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Central Park: A Research Guide

Since 1980, the Central Park Conservancy has worked to restore and manage Central Park. This effort has involved exploring and seeking to understand the Park's various layers of cultural and natural history. As a result, Conservancy staff have become well-versed in the numerous archives, databases, and books that illuminate its landscapes and history. These can be found in many institutions – a variety that reflects the Park’s breadth of influence – including the Library of Congress, the New York City Municipal Archives, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others. The fact that this information is spread across the city, and now, across the internet, can be a challenge for researchers.

To better support and encourage continuing scholarship about the Park – by everyone from the fourth-grader writing a report to the Ph.D. researcher – the Conservancy prepared a Central Park Research Guide. This guide shares our decades of experience researching the Park and reflects the aim of the Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks to underscore the role urban parks play as cultural and environmental treasures that have extraordinary capacity to educate, enrich, and inspire.

Effective urban park management includes research, and our staff has taken on learning as much as they can about Central Park in order to better manage it. The Park is complex, encompassing 150 years of New York City's social and cultural history; the history of the park movement in the U.S.; the birth and evolutions of the professions of landscape architecture, city planning, and urban park management; and ever-changing notions about recreation and the role of public space. The Research Guide gathers this breadth of information into an easy-to-use document.

The research material described in the guide is organized into several broad categories. Within each category, specific resources and collections are described, and the key location(s) where researchers may find them are referenced. The end of the document includes some appendices, including a timeline of Central Park history, brief biographies of important figures in Central Park history, and, for scholars who would like to access the Conservancy's archives, the Conservancy's research policy and inquiry form.

The Research Guide is available for download here.