library, does Paul have a favourite item, that’s stayed a favourite through his career? The 18th-century specialist doesn’t hesitate.

‘It’s the Endeavour journal of Joseph Banks,’ he says. ‘It’s the first account of our nation by a European. Banks wrote it on the voyage in 1768–71, and returned to Britain with it.’

Joseph Banks Esq, 1774. William Dickinson after Sir Joshua Reynolds (National Portrait Gallery, http://www.portrait.gov.au/site/collection.php)
Joseph Banks Esq, 1774 (National Portrait Gallery, Australia)

‘When Flinders set out on his voyage, sponsored by Banks, Banks gave him the journal to use. Continue reading

An abiding passion for books (part 4)

Mitchell Library (State Library of NSW)
Mitchell Library (State Library of NSW)

Our interview closes with a discussion about Paul’s current role. What are the emeritus curator’s responsibilities?

‘I offer advice and assistance, where required,’ he says, ‘or I’ll be involved in specific projects, if needed. I’ll be continuing my research, and publicising the library through talks and lectures, which I’ve done on the Queen Mary 2, and will be doing more of these. And if the library needs my help, I’ll be involved and help with acquisitions.’ Continue reading