Whale Guitar Installed

If you missed the Whale Guitar unveiling and exhibition opening a week ago, you missed a great show.

After Jen Long and Rachel Rosenkrantz eloquently explained the motivation and process that led to the guitar, they officially unveiled it…

Whale Guitar Unveiling

And then lots of people packed the balcony outside Special Collections…



… to hear performances by Area C (aka Erik Carlson), Reza Clifton, and Shannon Le Corre & Chris Carrera (of Bloodpheasant):



The performers signed the back of the guitar…

Guitar Signing

… and then it went in to the exhibition case…

Guitar in Case

… where you can see it until June 5th, as part of an exhibition on the guitar’s creation.

Whale Guitar Exhibition

The exhibition is in the Level 3 hallway beside Special Collections. And stay tuned for more information about the June 5th closing celebration, which will feature more music.

Bodoni One More Time

We’re just a few days from our Thursday lecture and opening of the Bodoni exhibition, so I wanted to offer one more blog post. First, because I wanted to share the great poster that graphic designer Michael McDermott designed for the event. Here it is:


One of the great things about it is that it’s designed so that each panel can be printed on a sheet of 11″x17″ paper, creating a giant version of the poster. Here’s an example in the wild:

Poster on wall

Second, I wanted to share one image of something you can’t see in the exhibition:

Title page of Amoretti specimen

This is the title page of a type specimen (with a great border) by the Amoretti brothers of Parma. It’s often the case with exhibitions of books that there are a lot of openings from individual volumes that you’d love to show, but in the end you usually can only pick one. In this instance the title page lost out to another opening. But that’s just a reminder that if you see something that interests you in an exhibition you can always come back and work with the whole book, cover to cover, on your own.

The Alphabet from A to A

We’re less than a week from our big Bodoni celebration (you’re invited), so here’s an example of the kind of thing you can look for if you visit the exhibition.

One of Bodoni’s predecessors (and the man whose types he first used when he set up the press in Parma) was Pierre Simon Fournier, the great French typographer best known, perhaps, for his origination of the point system that became the basis for the system we use today. In 1766 he published the Manuel Typographique, and below on the left is a scan of the letter A from that book, which is on display in the exhibition.


On the right is an A from Giambattista Bodoni’s Manuale Tipografico, posthumously published in 1818. There is a long list of reasons not to make too much of the comparison (each A is just one example of just one letter, at a large size, etc.). But it’s still kind of fun to view a 50-year evolution of a letter in detail.

And just in case you want to see it in motion:


Hopefully you’ll be able to join us on the 27th for this typographic celebration, with a lecture by Matthew Carter at 6:00 pm. The Washington Street entrance will be open at 5:00, and I’ll be offering a short guided tour of the exhibition at 5:30. The exhibition will be up (in the Providence Journal Rhode Island Room) through April 19th.

More information is available on the Library website.

Planning Your February Calendar

If you’re in Providence (or anywhere else nearby), here are a pair of February events at the Library that you shouldn’t miss.

One week from today we’ll have the opening of an exhibition by two artists, Agata Michalowska and Andrew Oesch, who have been working with PPL Special Collections materials (particularly the Wetmore Collection) to create new art. The exhibition (on display in the Level 3 hallway outside Special Collections) will give offer a chance to see historical materials and their transformation into contemporary art. On February 3rd at 6:00 pm, Andrew and Agata will discuss the process in a lecture in the 3rd Floor Meeting Room. More information and online signup here.


And if you’re planning even farther out in the month,  save space for our February 27th event. We’ll be opening a new exhibition on the printer and typographer Giambattista Bodoni, who dieed 200 years ago, in the Providence Journal Rhode Island Room. Our opening event will feature a lecture by prestigious type designer Matthew Carter, who will discuss the role of historical research in type design. It’s a fitting topic for a night on which we’ll also be launching the Updike Prize for Student Type Design, a competition to reward undergraduate and graduate students who use the Updike Collection and then go on to design their own typefaces inspired by their research. More information about the event and online signup form here.

Remembering the Hurricane

Tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of the immensely destructive hurricane of 1938. You can still see our exhibition on the hurricane in the Providence Journal Rhode Island Room through the weekend. You can also visit our RI Collection blog for an intense account of one woman’s experience of the day.

Like a Hurricane

The 75th anniversary of the 1938 hurricane is nearly upon us, and our current exhibition (extended through 21 September) gives you a chance to see some of the effects it had on New England.

It’s on display in the Providence Journal Rhode Island Room on Level 2.

Hurricane exhibition poster

Dragonfly Bindings at the Athenaeum

Anyone interested in bookbinding will want to mark their calendars for Saturday, the 26th of January at 1:00.

Dragonfly binder


Thirty years of bindings and restoration will be on display, and the proprietors, George and Patricia Sargent, will be offering a lecture on their experiences in the field. Read more at the Providence Athenaeum’s blog.

The event is sponsored by the John Russell Bartlett Society, and is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

A Bit of Housekeeping

Three quick announcements about PPL Special Collections:

First, our weekly tour for this Friday (August 4th) is cancelled, but we’ll be starting up again next week (the 11th). Just stop by at 3pm any Friday for a free introduction to some of our amazing treasures.

Second, construction has begun here at the library, part of which involves closing off the stairway leading to the third floor. You can still get here by taking the elevator to level 3 and then heading to the right.

Third, as a reward for those who make the journey past the construction, we’re starting a rotating weekly mini-exhibition of two items from the collection on a theme. This week’s topic is the Olympics, and we’ve got two items (a 1790s map of London and a guide to gymnastics from 1851) on display in the case by the entrance.

So stop by (just not this Friday) and take an analog look at some of the things mentioned here on the blog.

A Time for Wonder

The Wonder Show has been in the works for months (the first mention on this blog was back in November), and it’s organizers have been hard at work the whole time. Glass plate negatives from our collection have been transformed into magic lantern slides, writing workshops at the library and elsewhere have produced a script, and local actors have prepared to deliver it. For those who haven’t already gotten their tickets for the sold-out shows tonight and tomorrow, it’s too late, unfortunately (although there may be a little overflow and last-minute seating available, so stop by if you’re in the area). But if you can’t make it to the event itself (and even if you can), you should definitely still stop by and see the exhibition here at PPL (put together by Carolyn Gennari and Anya Ventura) on the history of optical entertainments and the process they went through in recreating a magic lantern show here in Providence.

The exhibition will be on display through the rest of May.

Fighting (at) City Hall

Civil War sesquicentennial events are underway all over the place, including Providence City Hall. Brown University students have used local resources (including our Harris Collection on the Civil War & Slavery) to put together what promised to be a fascinating exhibition on Providence during the period of the Civil War.

Here’s a little more info from the exhibition organizers:

After 150 years, some might assume that the history of the Civil War is a closed book. The exhibit Rhode Island in the Civil War: Myth, Memory, and (Mis)Information reopens a chapter of this story to reveal the deeper complexities of Rhode Island’s Civil War experience. Curated by students in Brown University’s Methods in Public Humanities class in collaboration with the Rhode Island Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration Commission, the exhibit examines the history and legacy of Rhode Island’s involvement in the Civil War, using items from local archives and libraries. The exhibit will be on view at the City Hall Gallery from April 28 through June 22, with an opening reception on May 3.


A period-uniformed brass band playing music of the Civil War will kick off the opening reception at 5 p.m. on the steps of City Hall, accompanied by a uniformed color guard of teenage Civil War reenactors from the Met School. At 5:30 a brief speaker’s program will include remarks from Keith Stokes, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Commission, Chairman of the Rhode Island Sesquicentennial Commission Frank Williams, City Archivist Paul Campbell, and Brown University Professor Anne Valk, whose students researched, planned, and installed the exhibit. The opening is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.

About the Gallery at City Hall:

Offering space to artists and organizations that might not have a permanent gallery, the Gallery at City Hall exhibits an eclectic array of work that highlights the artistic and cultural diversity found in the Providence community. It is open to the public during City Hall business hours: Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30 p.m. and is located on the second floor. City Hall is located at 25 Dorrance Street.