Acting Black: Exhibition, Opening, and Press

Our newest exhibition, “Acting Black: Black Performing Arts in RI since the 1700s”, guest curated by Robb Dimmick, explores the roles played by Black musicians, actors and actresses, models, writers, storytellers, poets, and dancers.

This past weekend the Providence Journal published an article about the exhibit, including a series of beautiful photos.

An opening reception will be held at the library tonight, October 19th, 2015, from 5 – 6:30 p.m. Please join us if you are in the area!

Exhibits, Current and Upcoming

If you haven’t gotten a chance to see our current exhibit, Iterations: From Paris to Providence, be sure to stop by the library soon!


The exhibit is in place until September 30th, and showcases early 20th-century pochoir prints alongside derivative contemporary works from local artists.


(If you’ve already seen the exhibit and it’s gotten you all abuzz about pochoir, you may be interested to know that RISD’s Continuing Education program is offering a class in pochoir printmaking this fall. You can see details about the class here.)

Stay tuned for our upcoming guest-curated exhibit, Stages of Freedom, which opens on October 19th!

The Future of the Past

As we’ve mentioned in passing, we’re hard at work preparing for our upcoming 2016 exhibition and event series, Portals: History of the Future.

While combing through our collections, we’ve come across a few futuristic gems that aren’t a great fit for the exhibition, but are just too good to pass by. For instance, this excellent and patriotic book cover:


Forecast 2000 was written in 1984, mind you, so the predictions aren’t terribly far-fetched.


The only-slightly-older, also-patriotic-looking Seven Tomorrows (from 1982) provides “seven scenarios for the eighties and nineties”. (Is one allowed to predict life in the eighties when one is already living in the eighties? That seems like cheating.)


Seven Tomorrows has lots of fun charts and imaginary statistics, and its scenarios provide a surprisingly good read.

(Apparently if we experience “apocalyptic transformation”, there will be a rise in demand for mediators, and a decreasing demand for astronauts.)

The oldest book of this stellar batch is the 1977 Future File, a slightly sci-fi compendium of information for the forward-looking thinker.


One section of this book has predictions by year, culled from all kinds of past official publications.




2000: year of nuclear electric spacecraft. 2015: replacement organs harvested from farmed animals. 2024: lunar colony and extraterrestrial farming. Isn’t the future grand?

New Exhibit! Iterations: from Paris to Providence

Special Collections’ new summer exhibit, Iterations, features pochoir-printed plates from our extensive art and architecture collection. Pochoir is a many-layered stenciling process that produces extremely vivid and dimensional prints; it was particularly popular in late 19th and early 20th century Paris, and was used for fashion plates, interior design illustrations, architectural prints, and pattern and motif books like the ones featured in our exhibition.


Pattern books were intended for use by artists and designers as inspiration for wallpaper, textiles, and other decor. In that spirit, we invited local artists to view the pattern books and to use them as inspiration for a new piece created just for this exhibit. Participating artists include Chelsea Gunn, Taylor Polites, Caitlin Cali, Rebecca Volynsky, Lois Harada, Hope Anderson, Beth Brandon, Xander Marro, and Elizabeth Novak.


The exhibit is currently on view in the cases in the Rhode Island Room (on the first floor of the library). In August, the exhibit will expand to include two additional cases on the library’s third floor.


Stop by to check it out any time during the library’s open hours, and/or come to the Meet the Artists reception on July 15th, where you can talk to our creative collaborators, eat some snacks, and get a guided tour of the exhibit.

Tobias Frere-Jones & the Updike Award

We’re now just under two weeks away from our big type event of the year, when Tobias Frere-Jones will be our guest speaker at an event to award our first ever Updike Prize for Student Type Design.

Frere-Jones poster

It should be a fantastic night, so put it on your calendar now: Thursday, February 19th at 6pm. You can get a sense of Tobias Frere-Jones’s engaging take on typographic history by visiting his terrific blog.

At 5:30 we’ll be offering a short tour of our latest exhibition, “Inhabited Alphabets,” which highlights some typographic oddities from our Updike Collection as well as our other collections including children’s books, Civil War items and more. The Washington Street entrance will be open starting at 5:15. The event is free and open to the public, but you’re welcome to RSVP on the Library’s website.

And that’s not all! If you’re a proper typographic enthusiast, you need a great typographic t-shirt, and we’ve got one for you:

Tee shirt

Visit our Teespring campaign and order a t-shirt now. We’ve taken one of our favorite images from the current exhibition (from an 1838 Austin Letter Foundry specimen book) and turned it into a t-shirt that proclaims your typographic allegiance. Not only do you get a great shirt, but you also support Special Collections. The campaign runs through February 25th, so don’t delay. After that, they’re gone.

Thanks to Michael McDermott for once again designing the event poster featured at the top of this post. And thanks also to our event sponsor, Paperworks!

Paperworks Logo


A newly-opened exhibition in our Providence Journal Rhode Island Room draws on our Nicholson Whaling Collection to highlight artistic creations by whalemen during the age of offshore whaling. You can view the exhibition now through the month of December. But in case you can’t make it to the exhibition, here are a selection of images (including quite a few not on display):


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.