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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July weekend from all of us here at the Rosenbach! If you are going to any parades or fireworks this weekend, you'll probably be hearing a lot of everyone's favorite song from the American Revolution--Yankee Doodle. But did you know that the Rosenbach has a unique copy of what is possibly a first printing of the song from 1775? You'll be able to see the broadside in our upcoming show "Burn This: Censorship, Secrecy, and Survival in the Rosenbach Collections," which will open August 10, but here's a July 4th preview:
[Yankee Doodle]. “The farmer and his son’s return from a visit to the camp. . . ” Boston[?], 1775. A 775f

Among the verses you are unlikely to hear this weekend is this one:"And there was captain Washington/ With Gentlefolks about him/They say he's grown so tarnal proud/He will not ride without them."

If you want to REALLY impress your friends at your weekend barbecue, you could introduce them to some other, more obscure, Revolutionary songs. This one is called "Americans to Arms," and is sung (fittingly enough) to the tune of "Britons to Arms."

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I personally like verse two: "Rouse, rouse my boys, 'tis freedom that calls/Mount, mount your guns, prepare your ball/We'll fight, we'll conquer, or we'll die/But we'll maintain our liberty/And hand it to posterity--farewell England."

Or, you could go with"The Liberty Song," sung to the tune of "The British Grenadier. "

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If you don't know the tune, here's a YouTube clip of "The British Grenadier":

The opening verse of "The Liberty Song" calls us to "Arouse each brave American, arouse and shew the earth/We will assert that freedom, to us deriv'd from birth/Ne'er shall the Scottish tools in power o'er this blesst land bear sway/The foes, the foes, the foes, the foes of all America."

The last verse concludes "Unnumbered distant nations with wonder and applause/Shall hear the glorious contest for freedom and our laws/Shall crown our heads victorious with never fading Bayes/And pray and pray and pray and pray, for more America's."

Stirring words and a worthy challenge to live up to.

While I have focused this blog post on the Revolution, my mind is still very much with the Civil War, since I'll be helping out with the Pennsylvania Civil War Road Show this weekend in Franklin Square. It's open from Friday through Monday 11 Am- 7pm, so come check it out. Personally, I'm also interested in the ways in which both North and South celebrated the 4th (at least early in the war) --both claiming continuity with the legacy of the Founding Fathers. I should write more on this another time, but if you're as interested as I am, you might enjoy this master's thesis on the Civil War celebrations, Union and Confederate.

Have a great 4th!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My First Bloomsday

Elyse Poinsett here, the official stand for the Special Events and Marketing hats at the Rosenbach. Most of you probably know me best as the voice behind our e-newsletter (sign up here!), facebook page, and Twitter feed. As a relatively new Rosenbacher, I was pretty overwhelmed by my first Bloomsday and I’ve decided to steal Kathy’s soapbox for a week to find out if anyone else out there feels like I do about this very special program.


Until recently, I believed that there was a thin line down the center of our great society. On one side of the line, there were those that Have. On the other, there were those who Have Not. The line I’m talking about, of course, is that bucket list line that might take you most of your 30s to cross out, “Read James Joyce’s Ulysses.”

I love to read. I feel the way about books that most Philadelphians seem to feel about the Phillies: excited, loud, and ready to spend money on more. For decades, I stuck to light science fiction, easily-digestible classics, Clive Cussler-esque adventure books, non-fiction… and yes, the ever-maligned “chick lit.” At the age of 11, I had accrued library fines in excess of $150. Nevertheless, I was never brave enough to try to read Ulysses.

Once the Rosenbach hired me, I knew that with the Joyce manuscript so close that it was my destiny to cross that line and become a Have. Since then, I have picked-up Ulysses, gotten to page five, and turned my Kindle off no less than three times. I worried about myself, my intelligence and the pace of the rot in my aging mind. Many of my colleagues, our trustees, reading group participants, and members have conquered and loved this work.

Going into Bloomsday, I was worried that I wouldn’t “get it” because I hadn’t read the book. I certainly didn’t have a deep and abiding connection to Joyce. In fact, I felt a little left out of the Rosenworld because I was so firmly on the Have Not side of that dividing line. So firmly, in fact, that I’m almost certain that if I didn’t work at the Rosenbach I would never have attended Bloomsday.

What a mistake that would have been. After attending my first official Bloomsday, I’m convinced that it is probably a better experience for those who Have Not than those who Have.

Even with the Bloomsday crowds, the street was much quieter than I expected. It was not an accusing silence, as is often imposed at more formal presentations. At Bloomsday, people felt comfortable moving around, talking on the outskirts, and shuffling their Bloomsday Heralds. Even in their semi-quiet attentiveness, people really listened. (In my experience, people rarely really listen in their everyday lives.) They were absolutely intent on the words and on the moment.

The readers are practiced, having learned flourishes of French, Greek, and the nonsense words scattered throughout James Joyce’s work. Their pacing, intonation, and movement gave life to the sentences that I struggled to conquer alone. It’s clear from the ambiance that the reader’s are highly respected for their willingness to take on the challenge. Listening to them, I felt I was being taught to read again, but in HD.

All afternoon, the Bloomsday crowd grew both in size and in intensity, becoming a more amplified version of itself. My coworker texted me, “Make sure you watch Drucie [McDaniel]. You won’t be disappointed.” As she took the stage, the whole crowd seemed to brace itself. Next year, I will do the same. The day came avalanching down the mountain, pouring itself into the last 30-minutes: Molly’s Soliloquy. Topics include love, marriage, and middle life. While I have a lot of living left to do before I know for sure, I imagine that Joyce and Drucie capture all of it perfectly. Around me, soft sighs heaved and tears fell. I was mostly frozen, feeling as if Joyce himself had just punched me with something very very real. Like I knew more about the world.

After Bloomsday, will I try to read Ulysses again? Yes I said yes I will yes. However, I am even more convinced that Bloomsday is for the Have Nots because it makes Ulysses “eminently accessible” to quote our Director. The dividing line that I saw between the Have and Have Nots is just not there anymore.

While my desire to read the novel is stronger than ever, the pressure I once felt to do so is gone. Moreover, even if I never finish Ulysses, through Bloomsday and the Rosenbach, I have experienced and glimpsed the genius of Joyce.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bloomsday Countdown

Things are busy around here today, so no time for a long post. If you haven't already started, there probably isn't time to read Ulysses by tomorrow, but you can always check out the BBC's Cheat's Guide to Ulysses if you missed Bloomsday 101 last night (plus it features a comment from Stephen Fry). You can also listen to former Rosenbacher Mike Barsanti and cartoonist Robert Berry of Ulysses Seen talking on Radio Times (the interview was this morning, but you can hear it online). In preparation for the big day you might also enjoy re-reading the classic New York Times Review from May of 1922. Or on a less serious note, you can find out which Ulysses character are you in this amusing quiz.

See everyone tomorrow!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Hobos at the Rosenbach

As you may have noticed, the temperature and humidity in Philadelphia have been a bit, shall we say, variable over the past week. Such swings are not good for books and art, since it can cause them to expand and contract, soak up moisture, etc. So we do our best to keep everything as stable as possible within our museum spaces and we count on Hobos help us do that. Hobos are data loggers that record temperature and humidity. We have a number of these little devices throughout our museum spaces and they take readings every ten minutes. We can then offload the data, sort it, graph it, etc. to help us see what's going on.
You probably won't see these little guys, since we do our best to keep them out of everyone's way, but they are hard at work nonetheless. (If you do spy one, please do not touch or disturb, since that will throw off the readings and will really confuse me when I try to make sense of the data). We even have smaller versions that can be tucked into packing crates when objects travel to make sure everything goes smoothly. These hobos are certainly not bums!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Around Town

Last week we talked about a couple of projects around the web; this week I wanted to mention a couple of performance projects around town which have come to my (wandering) attention.

First off is Gibraltar, at Plays and Players. Last week we talked about Ulysses Seen, which is Ulysses adapted as a graphic novel; Gibraltar is Ulysses adapted as a two man show. Well actually a one man, one woman show, as the 90 minute play centers around Leopold and Molly Bloom. The play was created by Patrick Fitzgerald and he stars in it along with Cara Seymour, who originated the play with Patrick in NYC last year. You can read a bit about the New York performances here and here (and get the playwright's take as to why Molly Bloom's soliloquy is broken into 8 sentences).

Gibraltar is playing at Plays and Players, just down the street from us, on June 15 at 7pm, June 16 at 11am and 3pm, and June 18 at 5pm. Obviously you will all be coming to the Rosenbachanal on the 15th, so you couldn't possibly attend on that date, but you could catch the 11 AM show on Bloomsday and then wander over to our Bloomsday celebration, or maybe all the Rosen-friends could mob the June 18th performance.

Another upcoming adaptation of a core Rosenbach text is Stoker's Dracula at the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion out in Germantown, which is playing June 10-12. If you haven't heard of Maxwell Mansion, it bills itself as the only Victorian house museum in Philadelphia. Stoker's Dracula is a one-man play created and performed by Josh Hitchens. I can't speak to the play personally, since I haven't seen it yet, but Josh did come to the Rosenbach to look through the Stoker notes and he seemed like a nice guy who took the text very seriously. In our conversation he said that he intended for the play to come directly from the novel (as opposed to the various movie and theatrical versions already out there) so it should be interesting. Plus I am certainly curious to see how this works as a one man play, given how many characters there are in the story!

The folks at Maxwell approached us about trying to borrow the Stoker Notes to accompany the performance; that wasn't possible, but we were able to provide some select facsimiles. Yours truly (Assistant Curator Kathy Haas) will be giving a brief intro at the Saturday performance, talking about Stoker and his process in creating the novel. There's a piece on WHYY's Newsworks which gives some more tantalizing details about the play--including something about a long knife. The piece does get all the facts about the Stoker Notes wrong (Maxwell is not showing reproductions of all the notes and Stoker never lived in Philadelphia), but hopefully their discussion of the play is a bit more accurate.

One final note (no pun intended) is about a musical performance that's a bit farther out in the schedule. If you've visited our Grace Notes exhibition, you might be in the mood for some music by Sendak's favorite composer--Mozart. If you are, you can mark your calendar for the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia's Big Sing Mozart, which is happening on Wednesday July 20th at 7 PM at First Baptist. Mendelssohn Club has been nice enough to help us get out the word about some of our recent Rosenbach musical performances, so I wanted to make sure and give them a shout out--not to mention that I've sung with them myself for about six years. Anyway, the evening will involve performances by the choir along with the option to join in with the chorus in singing the Mozart Requiem. Bring your own score or borrow one when you get there.

Signing off until next week...