It takes a village to create an exhibition

Photo of book on a cart

Caravan of carts transporting the rare book materials back and forth between the Carlos and Rose Library.

In June 2016, the Emory Libraries Preservation Office staff began planning with Carlos Museum staff for an exhibition, “In search of Noble Marbles: The Earliest Travelers to Greece,” which is currently on display in the Carlos Museum until April 9.

The exhibit consists of over 60 books, most borrowed from a private collector in Washington D.C., Drew Oliver, and 16 books loaned from the Rose and Pitts Theology Libraries’ rare books collections. As the Carlos Museum conservators specialize in handling objects, they asked for the Libraries Conservation team’s expertise in proper display of rare books.

The planning phase included developing a work plan and budget for creating cradles to hold the rare books open at angles that would not put stress on the bindings, as well as hiring someone to hand-make 60 cradles and install the books in the mounts just before the exhibit opened in January.

When the books arrived at the Carlos Museum, they were carefully documented to note condition. All care is taken to ensure materials are not damaged through handling, preparation and display phases, but ‘stuff happens’ sometimes, so it is standard practice to document condition both before and after for every item. Hundreds of photographs and pages of notes capture every detail of each item.

Photo of book on a cart

When the books arrived at the Carlos Museum, they were carefully documented to note condition.

Most of the book cradles in the exhibit were made from Vivak, a moldable plastic, relatively new in the conservation world. Vivak is economical, relatively easy to cut and shape, and does not off-gas anything harmful that might damage materials sitting against it for long periods. For all but the large folio books, it supports the weight of the books at the appropriate angles.

One item on display, Rose Library’s Nuremberg Chronicle, is in a specially designed ‘cradle box’- the protective box houses the book and its own cradle.

The Carlos has very limited space for staging the work that was required, so Andrew Huot (husband of Rose Rare Book Cataloger Beth Shoemaker) was assigned a bench in the Library Conservation Lab, which allowed him access to our equipment and tools needed for creating the cradles.

The Rose Library also allocated shelving to temporarily house the books, so Andrew would have easier access for individually fitting each item. Caravans of carts were required each time to transport the materials back and forth between the Carlos and Rose Library, creating quite the spectacle.

The Smithsonian has named this exhibition, curated by Dr. Jasper Gaunt, one of eleven “can’t-miss events” this winter!

Special thanks goes to the following staff for making this effort a success:

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, & Rare Book Library staff

  • Charmaine Bonner, Visiting Archivist for African-American Collections
  • Carrie Hintz, Head of Collection Services
  • Kristin Major, Project Archivist

Michael C. Carlos Museum staff

  • Brittany Dolph Dinneen, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Objects Conservation
  • Stacey Gannon-Wright, Associate Registrar
  • Todd Lamkin, Director of Collections Services and Chief Registrar
  • Annie Shanley, Collections Services Assistant
  • Renee Stein, Chief Conservator

University Libraries Preservation Office staff

  • Ann Frellsen, Collections Conservator
  • Julie Newton, Conservation Coordinator, Exhibitions
  • Kirsten Wehner, Conservation Coordinator
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