With a dazzling array of binding colors, lettering styles, and subjects, the seven-case exhibit Decorated Publishers' Bindings 1840 to 1930: Collections from the State Library of Massachusetts was extraordinarily popular, but had to come down eventually to make way for the new exhibit, Worcester: Heart of the Commonwealth. Although the full bindings exhibit is still available digitally on the Library's Flickr site, the library wanted to continue to display a selection from this exhibit on a much smaller scale. The question was, how?
This is where I came in! As a preservation intern beginning in September, my first assignment was to help the Preservation Librarian, Lacy Stoneburner, take down the full exhibit and design a much smaller one using the same materials. First, I looked at the approximately eighty books from the original exhibit, knowing that I had to pare these down to about ten. I also realized that the large text panels that "told the story" were too large to keep with the books and fit in the smaller cases. So, what essence of the original exhibit could I retain?
While the two small display cases did not have enough room for one volume from each decade from 1840 through 1930, I wanted to maintain a wide range of publication dates, and to include one 1938 paper-covered book representing the end of the era of decorative publishers' bindings. I chose covers in cloth and wood veneer, in red, black, green, blue, and yellow, and many with eye-catching gilt lettering. Finally, I wanted the volumes to represent the wide variety of the books' subject matter, which included almanacs, histories of places or battles, and educational books covering topics from steam to nature studies.
How did I do? Come visit the two exhibit cases just inside the entrance to the State Library, Room 341 of the State House, and you can decide!
Posters of the original exhibit are available for $8 in both the library administration office (Room 341) and in the Special Collections department (Room 55). Shipping options are also available. Please let us know if you have any questions by calling (617) 727-2595.
-Colleen McGhee-French, Preservation Intern