Tuesday, October 9, 2012

LCP at the Airport

LCP at the Airport

The Philadelphia International Airport unveiled Life in Philadelphia: 1840s - 1930s in an exhibition area between Terminals E and F in September.  Curator Leah Douglas was drawn to the Library Company’s treasure trove of illustrations of daily life in the city as a way to introduce travelers to Philadelphia’s history and culture.  The exhibition is made up of skillful reproductions of more than 70 broadsides, trade cards, postcards, and photographs in the Library Company’s collections, most from the Print and Photograph Department.  Images selected by the Library Company’s Visual Culture Program co-Directors Erika Piola and Rachel D’Agostino provide glimpses into politics, industry, and life in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods over an almost 100-year span. 

The images are divided into three sections.  One focuses on views of city streets and neighborhoods.  Images in this section depict businesses, places of worship, and concourses busy with foot and horse traffic.  Neighborhoods shown include the Greater Northeast, Germantown, Center City, Kensington, South Philadelphia, and more.  Another section showcases materials that were displayed and circulated in the streets, including Civil War recruiting posters, theater playbills, and broadsides advertising lottery schemes.  The final section features photographs of Philadelphians posing in their neighborhoods, often in front of their homes.  Most of these photographs were taken in less affluent parts of the city, and the people shown include immigrants, laborers, and jovial groups of families and friends.

The Visual Culture Program promotes the use of historical visual images such as photographs, paintings, prints, book illustrations, and other forms of graphic art as primary sources for studying the past. The Library Company has collected visual materials throughout its long history with a special interest in works by Philadelphia photographers and printmakers whose imagery chronicled people, places, and everyday life in the City of Philadelphia. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

An Electronic “Key” to the Collections

Thanks to a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Library Company has a new app to help our readers get started doing research—whether they are using the collection for the first time or returning to the Library Company for further study.  "Key to Using the Collections" is an online tutorial on navigating the website, using the online catalogs to identify research materials, finding digital resources, and conducting research on site.  This first version highlights our African Americana Collection, but we plan to expand it in the future with sections on our other collection strengths.

The app was shaped with input from numerous staff members and feedback from a roomful of K-12 teachers who were on site for the NEH Summer Seminar this past July.  "Key" features photography and design elements by Library Company Digitization Technician—and artist!—Concetta Barbera, whose kite-and-key graphic, in particular, suggests the lively spirit of inquiry that we see in our reading rooms on a daily basis.  Others who contributed creative and technical skills to realize the app include filmmaker Bernard Phillips, IT manager Nicole Scalessa, and especially the app's implementers Victoria Prizzia of Habithèque (a local interpretive planning and design firm) and Terreyl Kirton of re:freshtech.

Take a look!  Especially watch for Jim Green and other staff in their cameo roles.

Then hit the ground running on your next research trip to the Library Company.

Holstein Stereograph Collection Gets Press

Curator of Prints and Photographs Sarah Weatherwax contributed an article to the July/August issue of Stereo World, which features a selection from the Library Company's Raymond Holstein Stereograph Collection, acquired in 2011. "A Pleasant Change from the Routine": West Point Cadets Visit Philadelphia's Centennial Exposition employs text and images to explore the experience of the 300 cadets who visited Philadelphia over the Fourth of July holiday in 1876.  The cadets traveled by special excursion train from the Hudson River Valley and set up a military encampment on the fairgrounds where they were visited by dignitaries as well as ordinary fairgoers.  The local press dutifully documented the cadets' daily activities as the men endured the stifling July heat.  Mr. Holstein's collection includes hundreds of views of the Centennial buildings and exhibitions as well as scenes of the military encampment.  The Holstein Collection as a whole contains approximately 2,000 views of Philadelphia business, churches, and street scenes and is a remarkable visual resource for anyone interested in the city during the last half of the 19th century.

“Endless Amusement” in the Print Department

After a summer as the VCP artist-in-residence intern, Jesse Lentz has completed ten sculptures inspired by the Print Collections.  Originally struck by an A. Schoenhut & Company trade catalog while on a visit with a University of the Arts class, Ms. Lentz has re-envisioned graphics from that catalog and related Library Company graphic printed works to create a series of whimsical, kinetic, and nostalgic sculptures.  The ten works in her Endless Amusement exhibition, on view now in the small exhibition gallery and the Print Department, represent ten decades of toy design, marketing, and consumerism.

Ms. Lentz begins her menagerie in the 1850s with an interpretation of a rocking horse.  This is her largest-scale piece, influenced by paper doll soldiers in our collections.  Other sculptures include a tin elephant, dancing fox, and mechancial tiger tamer and draw on books related to nursery rhymes, travel, and children's toy making.  An artist's statement accompanies each piece and sheds light on Ms. Lentz's motivations, process, and personal connections to her work.  Common threads in her work, made evident in the statements, are her ingenuity in repurposing materials and her insights about the provenance of her historical models.  Endless Amusement will be on display through the fall with an online exhibition available for view on the VCP at LCP website in the coming weeks.

Illustrations of Schoenhut's Marvelous Toys.  The Humpty Dumpty Circus.  Philadelphia: The A. Schoenhut Co., 1918.  Purchased with funds from the Walter J. Miller Trust.
Rocking Horse, wood, paint, yarn, fabric, and found rocking chair.  Inspired by Civil War-era paper dolls in the collections of the Library Company of Philadelphia.
Tin Elephant, tin sheet, wood, enamel, and matte medium.  Inspired by Sir James Emerson Tennent, The Wild Elephant and the Method of Capturing and Taming it in Ceylon.  London: Longmans, Green, 1867, and online research.
Dancing Fox Lady, copper sheet, aluminum sheet, string, and wood.  Inspired by Ebenezer Landell, The Girl's Own Toy-Maker.  Boston: Cyrus G. Cook, 1861.

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