Wall decor these days is complicated. In the eons before modern design, there were two classes of things that went on walls, and each spoke to your place in society. If you were poor these would likely be practical (tools) or symbolic (religious articles). If you were rich these would be portraits of family or ancestors, maps of property, or possibly artworks of the non-mass produced, patron supported variety.

But in 2010, no one wants to settle for the spartan practicality of our peasant ancestors, even if we can't afford the gilt frames of our aristocratic ones. How do you decorate your walls in a way that reflects your taste, interests, and personal style - but not your budget? It's easy. Just go to that bedrock of free community services, the library. Specifically, the New York Public Library.

In recent years, the NYPL has taken on the daunting task of digitizing its mammoth collection of image-related pieces - manuscripts, photographs, maps, sheet music, and vintage posters. And they've made nearly a million of them available online. At their website, you can browse through hundreds of thousands of images, organized by origin, era, or various collections (Civil War, Dance, Victorian, Nature, New York). Select an image, crop it any way you like, and order a beautiful print for around $25. Or, you can enlarge and print it yourself. It's instant decoration.

All images, New York Public Library.


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