Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Libraries and Readers

The New York Times just posted a report from the Pew Charitable Foundation and Research Center's Internet and American Life project. It indicates the Libraries are on the rise again. The public is using libraries, their books and digital resources. That's fantastic news.  "Survey Finds Rising Reliance on Libraries as a Gateway to the Web" New York Times (01/22/2013)on page B3   http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/22/pew-survey-finds-reliance-on-libraries-for-computers-and-internet/?smid=pl-share
Here's a link to the actual study "Library Services in the Digital Age" http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2013/01/22/library-services/

It's interesting that while patrons want their e-books, they also want books to hold and read. The study validates the notion that the death of the book is a myth, at least for now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

a virtual exhibit of King James Bible

You know I've been studying bibles for a few years now. Most of the examples I've looked at are Vulgate Bibles, Septuagints or Tanakh (Jewish Bibles containing the Pentateuch, Writings and Prophets). In 1611, The King James Bible was printed and disseminated throughout England and from there the rest of the world. It is this English translation from Hebrew, Greek, and Latin that is the most common text / translation found in bibles today. 

The Ohio State University had a fantastic exhibit of their King James Bible and other bibles in 2011 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of its publication. Now OSU Special Collections has launched a virtual exhibit. Here's their publicity:

The Ohio State University Libraries recently launched a digital version of its 2011 physical exhibition, “‘Translation… openeth the window to let in the light’: The Pre-History and Abiding Impact of the King James Bible.” This is a “pilot” exhibition that we have created in order to help determine future directions for a more systematic and programmatic approach to preparing and hosting digital exhibitions at OSU. We would be very pleased to hear any comments any of you might have about the exhibition’s contents, organization, layout, technical features, etc. There are direct links in the exhibition itself to the curator (me) and the web development team. So, if you’ve got the time, take a look at the exhibition, check out its special features, and try your hand at a few sliding tile games in which you get a chance to reconstruct medieval manuscripts, early-printed title pages, and more! And please feel free to send along any comments.

Here are two links. The first will take you directly to the exhibition, and the second will take you to an OSUL blog entry about physical vs. digital exhibitions:

Here are some of the numerous virtual exhibits commemorating the King James Bible and its 400th anniversary:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

the ultimate ivory tower

Today, while in Boston, I walked around Harvard and Harvard Yard. What a beautiful, peaceful place. While wandering around campus, I crossed the Charles river, empty of sculls and other boats. Harvard yard reminded me of Oxford, with brick buildings, courtyards and quiet walks. So what did I do there? I did research of course while looking at the R.G. Dun credit records of a variety of printing and publishing companies in Chicago and Philadelphia in the late 19th century. It was an opportunity to revisit some of the characters I met while working on my dissertation. Ironically, many of the companies I looked at barely made it into my carefully crafted chapters. So today I read credit reports. Sound boring? Well, imagine learning about how businesses grew, found investors, and even purchased equipment. The credit reporters came around every few months. Today researchers can study how companies rise and fall, wonderful lessons to apply to life today.

Tomorrow I explore the Freedom Trail in historic downtown Boston.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A brain teaser

One of the book collectors / rare book dealers posted Rhymed Rebuses today http://www.simonbeattie.kattare.com/blog/archives/595 
You might enjoy trying your hand at these pictorial letters and codes. They remind me of the picture letters I saw at the Morgan Library http://www.themorgan.org/home.asp exhibit of Beatrix Potter Letters http://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/exhibition.asp?id=67 . While Potter's letters aren't secret codes, they are the forerunners of her famous books about Peter Rabbit and friends. I really enjoyed looking at the letters and books, and all the toys that she created. Yes, Beatrix Potter created toys, games, and more to promote her creations. She was a real business woman, licensing her ideas and copyrighting her books in the UK and the USA.  Unfortunately they didn't have a catalog of the exhibition which would have been a great souvenir. Nevertheless, the museum gift shop has lots of memorabilia and books for the curious visitor to take home.

Just in case you think I've been hanging around Brooklyn not doing much, in the same week I went to the Morgan, I was at the Met (my previous post) and the Brooklyn Museum (the anti-penultimate post). Last week I was at the Library Company in Philadelphia http://www.librarycompany.org/ and saw a lovely exhibition about the Pennsylvania RR company and its stations in Philadelphia http://www.librarycompany.org/collections/exhibits/index.htm  . At the same time, I've been looking at more incunabula bibles. I'll post some pictures later this week.

I'm off to Boston for a few days to soak up more east coast culture.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

a different museum experience

As I start to see the end of my visit here, I thought I'd do some different things with my time, or more accurately, I am trying to see all the museums and collections I haven't gotten to yet. So yesterday, Tuesday, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a special tour. I know, I know, I've been there three other times since May, but I wanted to experience the museum differently.

Before I left, I selected 5 distinct exhibitions I wanted to see, just 5. Now these weren't the usual 'special exhibits' but minor showcases of materials held by the Met. I went to the main exhibits page http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/current-exhibitions  and scrolled past the fancy exhibits to the smaller ones, and voila, a special tour ensued.

First I went to see "Historic Images of the Greek Bronze Age: The Reproductions of E. Gillieron & Son" http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2011/historic-images-of-the-greek-bronze-age--the-reproductions-of-e-gilli%C3%A9ron--son  This single room contained four walls of drawings and reproductions made by Ernst Gillieron, a Frenchman, and his son, the premier art reproducers of the late 19th century. They 'reconstructed' in situ the wall paintings at Knossos for Sir Arthur Evans, those contested murals that to this day we aren't certain are what is now on the walls. They also made and sold reproductions of artifacts found at the digs of Evans and Schliemann, including the Vaphio cups and the Mask of Agamemnon.  According to the captions, the Met commissioned and purchased these reproductions to fill out their collections. By the 1930s, they had acquired the original artifacts and put the reproductions away, until they displayed them in this room. It was fascinating seeing the drawings of what Gillieron found and what he created. Of course today, this type of reconstruction is frowned upon because it isn't 'accurate'. Nevertheless, we have a sense of what the walls of the palaces must have looked like. While the Met displayed murals from Knossos, they didn't show wall paintings from Santorini. I now need to find out if Gillieron also 'repainted' those walls or if the discovery was much later. The Met also has an article about the conservation work performed on the Gillieron materials before they were placed on exhibition, for the curious of course http://www.metmuseum.org/about-the-museum/now-at-the-met/features/2011/the-gilliron-paintings-on-paper-from-a-conservation-perspective

On to the next gallery, which was of Turkmen Jewelry http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/turkmen-jewelry which was in the new Islamic / Middle East wing where all the Indian art is located. This little room was full of beautiful silver ornamental jewelry. The red and silver sparkled in the cases.
I wanted to take some home with me, but the pieces were too large. Alas the exhibition catalog weighed about 30 pounds and contained far more than the 20 or so pieces in the room.

After a water break, I went to see a curious little exhibit called "Pen & Chisel" which contained about 10 preparatory drawings for sculpture. http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/pen-and-chisel The drawings dated from the 1450s to the late 1800s. One of the pieces was most interesting for it had tiny pin pricks all along the horse's body. I wondered what they were for and then realized that light could be projected through the holes onto a wall to create a life-size (or any size) reproduction. Alas, the caption didn't explain the prickings and my explanation could be incorrect. One other drawing was of the famous Marcus Aurelius Horse statues in Rome. What a delight.

Foot sore, wandered through the main hallway, past the huge tree and down the stairs to a very small gallery that's actually the atrium for the Antonio Ratti Textile Center and Reference Library http://www.metmuseum.org/research/libraries-and-study-centers/antonio-ratti-textile-center-and-reference-library   at the museum. This little gallery contained three cases entitled "Gems of European Lace 1620-1920" http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/european-lace  . Oh the lace is magnificent. There were detailed explanations of how the lace was made, both needle and bobbin, and magnification of some of the pieces. If only.... 

Since I had some time to kill, I walked through the Roentgens exhibition, a big one http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/roentgen   to see what all the fuss was about. The table were interesting, full of secret compartments and moving parts. None of his automatons were on exhibit, which was disappointing. I did enjoy seeing all the marquetry and polished  wood, but not as much as some of the other exhibits.

Unfortunately there were no small catalogs or even post cards of the little galleries, and I wasn't interested in a huge catalog of Turkmen art, so I left the gift shop empty handed. On the other hand, I spent intensive time reading captions and really looking at the artwork and drawings. Along the way, I stopped and looked at illuminated leaves of books, Hebrew, Arabic, and Latin (also no specific catalogs) which I've seen before but not really looked at. Altogether, it was an enjoyable way to experience the museum. I would definitely do it again. Thanks for joining me on my adventure.

Thursday, I'm off to see the Morgan Library & Museum. There's an exhibit of Beatrix Potter's Letters and a few bibles I want to study.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Museum musings

I just realized it's been over a month since I posted anything about my cultural adventures and explorations. There's no way to catch up or itemize the exhibits I've viewed. I'll have to go back and write about earlier visits another day. Today I want to write about the Brooklyn Museum http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/  It's the first time I've ever been there as far as I know and what a building Building image In a few hours I toured most of the collection including one of the finest collections of Egyptian art and artifacts I've ever seen. They have papyri from the Book of the Dead, from Elephantine, and even writings on mummy wrappings on display.  They do have 12 panels from the palace of Ashur-nasir-pal II which shocked me. I thought the only ones in NYC were at MMA. It turns out they were a gift in the 1955. The panels are displayed with photographs of the great 5 legged bulls, which they don't have. Still magnificent no matter what they own.

While I managed to see most of the museum, I also took two tours. The first showcased a contemporary  African American Artists Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/mickalene_thomas/ Thomas uses a variety of media and crystals to make her art glitter. The docent explained that many of her pieces used paintings from the 1860s as models for her work. After pointing that out and seeing the impressionist paintings, I was less impressed by Thomas' work. 

As I was leaving I hooked up with an architectural tour of the McKim, Mead & White building. I must say that the building was much more impressive than the docent who seemed to say the same thing over and over again. There also seems to be no official published history of the museum, at least not in their gift shop, so I was doubly disappointed. 

On the whole, I liked the museum and could see myself returning for a special exhibit and maybe another look at the American Wing (also very impressive). But when compared with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this museum wasn't nearly as interesting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Digital Collections

I was going to write about my experience today at the Center for Jewish History in NYC. I just wrote about the talk and experience to my Rare Book Librarianship students. Rather than repeat myself, I'll just give you the link. http://mkahn1.blogspot.com/2012/10/digital-collections.html

Tomorrow I'm off to Columbia University. I'll take some pictures of the Hebrew Bibles with commentary to share.   I have lots of travel coming up and lots of libraries and museums to visit, so my blog should become really active again.