Sitting Around the Library Table with Laura Michelson

Join us as we sit down and discuss around the library table. We will light a fire in the fireplace and share stories from our favorite collection. Grab your favorite piece of classic literature or bring a new story you are writing as we share with you all the life of an English Romantic and his collector.

Exhibit poster designed by Zoe Webb

This is what former Olson Graduate Research Assistant, and current Project Curator for Grinnell College, Laura Michelson captures in her exhibit, Around the Library Table, featured now in the Special Collections Reading Room.

“Luther Brewer featured his collection with friends in December 1920 and he was about 100 years away from the important years in Leigh Hunt’s life,” Michelson said. “It is important that 100 years from that we are focusing on their lives again and the impact they have had.”

Special Collections is home to the Luther Brewer-Leigh Hunt collection, which documents Romantic-era Hunt’s writings and life, his literary friends, and Brewer’s collecting of these material. This collection is challenging to search  because it resides in multiple locations and has had many different organization systems placed upon it over the years. These challenges, however, is what opened Michelson’s curiosity into the collection.

Before she became Olson Graduate Research Assistant, Michelson worked as a graduate student employee with Special Collections. One of her projects was to update the manuscript inventory of the Brewer-Hunt collection, and this got her immersed into the collection and its history.

“Lindsay Moen gave me that project, and this project is what impacted my work and my interests now,” Michelson said.

When Michelson became the Olson Graduate Research Assistant, her research didn’t stop with her graduate student position. She continued to research and make sense of the Brewer-Hunt collection she was growing to love, and she wanted to share that love with rest of the library through an exhibit.

“I wanted more people to be excited about the collection, too,” Michelson shared. “It [the collection] is exceptional for what is has and because the framing of it is around a lesser-known name, a lot of people don’t know we have this English-Romantics collection at Iowa.”

Piece of Leigh Hunt’s fireplace featured in Laura Michelson’s exhibit.

A piece in the exhibit Michelson is particularly excited about is a piece of Hunt’s fireplace. The piece comes from one of Hunt’s houses and his London last address. Michelson states that Hunt wrote about his fireplace, mentioning that in the sunlight he could see the flecks of gold in the fireplace that he has never seen before. Now, you can see the flecks of gold in the same fireplace Hunt stood in front of.

“The piece of the fireplace is interesting to have because it grounds Leigh Hunt as a relatable person, and it is touching to have that piece in our reading room,” Michelson stated.

One day, Michelson would love to see the fireplace reconstructed and as a focal point in the reading room so we all can sit around the fireplace with Hunt again.

Besides the fireplace, Michelson loves the handwritten works from the authors like John Keats. These items add a different level to reading the published-typed versions because viewers can see the corrections and thought process behind these works, Michelson commented.

However, one of her favorite items didn’t come from the stacks. It came from her colleague, peer, and more importantly, her friend. Zoe Webb, former graduate student worker at Special Collections, designed the poster for the exhibit. Webb has listened to Michelson talk for many hours about Hunt and his friends, and she was able to bring these people to life as characters on the poster. The interpretation in the poster helps illustrate the exhibit’s story of the relationship between Leigh Hunt and Luther Brewer.

The exhibit is in the reading room through April 2021. If you are not able to view it in person, there will be an online exhibit coming this spring. Eager to look at the exhibit and can’t make it to campus? Listen to Michelson’s Bibliophiles lecture on her research into the Leigh Hunt collection and Luther Brewer.

 

An Exhibit for the Senses

The great thing about artists books is that it shows us the various shapes, sizes, and textures that books can come in. Publishing companies, who also vary in shapes and sizes, help get these books out into the world for everyone to enjoy.

Curated by University of Iowa Professor Jennifer Buckley, Seeing Seeking Feeling Reading: Granary Books is an exhibit highlighting the book’s flexibility as a concept and as an intellectual and sensory experience by exploring the works published by just one company, Granary Books.

Granary Books is an independent publishing company in the United States and one of the proprietors is a University of Iowa graduate, Steven Clay. Clay graduated with a Bachelor’s in English and Religion in 1978. He describes Granary’s mission as “exploring the relationships between seeing and reading, reading and seeking,” which is where the name of the exhibit comes from.

The exhibit will feature Granary editions all organized into three categories: limited edition artists’ books, writer/artist collaborations, and books about books.

“These Granary Books live on the third floor in Special Collections, but many library patrons don’t know that they exist, or where to access them,” Buckley said. “The Main Library Gallery is a wonderful publicly accessible and beautiful site in which to share the riches of Special Collections.”

Buckley was able to work with Clay and library staff, including Exhibition Designer Kalmia Strong and Head Conservator Giselle Simón, in order to make this exhibit happen.

Seeing Seeking Feeling Reading: Granary Books will be open to the public on February 1 until March 15 on the first floor of the Main Library.

In addition to the exhibit, Cecilia Vicuña, a multidisciplinary artist-activist who makes poems, paintings, installations, books, performances, and films, is coming for a lecture on February 14 at 7:30 p.m. in 240 ABW and she will be doing a poetry reading on February 15 at 4:30 p.m. at the Dey House. 

Steven Clay is also coming to give a lecture about the publication and materials in the Main Library on February 15 from 3 p.m.-4 p.m. 

“I want viewers to leave the exhibit reminded that books come in many forms and formats, and that viewing is not all we do to or with them,” Buckley said. “Readers can interact with books in multiple ways while using multiple senses. Exhibitors should come back to Special Collections to see, hold and feel Granary Books for themselves.”

“It’s your Special Collections, too!”

Hand Papermaking is on exhibit in the Reading Room

This week we said goodbye to our Herky exhibit and said hello to the beauty of papermaking.

Giselle Simón, Head Conservator at University of Iowa, was invited to curate an exhibit called Hand Papermaking Portfolios: Selections from 1994-2017 in honor of the Dard Hunter and the American Printing History Association joint conference, which will be held here, in Iowa City, starting Thursday, October 25th. 

The pieces on display in the Special Collections Reading Room all come from the Hand Papermaking Portfolios held within Special Collections. There are twelve different categories, including calligraphy, watermarks, pop-up and more. Simón was able to include something from each portfolio for the display, a task that has not been done before now. 

This series is a growing collection, with the first modern hand papermaking produced in 1994 by Hand Papermaking Magazine (a publication founded by Michael Durgin and Amanda Degener in 1986). The goal of the magazine itself was to provide an educational resource for those who did hand papermaking. The portfolios allow paper artists to come together and share skills and information about their work, and they contain the works of several individuals, making this project a true community effort.

“I want people to see the different varieties in hand papermaking,”Simón said. “I want them to see hand papermaking as another medium of making art.”

By looking at the display, viewers can certainly tell it is a form of art. The watermarks display case is an example of that.

When looking at this particular display case, the selections are interesting, but seem to be missing something. Some just look like pieces of paper with a simple image on it. However, it isn’t until the visitor turns on the lights placed underneath the paper that the watermarks are revealed and the images are completed.  

“I enjoyed working with Bill Voss, the exhibit preparator, to create mounts that would illuminate the watermarks,”Simón said.

The watermarks are not the only thing coming to life in the display. There is a display case devoted to pop-up papermaking and it is truly sprouting life. Every piece on exhibit shows how papermaking is a work of art. 

Hand Papermaking Portfolios: Selections from 1994-2017 is now open and will be until early January. 

New Exhibit Tells Stories Worth Telling

Throughout the history of journalism, there have been different mediums in which writers tell their stories. Print, TV and radio have all dominated the journalistic world at one point in time, and while there are many forms to share information, Special Collections explores Tom Brokaw’s stories from the greatest generation through an exhibit, Stories Worth Telling: Marking 20 Years of “The Greatest Generation.”

Stories Worth Telling: Marking 20 Years of “The Greatest Generation” uses pages, photographs and artifacts from the book, The Greatest Generation, which documents the experiences leading to World War II and those who fought in the war. It also uses materials from the African American Museum of Iowa, Iowa Women’s Archives, and the State Historical Society of Iowa. 

Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation, hit the book shelves 20 years ago and became a quick bestseller. The book stirred something within the memory of American citizens, and soon letters from readers poured into Brokaw’s office, sharing their thoughts and own stories about their time on the battlefield or on the home front. 

These letters were kept and eventually made their way to the University of Iowa Libraries when Brokaw donated his papers to Special Collections in 2016. Elizabeth Riordan grew up watching Brokaw, and being a history fanatic herself, she wanted to know more about the collection. So, in 2017 Riordan was hired as the Graduate Research Assistant for the Papers of Tom Brokaw: A Life & Career.

“It’s a fascinating collection,” Riordan said. “You get the biggest events from the last 50 years from the point of view of a reporter, as well as the people he interviewed. It’s also interesting just to look at the history and evolution of journalism.”

While processing the material, Riordan found a lot of interesting objects, including rocks from the Great Wall of China and poems about the moon landing. However, her favorite part of the collection are the letters from readers that came in after The Greatest Generation was written.

Photo taken by Meaghan Lemmenes

And it’s these letters that are the focal point of the exhibit in the Main Gallery. 

“So many people shared their personal stories of triumph and tragedy through manuscripts and letters,” Riordan said. “It opens a different window into a moment of time not always seen in our history books.”

Surrounding the avalanche of letters in the gallery, the “Greatest Generation” unfolds along the walls through quotes from the book, with more stories of people with Iowa connections added along the back wall. Material from Special Collections, Iowa Women’s Archives, African American Museum of Iowa, and the State Historical Society of Iowa all add a part to the WWII narrative.  

“I wanted the exhibit to speak for itself,” Riordan said. “There are so many individual voices telling the story of our past, that I feel it makes it unique. I encourage people to read the stories in the avalanche art piece; don’t just stand and look at it from afar.”

“The letters share where we were as a country and where we can still go,” Riordan continued. “Brokaw called them the “Greatest Generation.” My hope is that this exhibit makes you think about what that term means.”

The exhibit is open to the public from Sept. 7th – Jan. 4, 2019 and visitors can see it Monday- Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., with Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. The exhibit is in the Main Gallery on the first floor of the Main Library.