Libraries’ spring exhibition explores The Archive in Motion

AIM_lib-news-slider_200x200pxSyracuse University Libraries’ spring exhibition, The Archive in Motion, opened with a reception on Thursday, January 30 at 6 p.m. in the Special Collections gallery on Bird Library’s sixth floor.

The Archive in Motion is an exploration of movement through the materials held by the Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse University Libraries. Organized around a set of interlinked themes, the exhibition encompasses rare books, manuscripts, photographs, and original artworks spanning the fifteenth through twentieth centuries.

From Albert Einstein’s original handwritten research paper “On Rotationally Symmetric Stationary Gravitational Fields,” through stunning photographs of ballet dancers Paul Draper and George Skibine, to pochoir prints hand-painted by Native Americans, this exhibition not only explores the representation of movement, but it reveals the archive as something that is itself always in motion.

Preceding the reception at 5 p.m., Zeynep Çelik Alexander, an architectural historian and assistant professor in the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at University of Toronto, presented the lecture, A Minor History of Non-Reading. The lecture was held in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons on the first floor of Bird Library.

Works by Sam Van Aken on display in Ortwine Gallery

zinia spiralAn exhibition of prints by VPA professor Sam Van Aken is currently on view in the Ortwine Gallery on the sixth floor of Bird Library. The exhibition is free and open to the public.  Regular exhibition hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m.–7 p.m.

Sam Van Aken’s project entitled New Edens utilizes the process of grafting to literally and metaphorically alter plant life to create new hybridized forms of both art and nature. Included in this body of work is Grafted Seed Packets, where seed and flower packets have been cut, spliced, and altered to amalgamate species. The implications of Van Aken’s New Edens project include issues of genetic engineering, biodiversity versus food monoculture, and, ultimately, the symbiosis of humankind’s relation to nature.

Sharon Corwin has written in Currents 2 (Colby College Museum of Art):

There is a blatant sexuality to the hybrids, especially evident in the combination of an apple and a strawberry. And yet while Van Aken’s mutant fruit might elicit laughter, it is also quite horrifying in the context of our genetically modified world.

Combining sophisticated technology with traditional modes of art-making, Sam Van Aken’s projects cross boundaries between artistic genres, including performance, installation, video, photography, and sculpture. With each body of work, he selects practices and new perspectives that provide a kinesthetic perception of objects and a visceral charge.

Paintings by Paul Weiner on display in the Biblio Gallery

WeinerA collection of paintings by Paul Weiner called Illness and Expression is featured in the Biblio Gallery on the 4th floor of Bird Library. Weiner, who hails from Aurora, Colorado, is a double major in painting and political science.

In reflecting on his work, Weiner says:

How does the aesthetic of abstraction change when the artist’s brain is suffering from a chemical imbalance?

My recent series of artwork explores the connection between mental illness and the aesthetic manifestation thereof. As someone who suffers from a severe anxiety disorder, I have been on many regimens of prescription drugs to control chemical imbalances in my brain. This artwork was created throughout the steps of my withdrawal from anti-anxiety medication. As my medication depleted and my anxiety level rose, I found myself creating more inventive ways of applying paint to canvas. Such a trend suggests that, while anxiety may be an extremely disturbing issue in my own life, it also provides much of my creative inspiration.

These artworks also comment on current political issues involving mental illness and violence by portraying mental illnesses in a positive context. The mentally ill are often viewed in a violent light as a result of recent media surrounding mass-shootings and gun control. However, the vast majority of mentally ill people, such as myself, will never commit murder, much less mass murder. Whether or not they are willing to reveal it, mentally ill people surround you everyday; we are your classmates, friends, neighbors, and family.

I hope that this work can dispel the recent, violent connotation of mental illness just for a moment so that viewers may respond to the positive creative potential linked to some of these illnesses.”

The exhibit will be on display through late October 2013.

For more information about exhibiting in the Biblio Gallery, contact Ann Skiold at or see the Biblio Gallery website.


Libraries’ fall exhibition features Audubon’s Birds of America

Audubon-PR-WEB_com-newsblog-slider_ALT_200x200pxSyracuse University Libraries’ fall exhibition, John James Audubon and the American Landscape, will open with a reception on Thursday, September 5 at 6 p.m. in the Special Collections gallery on Bird Library’s sixth floor.

John James Audubon and the American Landscape showcases Syracuse University’s copy of the rare double elephant folio, The Birds of America. Printed in London and Edinburgh between 1827 and 1838, the work is a stunning visual catalog that features 435 plates depicting American bird life. For its nineteenth-century audience, The Birds of America was much more than an ornithological inventory. It brought the exotic American wilderness into the drawing rooms and parlors of its wealthy subscribers. Former mayor of Syracuse and Syracuse University trustee James J. Welden donated the copy to the University in 1896. Today, The Birds of America is known for its extraordinary value, fetching more than ten million dollars at auction.

Also on display are Alexander Wilson’s American Ornithology (1808–14), Audubon’s textual companion to The Birds of America (Ornithological Biography, 1831–49), and later volumes that speak to Audubon’s legacy, such as first editions of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) and Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There (1949). Some of the engravings on display include the barn owl, Swainson’s hawk, and the long-billed curlew, all of which depict American avian life against the backdrop of encroaching civilization.

Preceding the reception at 5 p.m., Christoph Irmscher, Professor of English at Indiana University at Bloomington will present the lecture, “Lives of the Birds: Audubon and the Problems of Scientific Biography.” The lecture will be held in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons on the first floor of Bird Library.

Treasures of Special Collections on display

Bride of FrankensteinSyracuse University Libraries’ newest exhibition, “4,000 Years and Counting,” features treasures from the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) that highlight the breadth of the libraries’ special collections–from second-century-B.C. cuneiform tablets to the papers of notable contemporary figures like Joyce Carol Oates.

The exhibition occupies the display case on the first floor of Bird Library and the gallery on the 6th floor, which is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. The exhibition will remain up until August 30, 2013.

The exhibition opens with the origins of special collections at SU: the 1887 purchase of the eminent German historian Leopold von Ranke’s library. In support of the acquisition, University Librarian C. W. Bennett made this assessment: “For this has always been my theory, that six thousand to ten thousand well-selected volumes are sufficient for the wants of the undergraduate, but to keep the professors from mental hunger and starvation, sources, authorities and books of a very different kind must be had in large numbers and in special collections.”

Special collections was born of the Ranke library and matured in the 1960s under the leadership of Chancellor William Pearson Tolley (1901-96), a noted collector of rare books. Librarians solicited the personal papers of the best and brightest of the day, including pediatrician Benjamin Spock, architect Marcel Breuer, photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White, Nobel Laureate Albert Schweitzer and Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset. The Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive, with its world-class collection of wax-cylinder recordings and state-of-the-art reformatting studio, was founded in 1963. These notable accomplishments gave rise to subject areas in which SU could claim to be among the best in the world, including architecture and design, popular culture, and the literary and artistic expression of radical ideology. This exhibition offers an introduction to these and other collecting areas.

SCRC continues to build upon historical strengths while new areas of collecting have emerged; for example, the history of broadcasting. Increasingly, special collections include not just print and manuscript items, but a growing number of material-culture artifacts–from clay tablets to Tupperware–and a variety of media formats, such as Edison wax cylinders. SCRC’s mission is to collect and preserve the best of today for the researchers of tomorrow, and increasingly that means bits and bytes as well as paper and print.

For more information about special collections at the Syracuse University Libraries, contact, Sean Quimby, senior director of special collections.