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The Rosenbach Celebrates 200th Anniversary of Frankenstein with Frankenstein & Dracula Exhibiton
Pages of Mary Shelley’s handwritten draft of Frankenstein to be displayed alongside Bram Stoker’s notes for Dracula for the first time
PHILADELPHIA, September 20, 2017—The Rosenbach is proud to present Frankenstein and Dracula: Gothic Monsters, Modern Science, featuring pages from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein manuscript displayed for the first time alongside the Rosenbach’s collection of Bram Stoker’s Dracula notes.
Marking 200 years since the publication of Frankenstein, this exhibition will explore the creation of literature’s most memorable monsters, beginning with the stormy summer that famously inspired both Shelley’s Frankenstein and the first literary vampire story, which was a precursor of Stoker’s reimagined monster. The exhibition will feature pages of Mary Shelley’s manuscript for Frankenstein, on loan from the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library in their first scheduled U.S. appearance. Books and manuscripts from the same period, including poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, as well Mary Shelley’s groundbreaking post-apocalyptic novel The Last Man, shed light on the themes that preoccupied Shelley, Stoker, and their fellow writers. These masterpieces of gothic storytelling were deeply influenced by the technological developments, medical breakthroughs, and environmental disasters that characterized the beginning and end of the 19th century, when the novels were written. The literature on display will be accompanied by 19th-century scientific and medical documents that detail the science and pressing ethical questions of the time—the limits of life and death, body and mind, and humanity and nature—that compelled these authors to imagine their monsters, creating stories that still trouble us today. In addition to these historical artifacts, digital interactives invite visitors to connect the historical material to contemporary scientific issues.
Enhance the exhibition with interactive experiences
The exhibition gallery features an interactive experience designed to emphasize the connection between the novels by Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker and the scientific and ethical questions of the present day. Created by Bluecadet, the experience begins at a kiosk in the gallery that places the visitor in the role of a scientist tasked with defeating one of three modern monsters by creating new technology or modifying a living organism. As the visitor makes decisions, the results of the experiments are projected onto the wall in front of the kiosk. The storylines of each modern challenge mirror the events and themes of Frankenstein and Dracula. For example, a visitor may be asked to combat a mosquito-borne illness, but the possible remedies may have unintended harmful effects on the local population; this story of contagion and experimental medicine connects to Dracula, in which characters race to discover the source of vampirism in order to prevent its spread. After concluding an experiment, visitors may opt into learning more about the medical history that influenced Bram Stoker’s tale or about the science and ethics of contemporary epidemiology.
In a separate gallery at a later date, the Rosenbach will host an array of interactive activities designed by partners of the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project, an international collaboration of museums, science centers, start-ups, and community maker spaces including the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis, and the Science Museum of Minnesota, as well as the Rosenbach. The tabletop science activities will place the visitor in the role of creator, promoting curiosity about emerging technologies and reflection on social and ethical issues.
Read deeper with public programs and events
Throughout the run of the exhibition, the Rosenbach will offer a diverse array of programs and events to dive deeper into Frankenstein, Dracula, and their scientific subjects. The Rosenbach’s speaker series, In Conversation with the Rosenbach, features experts including The New Annotated Frankenstein editor Leslie S. Klinger, exhibition consultant and Dracula scholar Travis Lau, Victorian literature anthologist Michael Sims, and science-fiction author Henry Wessells. Book lovers can revisit these classics of gothic horror in Courses dedicated to Frankenstein or vampire literature. The Rosenbach will see the return of Going Dark Theatre’s popular Dracula one-man-show, which premiered at the Rosenbach in 2011; in addition, two new theatrical performances based on Mary Shelley and Frankenstein will debut at the Rosenbach in January.
Major support for Frankenstein & Dracula: Gothic Monsters, Modern Science has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1516684. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The Rosenbach acknowledges the generous support of Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination and School for the Future of Innovation in Society; Leon C. Sunstein , Jr., in memory of Emily W. Sunstein; and American Airlines.
About the Rosenbach
The Rosenbach is a rare book library and historic house museum which offers tours, exhibitions, public programs, and research opportunities. An affiliate of the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Rosenbach seeks to inspire curiosity, inquiry, and creativity by engaging broad audiences in its remarkable and expanding collections. The combined holdings of the Rosenbach and the Free Library of Philadelphia—which include hundreds of thousands of rare books, manuscripts, and ephemera—inspire unique exhibitions and programs throughout the year.