A NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, OR, A STUDENT RECEPTION WITH WOLFSONIAN-FIU RARE BOOK LIBRARIANS

Isabel Brador, a Museum Studies intern who has been cheerfully and enthusiastically working away in our Rare Book and Special Collections Library this semester, organized a reception and after-hours visit for her professor and fellow students this past Thursday. We are always delighted to have the opportunity to share a sampling of our library holdings with our university colleagues. Sharf Librarian Rochelle Pienn took the lead on preparing for the group. Here is her report:

You might have seen Ben Stiller’s family comedy hit, wherein a night guard at the New York Museum of Natural History discovers that the exhibits come to life after the renowned building closes.

Night at the Museum

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM. COPYRIGHT 2006 TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX. A SHAWN LEVY FILM.

Did you know that the movie was based on a children’s book by Milan Trenc?

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COPYRIGHT 1993 BY MILAN TRENC. PUBLISHED BY BARRON’S EDUCATIONAL SERIES.

Florida International University Museum Studies students and their professor, Dr. Annette Fromm, were invited to a special almost-end-of-the-semester spring reception at the Wolfsonian-FIU Library to meet and greet the rare book librarians, and to see how special collections books themselves are living objects d’art.

After a relaxing interlude in the Wolfsonian-FIU café for some evening refreshments, Chief Librarian Frank Luca, Associate Librarian Nicolae Harsanyi, and myself, the Sharf Associate Librarian, led our select group upstairs for an exclusive presentation.

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Not only did he demonstrate the beauty of intricately illustrated tomes, but Dr. Luca also spoke about the historical context of individual books’ designs.

XB1992.955_001GIFT OF ANTONIO PETTINI

This imposing volume on the 1935 (Second) Italo-Ethiopian War used the ancient Roman symbol of the fasces, an axe protruding from a wooden base, as a way to glorify Mussolini’s Fascist regime.

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This magnificent example of bookbinding encloses a 1903 Amsterdam imprint of Dutch artist Jacob Maris’s work. The Art Nouveau design by C. A. Lion Cachet is embellished with gilded ink.

XA1993.1232_001

XA1993.1232_002

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Dr. Harsanyi discussed the glorification of German royalty as it pertained to this silver-stamped 1913 imprint from Berlin, aptly titled German Memorial Hall.

In spite of what was a less-than-illustrious reign, this richly decorated history made much of the last German Kaiser, Wilhelm II.

XB1990.1731_001XB1990.1731_002

Dr. Harsanyi cast minimal illumination on one of the Wolfsonian-FIU Library’s most mysterious treasures. This exquisitely hand-illustrated, unique artifact features gilded vignettes of Indonesia during the time of the Dutch colonization. The book is written in Kawi and was produced in Semarang, Central Java, in 1894.

83.2.649_002

83.2.649_003

83.2.649_004

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Next, I introduced our guests to rare and one-of-a-kind materials from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection.

MuseumStudiesParty2015Apr21GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Japanese artistic prodigy Wakana Utigawa provided the illustrations for this British novel by Fannie Caldwell. The love story was the number one best seller in America in 1907, instigating popular sympathy with Japan following the Russo-Japanese War.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Utigawa’s later stay at New York City’s Astor Hotel was enthusiastically reported on by the New York Times on May 12, 1913. They quoted her less-than-flattering description of the Western artists’ attempt at painting Japanese people, where she quips:

“The Japanese men and women painted by Western artists look very funny to us. You can never find such queer-looking creatures in Japan … The difference between European and Japanese eyes is too much exaggerated. If I were a Western artist I might try to paint the Japanese people, but I certainly would not care to exhibit the paintings.”

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Using stereotypical colors and typefaces that Westerners associated with Asian themes were also common techniques of publishers at the time. For example, this 1903 British imprint on the Boxer Rebellion has a yellow decorative binding and bamboo, vertical titles on the front cover to symbolize China.

XC2010.08.1.335_000[1]

XC2010.08.1.335_136a[1] GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

These charming children’s books of Japanese fairy tales are constructed of soft, double-leaf muslin pages hand bound in red string, with wood-block illustrations in vivid colors on their front covers.

MuseumStudiesParty2015Apr16GIFTS OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

The archive of Sergeant Edwin Taylor contains an eclectic collection of individual pieces. The items reverberate with the voice of man in the midst of active duty. A handwritten diary, a personal knapsack Bible, an inscribed multi-purpose knife and a Certificate of Freedom all belonged to him—artifacts of his stint in the City of London Imperial Volunteers’ Army of Great Britain during the South African (Boer) War in 1900.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

While the museum studies students weren’t chased around by any ghosts of long-gone soldiers or runaway dinosaur skeletons, they did escape their night at the museum with an alluring insight into the Wolfsonian-FIU Library.

~ by "The Chief" on April 8, 2015.

One Response to “A NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, OR, A STUDENT RECEPTION WITH WOLFSONIAN-FIU RARE BOOK LIBRARIANS”

  1. Very interesting! That Kawi book is just simply amazing.

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