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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gallery Wordsmiths

Patrick here, giving our tireless Kathy a little break from the blogosphere. It's only been, oh, almost three years since my last post, so I suppose I'm overdue. My reason for blogging today has to do with some fun gallery activities we've built into our recent exhibitions, as well as their fascinating responses that we've been finding in the galleries daily.

We've all probably been to science centers where you can manipulate sounds and lights to learn about vibrations and optics, or played with old games and toys in historic houses. Not surprisingly for the Rosenbach, we like to play with words. In our recent Friend or Faux exhibition I loved pawing through the motley book created by Jude Robison to demonstrate Dr. Rosenbach’s “perfecting” of his copy of Pilgrim’s Progress. In our current Westward Ho! exhibition visitors have been snatching stacks of our homemade "mad libs," patterned on the language of 19th-century dime novels from our collection. If any Rosenblog readers happen to have tried that activity, we'd love for you to share the "mad" results, by the way!

We built a magnetic poetry board into our current Sendak exhibition Dreadful Things Happen: Sendak and the Brothers Grimm. Think of it as a “make your own Grimm story” activity: The board is stocked with words that crop up all the time in the Grimm tales, such as “stepmother,” “cruel,” “poisoned,” and “magic.” Cheery fridge poetry it is not. But visitors have invented some amazingly creative and superbly dreadful stories out of the chaos of words. Of course, they all begin “Once upon a time.” Some of them are vivid narratives, with suggestions of plot lines that parallel stories like Hansel and Gretel. Here's a recent example:

“Once upon a time a cunning pig stole magic for a queen and the prince saw greedy wicked parents and escaped to the dreadful forest to a castle with a frightening giant musical donkey!”

Other visitors have composed poetry that celebrates the dreadfulness of the Grimm tales, like this one resembling a haiku:

“Snow-white escaped and died

Turned into ghost

Cried to stepmother again.”

Among my favorite responses are those that capture the loopy logic of the Grimms' stories: “Three times the stupid fox and greedy hedgehog ghost tricked the poor giant! Why? Magic.”

It's a lot of fun to see new responses on the board every day--Jacob and Wilhelm would no doubt be proud that their tales have inspired so many new tellers.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Answers!

Now is the moment you've all been waiting for--the answers to last week's object quiz!

This gizmo is a saddle watch and pedometer manufactured by Ralph Gout around 1800. The horse’s movement causes the watch and outer case to move up and down, forcing the chain to pull on the pedometer mechanism. The lower right dial measures single paces, the lower left dial measures tens of paces, and the outside of the large dial measures hundreds of paces, up to ten thousand. The Victoria & Albert has a similar one, also made by Gout, who received a patent for his improvements to the pedometer.
This one's an egg topper, or egg scissor. It's used for removing the top of a soft-boiled egg-- here's a picture of someone using a modern William's Sonoma version.

The mini-harp is actually a vinaigrette. Vinaigrettes were small containers that contained a sponge soaked in aromatic vinegar containing perfumed oil.They were used to mask unpleasant odors, or to revive someone feeling faint--much like smelling salts. This one dates to the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.

Like the harp, this little fish is meant to hold an aromatic surprise. It is a spice box, used to hold the fragrant spices used when reciting the Havdalah service at the end of Shabbat. The head opens to reveal a small compartment, and in between the eyes is a prayer written in Hebrew: ”Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe who created varieties of spices.”

So, how'd you do on the puzzle? If you'd like a chance to increase your Rosen-knowledge, remember to stop by our free open house this Saturday (and bring your friends).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What is It?

I'm away this week, so I figured I'd turn the tables and make you, the reader, do the work. I've pulled some images of unusual or quirky items in our collection. Your job is to figure out what they are. Answers in next week's post or if you can't wait you can always use our online catalog.

Here's a fun gizmo

Close up of the dial

The decoration of this one's a major clue

This one is not just a pretty face--it does have a function

The important part is in the bottom

One last puzzle--once again, this does have a function.

Have fun! Be back next week!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Something Borrowed

I realize that I never finished my something old, something new... series of posts from a few weeks back, so here's the last installment--something borrowed. Along those lines I thought I'd fill you in on some of our items that are currently being borrowed by other institutions, or will be soon. Lending to other institutions for appropriate exhibitions helps us fulfill our mission to "inspire curiosity, inquiry, and creativity by engaging broad audiences in exhibitions, programs, and research based on our remarkable and expanding collections" by bringing our objects to audiences that might never make it to the Rosenbach and by making connections between our collections and those of other museums.

For those of you summering way out west, the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has borrowed 30 Sendak illustrations as part of our traveling exhibit Wild New Ways: Maurice Sendak's Animal Kingdom curated by Patrick Rodgers. The title of the show comes from an early draft of Where the Wild Things Are in which Max commands, "Show me wild new ways." These borrowed items will be coming home soon, as the NMWA exhibit closes September 19 and we'll be showing the exhibit here at the Rosenbach in 2011 for all of our local Philadelphia folks.

Some of our Joyce material will be soon crossing the pond to be a part of the exhibit Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russe at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The V & A is borrowing a couple of manuscript pages of the Sirens episode of Ulysses, along with page proofs for Sirens (one page of which is shown below) , and a Man Ray photo of Joyce. For those of you coming to the Rosenbach, do not worry--we still have plenty of other pages of the Ulysses manuscript to display here so you can still get your Joyce fix in Philadelphia.

Page proof for Ulysses, p 263. EMs 1292/25

From across the pond to across town, our last upcoming loan is to the soon-to-reopen National Museum of American Jewish History. We will be lending a number of items for their inaugural installation, which will open in November. The items they are borrowing include portrait miniatures of Sally Etting, Moses Hart, and Jacob De Leon (the hunk shown below); a silhouette of Benjamin Gratz; silver, ceramics, and a dressing box belonging to the Gratz family; an almanac; and two paintings--a copy of Gilbert Stuart's portrait of Miriam Gratz done by Jane Sully Darley and our very popular Thomas Sully painting of Rebecca Gratz (shown below). So if you come here in a month or so and don't see Rebecca in her usual usual parlor location, know that you can see her across town and that she will be returning to us after she's done visiting.

Jean Francois de Vallee, portrait of Moses Hart. ca. 1815. 1954.1605

Thomas Sully, portrait of Rebecca Gratz. 1831. 1954.1936. Bequest of Henrietta Gratz Clay.

That's all for right now. And no, we don't lend to individuals, so if you would like to swing by and borrow a copy of the Bay Psalm Book for your bedtime reading, you're out of luck. Sorry:(