Exhibition Curator’s Talk May 22nd at Bell Street Chapel

Have you taken a look at our current digital exhibition about Providence’s vacant spaces, or visited any of the locations on the tour to see the signs?

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Exhibition curator Angela DiVeglia will be giving a talk on Wednesday, May 22nd in the lower level of the Bell Street Chapel from 6:00 – 7:30 pm. (Did you know that the park next to Bell Street Chapel used to be a convent?)

The evening will begin with a short presentation where Angela will show highlights from the exhibition, discuss her research and curatorial process, and answer questions from the audience. The second half of the event will consist of an optional interactive workshop with drawing and writing prompts to encourage audience members to engage with vacant and open spaces from their day-to-day lives or from their memories.

Learn more and register for the event here!

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This used to be…

We’re excited to announce that our 2019 spring exhibition is out in the world as of today. And this time we really mean out in the world. Due to our ongoing renovation we don’t have an actual exhibition gallery, so this year’s curator, Angela DiVeglia, moved the exhibition outdoors.

Exhibition curator, Angela DiVeglia, with one of the signs.

parking lot with carsStarting today, you’ll see signs like this one out in the wild, highlighting the fact that what looks like an empty piece of the city actually might have a colorful history. For instance, this looks a pretty nondescript parking lot, right? But it wasn’t a parking lot in 1914; instead it was Melrose Park, home to baseball’s Providence Grays and their young up-and-coming pitcher, Babe Ruth. You can read all about it via the Rhode Tour app or website, where you’ll find historic images of each site.

You can learn more about the exhibition and program series on our website, where you can find a map of all the sites and links to the Rhode Tour website. Or stop by the library later this week to pick up a printed map.

As a bonus, here’s a gallery of installation photos…

This exhibition is part of the Year of the City programming.

Now on Exhibit: Portals art!

While the Portals exhibition (February – June 2016) showcased historical items describing imagined futures, local artists were hard at work researching in Special Collections and creating derivative art, both through programming at the library and in their own studios.

We’re lucky to have our exhibit cases jam-packed with selections of this Portals art, on view at the library now through August 15th!

Left to right: miniature dress and headdress created by teens in RISD CE fashion classes at the library; 18th century French funeral invitation from the Barrois Collection of Funeral Invitations, alongside a candle by Burke & Hare Co.; drafts, color separations, and layout notes from the Special Collections-themed issue of The Providence Sunday Wipeout.

The exhibit includes illustrations, song lyrics, candles, comics, letterpress prints, short stories, headdresses, and clothing designs by Rhode Island artists including Walker Mettling, Mickey Zacchilli, Brian Whitney, Dan Wood, Caitlin Cali, Guy-Maly Pierre, Dailen Williams, Jim Frain, Joe DeGeorge, Veronica Santos, Burke & Hare Co., Jeremy Ferris, Keegan Bonds-Harmon, and many teen fashion designers.

New creative works are displayed alongside the historical items that inspired them, including Maukisch’s Das Jagen, Fangen, Zähmen und Abrichten der Thiere (1837), The Necropolis of Ancón in Peru (circa 1880), design classic The Grammar of Ornament (1856), Academie Universelle des Jeux (1824) (from the Haynes Checkers Collection), Rational Recreations (1794), and other gems from the stacks.

Some of these artists’ original items are available for sale. (The library doesn’t receive any proceeds from these sales, but we are thrilled to support local businesses and Rhode Island artists!) You can purchase Burke & Hare Co’s Horace B. Knowles candle here, or their Repose en Paix candle here. To get a copy of the Special Collections-themed issue of The Providence Sunday Wipeout comics newspaper, visit Ada Books in Providence or contact Special Collections!

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.

Civil Warrior of the Week #15 (Special Edition): George Turner

George Turner in a tent

The image above is a sketch from a letter written by George Turner, a Rhode Island Civil War soldier whose correspondence has recently been scanned and transcribed by URI student Michaela Keating. The online collection (available here) includes nearly 200 letters, mostly sent by Turner to his parents at home in Rhode Island, dating from 1861 to 1864. Taken together they offer an evolving portrait of one soldier’s daily life over the years of the war and his developing attitudes toward race, the South and the purpose of the war.

Turner wrote the letter from which the image above was taken in December of 1861, not long after the Union capture of Fort Wells in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where Turner spent the majority of his time during the war. In the letter, Turner describes his entry into the fort and the circumstances of his drawing:

Soon after entering the Fort we were allowed to stroll around and look about. And during my stroll I cam across a gun carriage that was completely smashed up and while I was looking at it I picked up picked up part of a man’s ear and some teeth and while looking at it come to conclusion that this man had changed his southern views and gone to another land. And now that I think of it of will give you another drawing [sketch of two figures in a tent with “Traveller’s Rest” written on the side of the tent] The picture which I bring before your view this time represents your humble servant writing a letter to his Rhode Island friends while one of his mess mates lays on the ground smoking. The name which you see marked on the tent is marked with a led pencil. But I pity the poor fellow who comes there for rest if he does not belong there. Now I have lived in just such a house as you see just four months on the 20th this month, and during that that time I have not taken off my pants olny when I change my under clothes or to wash all over. And I am just as tuff as a birch I am fat rugged and saucy. I can swallow a roast turkey at one gullup. Yesterday we had the first white bread we have had since the 23 day of Oct and when we got our loaf we went about looking at it like so many boys with a new year’s present. But after a while we came to the conclusion to eat it and the way it went down my illustrious gullet was a caution to lookers on.

The letter is typical in its attention to the daily details of camp life. Also typical is the discussion that takes place just prior to this excerpt in which Turner displays antagonism toward the “contraband” freed slaves present at the fort. It’s a theme that develops throughout the course of Turner’s letters, as he grows to despise the former slaves he feels are being better treated than the soldiers.

For more information about the George Turner correspondence, visit our online exhibition, which provides background information about Turner and some of the major themes of his letters. And visit the digital collection to read the letters yourself. As of now over 100 letters have been transcribed, with more to come. And if you’d like to take part and try transcribing some of the letters yourself, just click the “Transcribe this item” link at the bottom of an item and then click the “edit” button.

(If you’re interested in Turner you might also want to check out the Summer/Fall 2012 issue of Rhode Island History (vol. 70.2), which features an article by Kirsten Hammerstrom on Turner titled “Souvenirs of War” (pp. 74-86).

Time Machine: 13 December 1871

Sometimes the documents saved in libraries don’t record moments of great historic importance. Sometimes they’re just the casual notes that probably make up the bulk of communication in any time. Here’s an example of a quick note to Secretary of State (among other things) John Russell Bartlett from Elisha Dyer, a former governor.

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Providence December 13 1871

My Dear Sir,

My friend from England (J. N. Dyer Esq) has arrived and I propose favoring him with an introduction to your self tomorrow if opportunity offers. Are you at the State House after dinner?

May I have the favor of an introductory note from you, for myself, to some of the leading publishing houses in Boston as I propose to accompany him there in a day or two. Much obliging.

Very Res[pectfully] Yours

Elisha Dyer

The Printer’s Working Library

Here at PPL we have a fantastic collection of books on the history of printing and typography, and that collection was originally founded as a resource for working printers in the area, providing a library of books they could use to improve their own work. The collection includes thousands items–books, manuscripts, pieces of ephemera– especially type specimen books.

I was curious what the working library of a modern printer might include, and Dan Wood of DWRI Letterpress was kind enough to let me stop by and take a look at the library in his print shop. Here are some photos of what I found:

There’s art all over the place in a print shop. Especially masterpieces by the printer’s kids.

Type specimen books are still in use for a lot of purposes: showing customers options for faces, picking a typeface to match something printed by photopolymer plate, etc., etc.

The biggest surprise: How essential a good etiquette guide is to the modern letterpress printer. Why? Because…

… they include example text for things like wedding invitations that are frequently printed by letterpress.

I also found some titles we were lacking, like the Vandercook 100 (DWRI Letterpress is among the print shops featured). We now have a copy in the collection.