Archive for the ‘exhibitions’ Category


Daniel Kelm visits!

   Posted by: rring

Kelm2On October 9 book artist Daniel Kelm gave a talk in the library on his life and work. Kelm has a background in chemistry and weaves science into his inventive book structures.  He has been commissioned by artists who explore bookish forms to help engineer their non-traditional structures, and he also makes books of his own design that challenge the reader to interact with the books as mechanisms and puzzles.  Members of the varied audience–from the chemistry department, Wesleyan University and other parts of Connecticut–had great fun figuring out how the books worked after Daniel’s talk.




Lucky 13! opening a success!

   Posted by: rring

AMST 835 class picThe opening of our student exhibitions last month was a great success, with over 60 people in attendance from as far a way as upstate New York.

Every fall I teach a course in the American Studies department on museum and library exhibitions, and my students curate their own shows “soup to nuts,” – not just telling a story with artifacts, but also fundraising, planning and budgeting for an opening event and producing a published catalog. This fall I had 13 students, and each one did their own show, so I called the collective exhibition “Lucky 13.” The shows will be on display through June 15, and catalogs are still available.





Watkinson Book Travels to Mt. Vernon

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Sally Dickinson, Associate Curator & Preservation Librarian]

tom jonesThat the Watkinson library has hidden treasures in its stacks is accepted lore at Trinity, but it is always a delight to discover that we own an unusual item from an interested 3rd party!  Such was the case with Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling, a book owned by George Washington when he was a young man. The library received a request last spring from the Mt. Vernon museum in Virginia to borrow Washington’s copy of Tom Jones for the exhibition “Take Note! George Washington the Reader.”  The exhibition celebrates the opening of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mt. Vernon. The book, in four volumes, was printed in London in 1750. The Watkinson owns volumes 1 & 4, which are both signed “Washington” at the head of the title-page.

The books, along with 2 other titles owned (and signed) by Washington, were bought in 1883 with credit extended to Trinity College by Joseph Jesse Cooke to be used to purchase books at the sale of his library. Three sales were held in New York City on March 13, October 1, and December 3, 1883, consisting of 8,326 lots of well over 20,000 items.  Trinity bought 1,300 volumes from the sale for a total of $5,000 (to buy the equivalent material today, if it were on the market, would require well over $6 million!). Tom Jones was from Part II, October 1883 (lot 866).  The other titles owned by Washington are the 2nd edition of Considerations on criminal law by Henry Dagge (London, 1774) and William Rowley’s Rational practice of physic (London, 1793.) Rowley’s work is inscribed “To his Excellency General Washington from the author” and also has “Geo. Washington” signed on the title-page.

Some of the Watkinson’s most beautiful and rare books were bought at Cooke’s sale, including several 15th c. manuscript Books of Hours, five incunabula (books printed before 1501) and numerous other early printed books.

Shown here are two photos of our book in situ:









Photos provided by Sarah Wolfe, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.


We were swingin’

   Posted by: rring

Trinity library opening-28On September 20th we filled the Library atrium with music from the 1930s (played on a Victrola discovered in the Watkinson), cleared away the furniture and potted plants, and did a little swing dancing.

This was the official opening of our “Jump and Jive” exhibition, celebrating the gift of over 5,000 sound recordings constituting the Bennett “Bud” Rubenstein collection of jazz, pop, and big band music.

The event was attended by more than 40 people from the campus, Hartford, and New Britain, and included Barbara “Bert” Rubenstein (the donor, and widow of the collector), and one of her three daughters.

Trinity library openingMrs. Rubenstein shared reminiscences of the era and of her husband’s passion for the music–both in terms of collecting and playing it.  They both went to many clubs in the 1940s where the likes of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller were playing, so it was a special treat to have her here to see how the collection will be cared for and appreciated for generations to come.

Trinity library opening-33Members of the Hartford Underground (a local swing dance club) were on hand to show us some moves, and some of the students from Trinity’s own swing dance club (newly formed last year) joined in as well.

Trinity library opening-22With the Rubenstein gift, the Watkinson now holds well over 10,000 sound recordings dating from the 1890s (wax cylinders) to the 1970s.  The exhibition was curated by staffer Henry Arneth, who also serviced and repaired our Victrolas and gramophones so that we (and our patrons) can hear these recordings the way they were originally intended to be heard.

So the next time you pass our glass doors, don’t be surprised if you hear music and see us dancing!


Help Bring Whitman to Trinity!

   Posted by: rring

Portraittitle page The Watkinson Library is seeking help from its friends and the alumni of Trinity College to acquire one of the great rarities of American literature–a first edition (1855) of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

All donors who give $50.00 or more before December 31, 2013 will receive a letterpress printed broadside “honor roll” with his/her name under the following levels:

Versifier ($50-$99)
Rhymer ($100-$249)
Balladeer ($250-$499)
Poet ($500-$999)
Laureate ($1,000-$4,999)
Patron of Letters ($5,000+)

If you would like to contribute to this purchase, please contact Richard Ring, Head Curator & Librarian (


“Whitman paid out of his own pocket for the production of the first edition of his book and had only 795 copies printed, which he bound at various times as his finances permitted. Though critics and biographers have often speculated that the book appeared on the Fourth of July, thus serving as an appropriate marker of America’s literary independence, advertisements in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle make it clear that Leaves was actually issued in late June. His joy at getting the book published was quickly diminished by the death of his father a few weeks after the appearance of Leaves. Walter Sr. had been ill for several years, and though he and Walt had never been particularly close, they had only recently traveled together to West Hills, Long Island, to the old Whitman homestead where Walt was born. Now his father’s death along with his older brother Jesse’s absence as a merchant marine (and later Jesse’s growing violence and mental instability) meant that Walt would become the father-substitute for the family, the person his mother and siblings would turn to for help and guidance. He had already had some experience enacting that role even while Walter Sr. was alive; perhaps because of Walter Sr.’s drinking habits and growing general depression, young Walt had taken on a number of adult responsibilities—buying boots for his brothers, for instance, and holding the title to the family house as early as 1847. Now, however, he became the only person his mother and siblings could turn to.

But even given these growing family burdens, he managed to concentrate on his new book, and, just as he oversaw all the details of its composition and printing, so now did he supervise its distribution and try to control its reception. Even though Whitman claimed that the first edition sold out, the book in fact had very poor sales. He sent copies to a number of well-known writers (including John Greenleaf Whittier, who, legend has it, threw his copy in the fire), but only one responded, and that, fittingly, was Emerson, who recognized in Whitman’s work the very spirit and tone and style he had called for. “I greet you at the beginning of a great career,” Emerson wrote in his private letter to Whitman, noting that Leaves of Grass “meets the demand I am always making of what seemed the sterile and stingy nature, as if too much handiwork, or too much lymph in the temperament, were making our western wits fat and mean.” Whitman’s was poetry that would literally get the country in shape, Emerson believed, give it shape, and help work off its excess of aristocratic fat.

Whitman’s book was an extraordinary accomplishment: after trying for over a decade to address in journalism and fiction the social issues (such as education, temperance, slavery, prostitution, immigration, democratic representation) that challenged the new nation, Whitman now turned to an unprecedented form, a kind of experimental verse cast in unrhymed long lines with no identifiable meter, the voice an uncanny combination of oratory, journalism, and the Bible—haranguing, mundane, and prophetic—all in the service of identifying a new American democratic attitude, an absorptive and accepting voice that would catalog the diversity of the country and manage to hold it all in a vast, single, unified identity. “Do I contradict myself?” Whitman asked confidently toward the end of the long poem he would come to call “Song of Myself”: “Very well then . . . . I contradict myself; / I am large . . . . I contain multitudes.” This new voice spoke confidently of union at a time of incredible division and tension in the culture, and it spoke with the assurance of one for whom everything, no matter how degraded, could be celebrated as part of itself: ” What is commonest and cheapest and nearest and easiest is Me.” His work echoed with the lingo of the American urban working class and reached deep into the various corners of the roiling nineteenth-century culture, reverberating with the nation’s stormy politics, its motley music, its new technologies, its fascination with science, and its evolving pride in an American language that was forming as a tongue distinct from British English.

Though it was no secret who the author of Leaves of Grass was, the fact that Whitman did not put his name on the title page was an unconventional and suggestive act (his name would in fact not appear on a title page of Leaves until the 1876 “Author’s Edition” of the book, and then only when Whitman signed his name on the title page as each book was sold). The absence of a name indicated, perhaps, that the author of this book believed he spoke not for himself so much as for America. But opposite the title page was a portrait of Whitman, an engraving made from a daguerreotype that the photographer Gabriel Harrison had made during the summer of 1854. It has become the most famous frontispiece in literary history, showing Walt in workman’s clothes, shirt open, hat on and cocked to the side, standing insouciantly and fixing the reader with a challenging stare. It is a full-body pose that indicates Whitman’s re-calibration of the role of poet as the democratic spokesperson who no longer speaks only from the intellect and with the formality of tradition and education: the new poet pictured in Whitman’s book is a poet who speaks from and with the whole body and who writes outside, in Nature, not in the library. It was what Whitman called “al fresco” poetry, poetry written outside the walls, the bounds, of convention and tradition.”

From “Walt Whitman” by Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price

The Walt Whitman Archive



Come Jump & Jive in the Library!

   Posted by: rring

Record covers 5EXHIBITION OPENING of “Jump & Jive: Music from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s” on Friday, September 20th, 4:30-6:30pm!

Come to the main library atrium and to the Watkinson to hear jazz and big band music playing on period Victrolas–just as it would have been heard in the Roaring 20s!

Between 5:30 and 6:30, swing dance instructor Javier Johnson and his partner My Janixia (from the Hartford Underground) will put on a dance display and teach a swing dance lesson to anyone brave enough to try!

We’ll have light refreshments in the Watkinson, and another Victrola playing music that will make your toes tap and your fingers snap!

Let’s make the library echo with rhythm and swing!



Toe the Line exhibition a hit!

   Posted by: rring

We have been thrilled to see a steady stream of folks from the Country Day School Headmaster’s Association conference, hosted at Trinity between June 18-21.  Over 40 of the ca. 150 participants have found their way to the Watkinson (some ditched a session), and many have expressed delight and interest in our exhibition.  Here are some of the comments from our guestbook:

“Some things endure–fewer rules are better!”

“Thank you for putting it together–lots to read and think about.”

“This is fabulous!”

“Enlightening & delightful exhibit!”

“Wonderful collection!”

“The Fish Hawk may be said to be of mild disposition.  Not only do these birds live in perfect harmony together, but they even allow other birds of very different character to approach so near to them as to build their nests of the very materials of which the outer parts of their own are constructed.  I have never observed a Fish Hawk chasing any other birds whatever.  So pacific and timorous is it, that, rather than encounter a foe but little more powerful than itself, it abandons its prey to the White-headed Eagle, which, net to man, is its greatest enemy . . .

The Fish Hawk differs from all birds of prey in another important particular, which is, that it never attempts to secure its prey in the air, although its rapidity of flight might induce an observer to suppose it perfectly able to do so.  I have spent weeks on the Gulf of Mexico, where these birds are numerous, and have observed them sailing and plunging into the water, at a time when numerous shoals of flying-fish were emerging from the sea to evade the pursuit of the dolphins.  Yet the Fish Hawk never attempted to pursue any of them while above the surface, but would plunge after one of them or a bonita-fish, after they had resumed their usual mode of swimming near the surface.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 415-16 [excerpted].


Jump & Jive!

   Posted by: rring

Staffer Henry Arneth picked up a working portable Victrola last weekend while antiquing in Vermont. We will feature it in the fall exhibition celebrating the gift of the Rubenstein collection of musical recordings.

Click here for a short video of the player in action:

Heat wave

“I shot two of these birds whilst traversing one of the extensive prairies of our North-western States.  Five of them had been running along the foot-path before me, for some time.  I at first looked upon them as of the Common Brown Titlark species (Anthus Spinoletta), but as they rose on the wing, the difference of their notes struck me, and, shooting at them, I had the good fortune to kill two, which I discovered, on examination, to be of a new and distinct species, although in the general appearance of their plumage they were very nearly allied to the Brown Titlark.  The rest I pursued in vain, and was forced to abandon the chase on account of the approach of night, and the necessity of preparing for a rest after a long walk.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 408 [excerpted].