Shakespeare First Folio at New Mexico Museum of Art

Rebecca Potance, Librarian, Archivist, and Webmaster at the New Mexico Museum of Art reports:

For the month of February, the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe will be displaying an important  book in the history of printing known as the First Folio. The First Folio was the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623, seven years after the author’s death. This special exhibition is just one of many planned throughout the world commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.  Shakespeare’s plays have been the subject of countless works of art, and this subject will be explored further in a companion exhibition at the museum called Stage, Setting, Mood : Theatricality in the Visual Arts.

The idea of an art museum celebrating the works of Shakespeare actually dates back to 1789, when a publisher named John Boydell opened the three room Shakespeare Gallery in London. The Shakespeare Gallery was enormously popular in its time. John Boydell commissioned the leading British artists of the day to paint scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. He then employed printmakers to make high quality reproductions of the paintings in the gallery which Boydell then published and sold. Stage, Setting, Mood includes four of Boydell’s color intalgio prints from the Shakespeare Gallery.

Although the Shakespeare Gallery closed in 1805, its legacy lives on.  Recently, the University of Texas at Austin meticulously recreated an online version of the first museum dedicated to Shakespeare for all to see:


Update on the Mackintosh Library

This morning I was curious to see what progress is being made on restoration and rebuilding of the Mackintosh Library at the Glasgow School of Art, damaged by fire last year. There were several articles posted in March on the subject, including this one from The Guardian covering the work of forensic archaeologists. There have been some valuable finds that will assist in reconstruction. I was also fascinated to see that some books survived in states that will allow conservation. The losses are still enormous.

The real reason I am sharing information here today, though, is another article from the Guardian, an article that explores some very interesting questions. It seems that before the fire the Mackintosh had become something closer to a museum than a working library, with students allowed only very limited access. Questions are now being raised as to what a restored Mackintosh Library should be:

Muriel Gray, chair of the board of governors (who has vowed that her first act will be to re-carve the naughty graffiti she engraved into the library woodwork as a student) has stated that the school of art “will die if it becomes a museum”. And Liz Davidson is frank. “We’re going to rebuild it all with extreme care,” she says, “then hand it over to the students to treat with extreme irreverence.”

Most of us (especially those of us with special collections) probably deal with this delicate balance to some degree: how to preserve, and still use? Where is the proper place to draw the line?

Another issue from the article also got me thinking. My undergraduate degree was in Comparative Literature and Literary Translation, and some of the issues faced by the Mackintosh restoration team reminded me of questions literary translators face. What is a faithful reproduction or translation?

The Kauri pine, from which the columns were built, was a cheap ballast material, he says, brought back in boats from New Zealand and readily available at the Glasgow shipyards. It has since become a protected species, so there are now questions over what to use instead.

Is the most faithful reproduction one that uses something that looks and feels closest to Kauri pine, or something that is closest to cheap material that can be repurposed? Is the aim to recreate, as closely as possible, what Charles Rennie Mackintosh created, or to follow as closely as possible his methods, translated into today’s materials?

These are the opportunities hidden in disaster, to question what we have done and are doing, and what our decisions mean. For my part, I hope to take this as a reminder to ask those questions while, hopefully and with good preparation, avoiding the disaster (and just as I write this, the fire alarm sounds… we are having some work done to improve our patchwork of fire alarm and suppression systems).

Welcome, and bring on your news!

sather_tower_and_campanile_-_michael_pihulic_02     Welcome, many new followers from the Mountain West Chapter!

I hope you will all begin to share ideas and news here in the new year. A wide variety of submissions would be welcome: information about new projects at your library, exciting new additions to your collections, useful tools you’ve heard about, and your own accomplishments and awards. If you’re interested in it, chances are that some other chapter members will be as well. Let’s get to know each other better!

Over on the right you’ll see a link to email your news to the editor. That’s the easiest way to share your stories here.

In the meantime, in celebration of this festive season (and the gorgeous snowstorm now settled over Santa Fe, where I write), here’s some news about a very cool competition. Hack the Bells, the first international carillon remix competition, has chosen its winners. The competition was the brainchild of Sarah Stierch, during her time as Susan B. Miller Fellow at the Berkeley Center for New Media at the University of California, Berkeley. She reports that “All works submitted were required to be released under a Creative Commons Share-Alike 4.0 license ” and cites this as proof that contemporary art and open licenses can coexist, if incentives are offered to artists. In this case the winner was promised a cash prize of $700 plus acquisition of their work by the University of California Berkeley and Anton Brees Carillon Library. Submissions ranged from musical works to knitted scarves, poetry, paintings, installation works, and theatre pieces.

While this isn’t specifically a “library” project, I thought it shed interesting light on current discussions in library-land, such as the evolution of intellectual property rights, and the trend toward libraries creating (in this case inspiring) rather than simply acquiring content.

(photo from )


Art in the Library

Jose Damasceno Holborn Artangel

Plot by José Damasceno at Holborn library. Photograph: William Eckersley/Artangel. Photo retrieved from

British public art agency Artangel has commissioned Brazilian artist José Damasceno to create an installation entitled Plot in the Holborn Library in Camden, England. The Guardian offers a good description of the project here, with photos of some of the elements scattered throughout the library.

I’ve seen the gallery-in-a-library idea often, but never seen an art project that permeates a library as this one apparently does. If I worked in a library with open space, I’d be jealous. As it is, our library is too stuffed with volumes about art to become art itself. How about yours?



And the prize for best completion of an unfinished work…

People working on the tapestry (Image from the BBC News)

This is my idea of a library program. These stitchers from the Alderney Tapestry Project have just completed a new final piece for the Bayeaux Tapestry. The work was done in the Alderney Library, and Librarian Kate Russell was among those working on the tapestry.

Some scholars believe the Bayeaux Tapestry, which depicts the Norman conquest of England, originally included – or was intended to include – a final panel showing the coronation of William the Conqueror. The Alderney Tapestry Project, working faithfully in the style of the original, has now provided that scene. Bayeaux Tapestry: The Islanders Who Finished the Final Scenes, by Ben Chapple of BBC News, details some of the important decisions the embroiderers had to make. Yes, embroiderers, because the Bayeaux Tapestry is not actually a tapestry at all.