Two Terrific Tours

First of all, I think Smithsonian magazine must be stalking the Rosenbach. I noted in a previous blog post that the April issue features a look at Lewis Carroll and then what should I find in the May issue–a story on William Henry Ireland , whose Shakespeare forgeries are currently on display in Friend or Faux! Both articles are great, so please take a look. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next month–Ulysses, perhaps (I can still use all the help that I can get on that one)?

Anyway, apart from reading magazines, much of my week has involved the development of a couple of new tours. On Monday I test drove my new hands-on-tour, “Book Illustration: Worth A Thousand Words,” for my colleagues. We do these dry runs for all of our tours to help work out the kinks and I find it really helpful because it helps me see how other people look at the objects and what kinds of questions they have, so I can be better prepared. Plus it is a good reminder that if I talked as long about each object as I would like, my tours would be three hours long, so I’d better not!

My new tour focuses on the art and technology of book illustration with manuscript illumination to the development of photomechanical reproduction and it includes examples of the tools used to print the illustrations (woodblocks, copper plates, etc) as well as examples of different artists’ work. The run-through went well; in one case almost too well– as an example of copper-plate engraving I used the volume of Buffon’s Natural History that included dogs and I had a hard time tearing my dog-obsessed colleagues away from the illustrations of cute pooches. Maybe next time I should pick snakes or rats or something…Anyway, the tour debuts for the public on June 23 and will crop up periodically after that in the Hands-On-Tour rotation, so I hope you’ll join me.

In addition to working on my own hands-on-tour I also had the privilege of attending a walk-through yesterday of the new docent-led theme tour “Are You For Real,” which is a companion to our Friend or Faux exhibit and will be offered on Wednesday evenings at 6:00 pm and Saturday afternoons at 3:00 throughout the months of June and July. (with the exception on June 2nd and 16th). This tour has been put together by a crack team of docents, who have been working with staff over the past several months to put together a house tour that explores some of the issues of authenticity that are the crux of Friend or Faux. If posthumous portraits, colorful copies, or the strange concept of a skeuomorph intrigue you, you should definitely swing by for the tour. As always, I was impressed by the enthusiasm and research of our docents; this topic required special dedication because by the very nature of the tour the objects they were studying have complicated, and sometimes fragmentary, histories and the concepts of the tour–attribution, copying, forgery, etc–can be slippery too.

That’s about it from my desk at the Rosenbach. Enjoy the Memorial Day weekend!