It all started with a piece of plaster. On May 30, 2014, a piece of ceiling fell inside the New York Public Library Rose Reading Room. The stunning landmark space was forced to close for “about two weeks.” That turned into two years.
Now, the Rose Room is finally ready for its reopening. And the results are stunning. “I’ve been to the library for events or just to explore the space prior to the closure of the Rose Main Reading Room, but it’s clear that the heart and the history of the New York Public Library stems from this two-city-block-wide study hall,” says Ryan Fitzgibbon, the founder of Hello Mr. magazine.
Fitzgibbon was one of 18 Instagram users to get an early look at the new space. The group was given a private tour and learned about the 52,000 books on display in the room, as well as the 3.5 million others stocked in a storage room under nearby Bryant Park. (The two are connected by a “book train.”) The 18 Instagram photographers and authors, including influencer Patrick Janelle, were able to take in the Rose Room without the interference of hundreds of tourists and library users.
“The New York Public Library is my favorite architectural site in Manhattan, so to experience it in uninterrupted silence was a rare and cherished opportunity,” Fitzgibbon tells TIME. “The space looks remarkable.”
Here’s a selection of the best photographs. Check out the #NYPLreadingroom hashtag for more photos.