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Friday, May 25, 2012

Bloomsday (Exhibition) is Here!

This year's Bloomsday exhibition is here--it was slated to open next Wednesday, May 30, but we managed to get everything in place early. Below, you can see a couple of the photos I snapped during the installation. The theme this year is Who Owns Ulysses? Joyce and Copyright and it delves into the fascinating legal controversies surrounding the novel, from the famous obscenity ban to the equally famous copyright issues surrounding Joyce's work, both in his own lifetime and after. We've got part of the Ulysses manuscript on display, first editions, pirated editions, the Woolsey decision allowing Ulysses into the U.S., and all kinds of other great stuff.

It was a bit of a challenge to find a good Ulysses blue for the cases, but I think we found a pretty good shade. You can read about the headache the blue caused the original printer in this old blog post.
An interesting bit of current Joycean news related to copyright is that the National Library of Ireland has digitized its Joyce manuscripts acquired since 2000 and is making them available on its website. This move has been contested by an independent scholar who claims to hold EU copyright to the manuscript texts by having been the first to publish them. You can read about the whole issue in the Irish Times.

Twenty two days until Bloomsday--but who's counting. (Actually, we are--see Bloomsday Central for a countdown clock and a great list of Bloomsday resources.) If you can't wait until June 16, join us for a conversation with exhibition curator Melanie Micir on June 7, which will be a chance to learn more about the exhibit and to bring all your questions about Ulysses's twisted legal history.

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Friday, May 18, 2012


As I was stuck in traffic this week, a bright spot amid my frustration was hearing that NPR had picked Heart of A Samurai, a young adult novel about Manjiro, as their May selection for their "Backseat Book Club" for children. I haven't read the novel, but I am excited that more young people will get to know the incredible story of this 19th-century Japanese teenager who traveled from Japan to the United States and then back again. His story is recounted in a fascinating non-fiction manuscript account here at the Rosenbach. We featured this manuscript in our 1999 exhibit Drifting: Nakahama Manjiro's Tale of Discovery, (you can still buy the excellent catalog for this show) but I thought it wouldn't hurt to highlight  this Rosenbach treasure again.
Manjiro was a poor boy from a fishing village on the Japanese island of Shikoku. In 1841, when he was just fourteen years old, he and four fishing companions were caught in a storm and their boat was drawn into the Pacific Ocean and shipwrecked on the uninhabited island of Torishima. The group was ultimately rescued by the American whaling vessel John Howland, but since Japan was a closed country, they could not return home.

Unknown artist, [stern of the John Howland], in Nakahama Manjiro, Hyōson kiryaku: manuscript, 25 October 1852 [Rosenbach Museum & Library AMs 1296/14]
 His four companions chose to disembark in Hawaii, but Manjiro had become close with the ship's captain, William Whitfield, who treated him like a son, and so he returned with Whitfield to Fairhaven, Massachusetts. (You can see the Fairhaven locales associated with Manjiro in an online Manjiro walking tour brochure from the Manjiro/Whitfield Friendship Society) He spent the next ten years in America-- attending school, working on a whaling ship, and eventually making enough money in the California gold rush to try and return to Japan in 1851 with two of his original companions.

Upon their return to Japan, the three men were interrogated by a series of officials for a year and a half before being allowed to return to their homes. Leaving Japan and returning were punishable offenses and there was also concern that the men might have converted to Christianity, which was also strictly prohibited.

During the interrogation period, Yamanouchi Yodo, the lord of Manjiro's home province, had the artist Kawata Shoyo transcribe Manjiro's account of his travels and add illustrations.  Eventually multiple copies of the manuscript were made; nine copies are known exist today. The Rosenbach's copy is one of only two in the United States (the other is in Fairhaven) and contains some additional drawings and English text in Manjiro's hand.

The manuscript is a fascinating document of a foreigner's experience of America and also of the challenge of explaining a culture to someone who has never experienced it. One of my favorite illustrations is a four page picture of a train, which the Japanese artist depicts as a series of connected houses. You can see a detail of one of these pages below.

Unknown artist, [railroad (detail)], in Nakahama Manjiro, Hyōson kiryaku: manuscript, 25 October 1852 [Rosenbach Museum & Library AMs 1296/14]

Manjiro's knowledge of English and of American culture would soon prove useful in Japan when the Perry expedition arrived in July of 1853. Manjiro was summoned to the capital at Edo, where he taught Japanese officials about the United States and served as an interpreter.  He later served with the first Japanese embassy to the United States, became an instructor of navigation, whaling, and English, and revisited Fairhaven after a twenty-year absence.

Manjiro's story of cross-cultural connection and his love for America have resounded through the centuries. Manjiro's descendents remained friends with Whitfield's descendents and Manjro's story has even inspired modern exchange initiatives. If your interest has been piqued, a complete English language translation of his tale was published in 2003  as Drifting Towards the Southeast. Happy reading.

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Rumpus on the Walls

Photo courtesy of Michael O’Reilly
Since Maurice Sendak’s death two days ago we’ve been seeing an outpouring of remembrances, as well as a lot of renewed interest in his work, both online and in our galleries.  Everyone seems to be asking the same question: What is Sendak’s legacy?

Everyone has a different way of answering that.  Sendak was not only a writer and illustrator, but also a stage and costume designer for more than a dozen operas.  He was a philanthropist, a classical music fanatic, a collector of books and art and Mickey Mouse toys, and a friend to many.  Maurice Sendak’s legacy is vast.  

Those of us who care for and work with the Sendak Collection know that his artwork itself is the most profound expression of his legacy.  So on Sunday, June 10, 2012 (which would have been Maurice’s 84th birthday) we’ll open Maurice Sendak: A Legacy, a year-long retrospective exhibition of his work.  Our goal is to display artwork from as many Sendak books as possible in our Sendak Gallery on the first floor, hopefully 65 drawings (to honor his 65-year career).  That way you can see the entire arc of his work, from his smaller format, black and white illustrations from the 1950s, to his multi-layered 21st-century creations, like Brundibar, as well as everything in between (maybe you’ve heard of such books as, say, Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen).  We will install all new artwork every four months, that way you can see art from almost all of the 93-odd books that Sendak illustrated in his lifetime.  As an added perk, the museum will be open for free on June 10.   

It will be a feast of Sendak’s pictures to which all are welcome, and a reunion of sorts for his characters, with the Wild Things, Mickey, Rosie, Pierre, Jennie, and more, all together again in the same gallery.  It will be a challenge to display it all, and our Sendak gallery might look as closely hung as a 17th-century cabinet of curiosities (well, not quite like that: we wouldn’t hang Alligators All Around from the ceiling like curiosity collectors did with their stuffed alligators!).  But we do hope you bring your curiosity for Sendak’s work to this exhibition so we can all continue to explore his legacy. 

Three storyboard designs for Outside Over There.  Pen and ink.  © 1976 by Maurice Sendak

We’re curious, too: What has Sendak’s work meant to you?  What Sendak books or characters—be they well-known or obscure—have stayed with you since you first came upon them?  We know you’ve got stories to share, as well, and we’re collecting them in our virtual guestbook.

P.S. If you can't wait to see Sendak's work until June 10, From Pen to Publisher is currently on view.

Patrick Rodgers is the Traveling Exhibitions Coordinator at the Rosenbach and has curated numerous in-house and traveling exhibitions from the Sendak collection

Friday, May 04, 2012

President Lincoln Has Been Shot!

One of the great things about working at the Rosenbach is getting to meet and work with great folks from other local museums. Last Friday night I volunteered to help the Mütter Museum (our closest museum neighbors) with a really neat event-- Murder at the Mütter 2TM

Courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
The idea was to recreate the Lincoln assassination, then have the event participants try and reconstruct what happened, using the evidence that would have been available on the night of April 14, 1865. Some guests worked with the doctor who attended Lincoln, while others were reporters, government officials, etc. who interviewed eyewitnesses and looked for other evidence. After regrouping to share their conclusions, the participants then got to take a look at some of the forensic techniques that could be used today to solve a similar crime.

What did I get to do in all this? I played Clara Harris, who sat in the Presidential Box with the Lincolns and her fiancé Major Henry Rathbone. (Please ignore the photo on the Wikipedia page, which is not actually of Clara) 

You can see me on the far right of this picture, tending to Rathbone, who was slashed in the arm and head as he grappled with Booth. In the actual 1865 event, his arm was cut to the bone and bled quite profusely--most of the blood in the theater that night  was actually Rathbone's, not Lincoln's. This initially confused the doctors at the scene, who assumed Lincoln must have a freely bleeding wound somewhere, and also throws into confusion all of the relics "stained with Lincoln's blood" which have been circulating since1865, since there wasn't actually that much of his blood around.
Courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
On an interesting historical note, Clara and Henry were last minute invitations to the theatrical evening. Originally Ulysses and Julia Grant were supposed to accompany the Lincolns, but they declined so that they could take an evening train to visit their children in New Jersey. When interviewed as Clara, I made sure to let people know about the Grants, so that they realized that both Mr. Lincoln and General Grant could have been targets for attack. During the event, reporters also relayed rumors that Sec.of State Seward had been murdered along with his family; thus helping to feed the idea of a wide-ranging conspiracy plot. (Seward was in fact attacked; he and his family survived, but reports of his death did swirl on the night of the 14th).

In the end the participants did a good job reconstructing the sequence of events. Here is Robert Hicks, the Director of the Mütter,  running the debriefing. One thing which was eye-opening to me was how fast it all happened. I even knew that a shot was coming, but I didn't know when, and before I knew it, Booth had leaped out of the box and was on his way out of the theater. I have no recollection of hearing him shout "Sic Semper Tyrannis" although the other reenactors assured me that he did. I can only imagine the confusion that must have reigned on the actual night, when no one was expecting anything and when the violence was real.

Courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
If you are interested in the Lincoln assassination, you might want to check out some of the Rosenbach's documents on our 21stCentury Abe site--there are newspapers, letters about the event from an actress, a fake Ford's Theatre playbill (which I also discussed on the blog) and more. These documents and more will also be part of our Today in the Civil War blog, although they won't post until 2015.  I should also point out that the Mütter has an actual piece of John Wilkes Booth, removed by the College of Physicians member who did the autopsy.

 Here's one last photo, from the modern forensic portion of the Murder at the Mütter 2TM. There were eight different stations, discussing everything from ballistics and fingerprinting to shoe prints and fiber analysis. I found out that my silk shawl was in fact silk, although the "100% cashmere" scarf of another guest turned out to be acrylic (she admitted to having gotten it on the street).
Courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
 So thanks to all our friends at the Mütter for a fantastic evening of science and history! I believe they may try to do a similar event again in the future, so keep your eyes peeled!

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog