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

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

In short, we consider him diseased from head to foot

While the summer is generally less hectic on campus due to fewer students, less traffic, etc., here in Special Collections we have been busy, busy, busy growing our collections in materials related to local history. A new acquisition we are really excited about relates to the Richard Stephens (1831-1890) family of Melrose, just north of Harrisonburg on Rt. 11. The collection itself is comprised of hundreds of miscellaneous documents, correspondence, receipts, deeds, and indentures and spans several generations of the Stephens/Dovel/Yount families of Rockingham County. Of particular interest, are several documents pertaining to Richard Stephens’ medical exemption from serving in the Civil War. We are spotlighting one such document today. But be warned – detailed descriptions of disease and oozy discharge await the reader.