Creating First-hand Experiences with Manuscript Open Houses

Below is a reflection from Micaela Terronez, Olson Graduate Assistant, on the “Manuscripts at Special Collections” open houses.

Can I really touch it?

One curious visitor asked this question in amazement as they gazed at one of the twenty-one visiting manuscripts from Les Enluminures, a gallery of unique text manuscripts with locations in New York, Paris, and Chicago. As a part of the program, “Manuscripts in the Curriculum,” Les Enluminures temporarily loans a select group of unique manuscripts to educational institutions. Fortunately, The University of Iowa Libraries’ Special Collections was able to host the manuscripts, covering various contexts and locations from the 13th to the 19th century. In addition to classroom integration, Special Collections planned a series of open houses for the University and broader community to have hands-on experience engaging with these one-of-a-kind pieces. From August to November, around 200 visitors viewed the visiting manuscripts—along with a couple favorites from our own collections.

Logistically speaking, each open house exhibited 10 to 12 manuscripts aligned with a pre-decided theme. The themes included: Signs of Production, Decoration and Illumination, Script and Scribe, Manuscripts Outside Latin West, Medieval Society, Vernacular Texts, Music, Medieval Authors, and Bestsellers. This diverse set of themes allowed us to highlight certain texts each week without exhausting the materials or the visitors. The open houses were marketed through classroom instructions, social media, departmental networking, events, newsletters, and blogs. These efforts garnered an audience of students, scholars, and outside community members of various ages and backgrounds.

At the open houses, guests were given brief guidelines to handling the manuscripts and were encouraged to turn the leaves by the margins. Like the curious visitor above, many could not believe that they could touch, let alone, move through the leaves of a codex to see every script and image. However, in cases with a large number of visitors, guests were advised to admire the manuscripts without touching as to protect the longevity and structure of the manuscript. During these events, special precautions were taken to make sure the manuscripts were handled carefully, while also allowing the viewer to engage and ask questions. Non-flash photographs were highly encouraged, and many patrons took away some amazing captures to keep and share with friends and family. We also offered an interactive matching game of medieval authors, temporary tattoos, buttons, and bookmarks for visitors to take home.

Because of an increase in public visitors, the fall semester was a whirlwind of planning, marketing, curation, learning, and teaching. For example, Elizabeth Riordan (Outreach and Engagement Librarian) and I created specially made description cards for each manuscript on display—that’s a lot of writing and research! The description cards served two purposes. First, it was the perfect way for us to learn more about the visiting manuscripts, along with the interesting details and histories. This knowledge proved highly valuable during open houses and classes. Secondly, visitors were able to easily understand the terminology, history, production, and uses of the items exhibited. These descriptions also helped to spur questions and discussions throughout the weeks. Riordan and I also enjoyed choosing manuscripts from our own collections to feature alongside the visiting manuscripts. In this way, we were both able to think more contextually about the manuscripts from Iowa and what themes can be highlighted throughout them. In addition to our visitors, we both walked away from the open houses more knowledgeable about medieval manuscripts, their features, and histories.

There were several other benefits and take-aways from these open houses. Perhaps most importantly, we learned a great deal about the value of increasing access and visibility of the manuscripts through hands-on exploration. Patrons made incredible observations about the texts, while also initiating fruitful discussions amongst themselves and with staff.  They also inquired about the contexts, materiality, users, producers, and authors. More so, visitors were able to actually feel the hair of the parchment, translate scripts, study the bindings, and so much more! With calm medieval chants playing in the background, many also took the events as an opportunity to relax and purely admire the artistry behind the texts. I would say friendships and interactions were created among these beautiful works, an effect that perhaps wouldn’t have happened without the hands-on experience with the manuscripts.

The open house series ended with one last exhibit, as well as a visit and talk titled “People and the Book: the Voices of Manuscripts from the Middle Ages” from Laura Light of Les Enluminures. These final events allowed visitors to ask intriguing questions about the visiting manuscripts from Light, an expert historian on medieval works. As November comes to a close, it is now time to say goodbye to these works. I, for one, am going to miss the manuscripts very much. Here are a couple of photographs from my favorite visiting manuscript, a “Roll of Arms” created during the Elizabethan period in England. The manuscript features stunningly detailed shields, illustrated crowns, and stylized arms shaking hands to signify marriage. Like myself, I am sure many visitors appreciated the work and talent that went into these lovely pieces.

The successful planning and implementation of the open houses was a team effort of the library and conservation staff, and we were incredibly grateful for the opportunity to engage with the community, students, and faculty during these open houses. Thank you to all that visited Special Collections, asked questions, and made us ponder the creation and use of these manuscripts. We hope you continue to visit us in the future, whether it is for research, exploration, or just admiring a cool book or leaf.

Relevant links:

Les Enluminures manuscripts

Manuscripts in the Curriculum program

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Upcoming Events and Exhibitions

Events

 

World Canvass

The World Canvass program ” “Against Amnesia: Archives, Evidence, and Social Justice,” will feature Iowa Women’s Archives curator Kären M. Mason.

TONIGHT: Thursday, Feb. 22, 5:30-7:00PM

Event Calendar Listing

 

 

 

LogoArchives Crawl

Spec Collections, the University Archives, the Iowa Women’s Archives, and the Rita Benton Music Library are part of Archives Crawl.

When: Sat. Feb. 24, 11AM-3PM

Event Calendar Listing.

 

 

Against Amnesia Symposium

The following weekend there will be an “Against Amnesia” Symposium.

Event Calendar Listing.

When: March 1-3, 2018. 

 

History on Tap at Cedar Ridge Winery,

When: March 14, 5:30pm-7pm

Hear Kären Mason, curator of the Iowa Women’s Archives (at the University of Iowa Libraries) reflect on the significance of 6-on-6 high-school girls’ basketball, drawing on rich personal narratives from Iowa Women’s Archives collections. For most of the 20th century, the state of Iowa was nationally known for its devotion to a unique form of women’s sport known as 6-on-6 girls’ basketball. As other states abandoned 6-on-6, Iowa remained steadfast in its commitment until the state’s final 6-player championship in 1993, where Hubbard-Radcliffe prevailed over Atlantic, 85-66. The year 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the end of 6-on-6 girls’ basketball in Iowa.

Free to attend. Registration required.

 

 

Exhibits

 

Invisible Hawkeyes – African American pathfinders & tastemakers, 1930-1970

By looking at the University of Iowa and a smaller Midwestern college town like Iowa City, this book reveals how fraught moments of interracial collaboration, meritocratic advancement, and institutional insensitivity deepen our understanding of America’s painful conversation into a diverse republic committed to racial equality.

Daily Iowan Article.

Event Calendar Listing.

 

 

Student Selections Exhibition

An exhibition co-curated by all the student employees in Special Collections. Their work processing collections, shelving books, providing references services, and teaching in our classroom brings the most beautiful, bizarre, profound, and silly historic items to their attention and each person provided a favorite item that you’re bound to love.

Where: Special Collections on the 3rd floor of the Main Library.
When: 8:30AM-5:00P M, W-F and 8:30AM-7PM on Tuesdays.

Daily Iowan Article.

Event Calendar Listing.

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Iowa City Archives Crawl Saturday February 24th

LogoIowa City Archives Crawl

 Saturday, February 24 at 11:00am to 3:00pm

 

What gems are preserved inside of Iowa City’s libraries, museums, and archives?

At the area’s first-ever archives crawl, visitors can snoop in between the pages of historic diaries, read other people’s mail, hold feathers and fossils, and peer into mysteries revealed by historic artifacts like swords and locks of hair kept in remembrance.

All events are free and open to the public!

Between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm, the following sites will be open to the public. Each will offer tours, demonstrations, and short talks by experts (see specific times at archivesagainstamnesia.com/archives-crawl). Start your crawl at any of these sites, where you can pick up an archives crawl “passport” and map. Bring your fully stamped passport to any site for a prize!

  • University of Iowa Main Library, 125 W. Washington St.
  • University of Iowa Museum of Natural History, Macbride Hall, 17 N. Clinton St.
  • Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St.
  • State Historical Society of Iowa Research Center, 402 Iowa Ave.

All four sites will be open to visitors between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

The Iowa City Archives Crawl will occur prior to the 2018 Provost’s Global Forum and Obermann Humanities Symposium, Against Amnesia: Archives, Evidence, and Social Justice.

Free and open to the public.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Colleen Theisen in advance at 319-335-5923.

 

Upcoming October Events

Handy Books exhibit reception.

Friday, October 6th, 12-1pm

Special Collections Reading Room

 

 

michael zahsSaving Brinton,

The documentary was extended at Film Scene in Iowa City and has additional showings through at least October 11th.

Read more.

Buy tickets.

 

The Reformation and Books – 500 Years Later

Wednesday, October 11 at 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Raymond Mentzer, Daniel J. Krumm Family Chair in Reformation Studies in the Department of Religious Studies, and Greg Prickman, Head of Special Collections will present about books and the Reformation during the 500th Anniversary Year. A selection of related books will be on display. Read more.

 

William Anthony Conservation Lecture—Mark Esser “Bookbinding Has Been Very Good to Me” 

Thursday, October 12th. Light refreshments at 6pm. Talk at 6:30PM.
E105 Adler Journalism Building

Read more.

 

 

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Colleen Theisen in advance at colleen-theisen@uiowa.edu or 319-335-5923.

Image of William Shakespeare

Fourth Annual Shakespeare Livestream – TOMORROW (Wednesday 4/26) 11AM-1PM

FOURTH Annual Shakespeare Livestream
Tune in live Wednesday April 26, 11:00am-1:00pm CST [Central time in the USA is GMT -5:00]

We’re back! Celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday week by joining us – live on the internet! – for our FOURTH annual Shakespeare’s Death Anniversary & Birthday Week Commemoration Livestream, featuring University of Iowa Shakespeare professor Adam Hooks, alongside Colleen Theisen, Special Collections Outreach & Engagement Librarian.

Colleen and AdamNow is your chance to Ask a Shakespeare Scholar anything about Shakespeare, about being a Shakespeare scholar, and maybe even about your least favorite Shakespeare plays. We will also have a selection of historic, unusual, beautiful, and forged editions of Shakespeare’s works from Special Collections which we’ll be showing and telling stories about LIVE!

Use the hashtag #shxlive to ask a question, or type one here in the comments, or tune in live to ask a question. The event will be added to the UISpecColl YouTube channel as a video after the completion of the event. (See past livestreams).

 

Tune in here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHEgdueFNHM