6/26/16 – After the Jungle Library in Calais photographing The Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library in Antwerp was like entering a warm, beautiful dream. Hendrik Conscience was a famous Flemish writer who was one of the first to write and celebrate the Flemish language. This library is a good example of a 17th Century private library that later became open to the public. I keep being amazed by the beauty and tranquility of these kinds of places. I am impressed by the generous intellectual spirit of the Belgium 1%ers from this time period. Of course, much of the wealth from this era was built on slavery and colonialism. But today this library stands as a great, positive symbol of the Enlightenment. It contained an exhibit of sad letters and newspapers from Belgium soldiers separated from their families during WW I. We later arrive in the gritty industrial city of Rotterdam. It had been heavily damaged by the Germans during WW II and the architecture was mostly built quickly after the war. I photograph a branch library in the sprawling immigrant community of Luchtbal with its high rise apartment blocks and working class inhabitants. It felt vey different from Molenbeek.
6/27/16 – The library in suburban Spijkenisse outside of Rotterdam is called Book Mountain. Housed in a giant glass pyramid it is literally an astonishing mountain of books. The rain that has been following us throughout our travels in Europe pounded the glass and contributes to our feeling of coziness inside the pyramid of glass and books. The Bibliotheca Thysiana at the old University of Leiden is another example of the private library of a wealthy Dutchman Johannes Thysius later becoming a public library. Our guide, Professor Dr. Paul Hoftijzer generously gave us his time to make the place come alive. We felt that we were with a kindred soul. That night we arrived in Amsterdam. I’ve always felt that a secret part of me must be Dutch because I’ve always felt very comfortable with the Netherlanish people.
6/28/16 – The Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA) is one of the great, modern big city libraries in Europe. There is so much to see on the seven floors of this library that I have to come back in the afternoon to finish up the work. I wind up being photographed and interviewed by the head librarian Astrid Vlug at the end of the day for their website.
6/29/16 – The Huis de Pinto house and library was founded by a wealthy 17th Century Jewish merchant during Holland’s first Golden Age. His family were Sephardic Jews who fled religious intolerance in Portugal and Spain and came to The Netherlands for freedom. Our guide explained that the house barely escaped demolition during a period of thoughtless redevelopment during the 1970s that destroyed large parts of Amsterdam. As in San Francisco it was only stopped by citizen activists. We then dash off to the nearby town of Haarlem to photograph an amazing library in the middle of a big old train station. Then we barely make it back in time for our next appointment in Amsterdam at the Ets Haim Library. It is 400 years old and is the oldest Jewish Library in the Netherlands. During WW II Amsterdam’s Jews were murdered by the Germans and the library’s contents were stolen by the Nazis and shipped to Frankfurt in Germany. Miraculously it survived the war and made its way back to Amsterdam. A Nazi shipping box was on permanent display.