Unearthing the Past through Pop-Ups

by Jen LeMay As a kid I always found the world an amazing mysterious place full of people in the present and made from the past. Today I’m an archaeologist intent on exploring and bringing to light those lives of the past, the cultures they come from and their everyday life. More specifically I’m fascinated by the Mediterranean-Ancient Greece & Rome, the great pharaohs that ruled the lands of Egypt, the Alexandrian Library, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, etc. While interning with James Madison University’s Special Collections & Preservation team, I’ve had the opportunity to pursue my passion in a very unique way. Recently my colleague, Fiona Wirth, and I have gotten to inventory a large collection of pop-up books in preparation for cataloging; pop-up books are full of interactive movement, pulling tabs, lifting flaps, spinning rotating volvelle wheels, and of course seeing images pop up in 3-D before your eyes—paper magic. However, not all are for kids as you might imagine. Behold my favorite, “Ancient Rome: Monuments Past & Present” by archaeologist R.A Staccioli and translated into English by H. Garrett. This is not a normal pop-up book though, as it only has clear overlaid sheets that help reconstruct what Continue reading Unearthing the Past through Pop-Ups

The Carol Barton Pop-Up Book Collection

by Fiona Wirth Have you ever had an interest in paper engineering? The Carol Barton Pop-Up Collection found in Special Collections has over 700 examples of movable books. Jen LeMay and Fiona Wirth, two student assistants, spent several weeks this summer preparing the collection for use. Additions to Special Collections require organization, preservation, and archival processing. Fiona and Jen were tasked with recording each book’s structure and analyzing the multi-faceted techniques used to engineer these three dimensional worlds. Elements used to form each pop-up were identified, including “box cuts” that can create stairs in their most basic form, “pull tabs,” “flaps” (lifted to reveal hidden images), “rotating volvelles,” (a fancy term for a spinning wheel), and many more. The information collected will be added to the library catalogue so they may be retrieved for instruction sessions in the reading room when art classes visit the library to view examples of paper engineering techniques. Most of the pop-up elements identified involved cuts and creases made in the paper. Jen and Fiona examined each book and wrote the elements found on a preliminary check list that will eventually accompany the books to cataloging. For example, here is a photo of a valley Continue reading The Carol Barton Pop-Up Book Collection

Pop-Ups: A New Way to Study Art History

Written by Fiona Wirth This past summer, I began working in Carrier Library for Special Collections and Preservation. Over the summer my fellow student workers and I have worked on many projects such as the Blackley Collection, both archiving and preserving collections for future use by library patrons. Most recently, fellow student Jen LeMay and I have been organizing the recently acquired Carol Barton Pop-Up and Movable Book Collection. This collection is amazing for the diversity in subject matter and intricate artistry of the book themselves. There are over 700 titles in this collection, which were amassed by Carol Barton, and international book artist and curator whose work can be found in renowned locations such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Ms. Barton was also JMU’s first Wampler visiting professor of Fine Art in 1992. As an Art History major, the books that interested me the most related to many popular artists and their artwork. Frequently art history is only encountered through cumbersome textbooks or large museums, making art seem unapproachable or too complex. However, art pop-ups like the ones found in the Carol Barton Collection are fun and interesting, whether or not you’re Continue reading Pop-Ups: A New Way to Study Art History

A Look Back – Interview with Preservation Assistant Madison Whitesell

Madison Whitesell is a recent JMU graduate with degrees in art history and studio art. She began working in Preservation as a sophomore in 2015 and spent this summer working as a wage employee. This is her JMU Libraries story. “Madison, tell our audience a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a preservation assistant” I’ve been interested in art conservation since high school. When I first realized that I loved art history as much as I loved making art, conservation presented itself as a way to combine the academics of art history with the hands on skills of making art. I heard there was a library preservation job available to students where you got to help repair books and I was immediately sold. I emailed Julia Merkel, Preservation Officer, and (politely) begged her to hire me.   “What are some of the major projects/highlights of your time here?” I’ve gotten to do some of the coolest things here; things I never imagined doing when I was first hired. Just the idea of repairing books for the rest of my life was exciting but I’ve also gotten to help plan, curate, and install library exhibitions, as well Continue reading A Look Back – Interview with Preservation Assistant Madison Whitesell