Stop 34. Secret Staircases



Philip Palmer, Robert H. Taylor Curator of Literary and Historical Manuscripts
Charles McKim thought of everything in his design for Morgan’s Library—including a clever mechanism for reaching the upper balconies. On the ground floor, some of the bookcases near the entrance doors have brass handles. These cases are designed to pivot, revealing secret spiral staircases behind them that lead to the second and third tiers. These pivoting bookcases are used by librarians and curators when they remove works from the bookshelves for use by researchers or for display in an exhibition.

There is also a secret room concealed behind a bookcase in the southwest corner. The case pivots to reveal a small closet lined with deep shelves for storing the oversized volumes in Morgan’s collection. This space also has a “book elevator” which was used by librarians to transport heavy volumes safely from the upper tiers.