Case study

The Fantastic World of Mr. Phelps

In the deep archives of the New York Public Library, I came across an eclectic collection of postcards, all belonging to a man named Walter Phelps Warren. By connecting the dots through the personal texts I read, I was able to reveal stacks of information about this mystery man. The installation displays my research uncovering Mr. Phelps, as well as a virtual reality experience of his magical world.

  • While rummaging through a collection of postcards in the New York Public Library’s Picture Collection, I noticed over 60 postcards that were addressed to the same person — Mr. Walter Phelps Warren. I became curious as to who this mystery person was and felt destined to find out.

  • By reading the texts on the back of the postcards, many clues came up that led to parts of Mr. Phelps’ biography. By finding out his address and date of birth, I was able to track down his obituary, his will, and his record in the 1940 Federal Census.

  • Another piece of information I discovered from the postcards, was a book Mr. Phelps had written about Irish glass. After tracking down his book, I also learned he was a serious collector of Irish glass, and his collection resides at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in New York.

  • Mr. Phelps was also the a co-founder of a cutting-edge wallpaper company named Katzenbach & Warren. Many samples of the wallpaper are archived at theĀ Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in New York.

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