Wish You Were Here: Journals, Journeys, and Expeditions (Summer 2018 Exhibit)

Wish You Were Here: Journals, Journeys, and Expeditions is the title of our summer exhibit which is dedicated to armchair travel, vacations, and adventures elsewhere.

June 7 through August 31, 2018

The exhibit features the work of 12 contemporary artists in conjunction with selected travel books, atlases and other vintage materials from the library’s historic collection.

The urge to voyage, to “get away” and the image of lazing at a distant sunny beach are a staple of the idealized version of summer. This is of course at odds with our American work schedule, which gives scant vacation time, yet the “what I did on my summer vacation” essay is a trope of the fantasy of lazy, warm days, endless play and transformative foreign adventures in our collective consciousness. Travel IS luxury: being away from home, phones, obligations, work, and, importantly, work clothes.

Journeys and expeditions are another matter: They are work, they are about trade, colonization, charting, scanning for natural resources, opportunities for wealth and the expansion of borders. More positively, they are about learning, cultural interaction, scientific inquiry, testing physical boundaries, being an ambassador to one’s home culture and enduring through difficult and wild conditions.  In our fully charted world travel has changed considerably since western explorers and colonizers began their first forays. Artists were an essential part of any expedition, providing images for a public eager for stories, a glimpse of elsewhere, paradise. Of course, to the people being explored and exploited, it was these new visitors who were- welcome or not- the exotic item in the mix, creating for interactions which ran the gamut from wonderment to horror.

Holiday or Expedition: either way, attention to the landscape and locating humankind’s place in it is the core subject matter. This is bitter-sweet stuff, heady and sad. Issues of representation, of nostalgia, of cultural loss and the change engendered by time, invasion, colonization and the steady march “civilization” through history echo within the very different works on display here. This exhibit features an audio track, beadwork, calligraphy, collage, carving, digital animation, drawing, embroidery, film and video, installation, notebooks, painting, photography, postcards, printmaking, poetry, sculpture, specimen boxes, travelogues, watercolors, and writing, all about places far and near, places extant and places that have disappeared. Come journey with us, armchair travel the globe, all without leaving the comfort of the library stacks…

  1. Fran Antemann: Maya Healers: A Thousand Dreams book and photographic prints, Guatemala
  2. Ed Dionne: Out West! Ink and colored drawing accordion fold notebook and collage postcards with audio component, based on the National Parks, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, California USA.
  3. Leila Daw: River scroll, shwe chi doe tapestry, embroidery, beadwork & mixed media, Myanmar/Burma
  4. Roberta Friedman: hand-made travel journals, Cuba, India, Poland
  5. David Guy:  Ponm Kannèl, Poem and video, Providence, RI USA and St Lucia, Lesser Antilles
  6. James Lancel McElhinney: Hudson Highlands: print portfolio Edition, Framed prints, and original notebooks, Hudson Valley, NY, USA
  7. Isabella Mellado: I live where you vacation…. Animated gifs, Puerto Rico
  8. Maryann Ott: Mixed-media travel journals: Peru, Iceland, Indonesia, Niger, Egypt
  9. Abigail Reynolds: Lost Libraries, published book and two-screen film based on her BMW art journey prize through The Silk Road: China, Turkey, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran
  10. Rob Rocke: Photography, Florida, USA
  11. Scott Schuldt: installation of wooden canoe paddles, specimen boxes, beadwork, Dodd Ranch Missouri, and waterways in Connecticut, USA
  12. Lisa Seidenberg: Letter From Mom, video, Marbella, Spain/Tangiers, Morroco



Join us for the opening reception:
Thursday, June 7, 2018
6-8 pm


Organized by Martha Willette Lewis

Library Thing – A – Thon

LibraryThing Logo

Hello, Everyone! We’re breathing new life into our blog after an almost five-year hiatus.

One of the big changes since we last posted is that we’re now using LibraryThing to catalog our collection. Don’t panic, the Borden card catalog isn’t going away!

Have you heard of LibraryThing? It’s a free site (up to a certain level) that allows users to catalog their book collections.

You can view The Institute Library’s online catalog here: https://www.librarything.com/catalog/TheInstituteLibrary  What you’ll see is, as of today, just a small portion of our actual holdings.

When we first started using LibraryThing several years ago, we were only cataloging new acquisitions. In December 2017, however, we started the herculean task of cataloging our entire collection. We’re not sure how many books we have — probably over 30,000 — and this project will let us know exactly what we have.

A handful of volunteers have been working to enter each book into LibraryThing, but we could use your help in giving this project a huge boost.

Would you like to help us? We’d love to have you as an on-going volunteer or you can join us for a special event.

Library Thing - A - Thon at the Institute Library

We’re having a LIBRARY THING – A – THON on Saturday, May 12, 2018, from 10 am – 2 pm.

Help bring our 100+-year-old collection of books into the digital age!

Bring your own laptop and power cord. We’ll begin with a 20-minute tutorial to get everyone started. A light lunch and refreshments will be provided.

If you are not affiliated with Yale, please sign-up sign-up here.

If you are affiliated with Yale, please sign-up here (Yale Day of Service site).

Entering books into LibraryThing is easy and it’s fascinating to get acquainted with a section and discover the gems in our collection. We hope you can join us!

The Time has Come

My mom used to adapt the phrase from Dr. Seuss’ Marvin K. Mooney book to inform me that it was time to do something – “The time has come, the time is now for Megan Elizabeth to go to bed now.” My memory mimics her voice and changes the phrasing whenever it’s time to make a change.

20120523 blog 1Today is my last day as an employee at The Institute Library. I’m leaving to have just one  job (instead of several part-time jobs) while I pursue a Master’s in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin Madison‘s low residency program. I’m not leaving New Haven and I’m not leaving the library – just the payroll so I am granted the flexibility to volunteer when it is convenient for me. I will most likely be here on Saturdays and for all the events….

Seriously, this is the coolest place ever.

I’ve met one of the world’s fastest lock pickers, a physics professor who’s building a time machine, nomads, authors, historians, and some of the most eccentric people with fascinating stories – because public libraries are society’s great social equalizer.

20120531 Blog 1I will miss giving the tour of the library the most – I usually get so excited that I nearly regurgitate the library’s history – unable to stop for air or questions. I want to hug this place – or at least the card catalog.

Alas, the time has come, the time is now, for Megan Elizabeth to go back to school now…


New Haven Green

In spirit of Halloween and the old oak tree on the Green pulling up a couple of skeletons (click HERE to read the article), I decided to do some digging to find what information the Institute Library has on the New Haven Green. I found Chronicles of New Haven Green from 1638 – 1826 by Henry T. Blake, published in 1898. Check out some of the things I learned and images/maps of the green I found.

The nine squares were laid out in 1638, with the center one being the Market Place (now known as The Green). As in tradition, the town meeting-house would be located in this central location and the immediate surrounding ground would be used for burial purposes. A few pioneers died before the meeting-house was completed and to ensure the tradtition would live on, they were buried on the green in 1640. By 1659 there were about 50 graves in the city center (the market). Records from May 1659: “The Governor informed that it is conceived that it is not for ye health that ye burying place should be where it is; therefore, he propounded that some other place might be thought of and fenced off for that purpose.” He died the following year and was buried in the city center. Moving the cemetery was not mentioned again for several generations.

During the later part of the 18th century, unofficial and midnight burials were not uncommon. The need for a fence to surround the cemetery was brought up several times during this time too, but nothing ever came of these discussions.

In September 1796, Mr. James Hillhouse, with 30 people, purchased six acres (which was soon increased to 10 acres) on Grove street “a new burial ground, larger, better arranged for the accommodation of families, an by its retired situation better calculated to impress the mind with a solemnity becoming the repository of the dead.” The Grove Street Cemetery opened in 1797.

Martha Whittlesey was the last person to be buried on the Green in 1812.

New Haven Green 1724

New Haven Green 1748

New Haven Green 1775

Salem Athenaeum

The Salem Athenaeum in Salem, MA is another one of the remaining membership libraries in the United States, AND it is one of the libraries that Patron Members of the Institute have access to.

The Social Library, founded in 1760, and the Salem Philosophical Library, founded in 1781, are the two original institutions that eventually merged to become the Salem Athenaeum in 1810. The Social Library was a club for the elite of Salem and cost £11 per year (approximately $1500 per year – today & converted into U.S. dollars). By 1810, there was a lot of overlap of membership between the Social Library and the Salem Philosophical Library, so the two libraries decided to merge into one library.

The Athenæum has more than 50,000 volumes in its circulating and research collections. There are four collections of books gathered in the 18th century: the Social Library, the Philosophical Library, the Holyoke Collection, and the Theological Collection. Included are a broad collection of works of literature, history, science, natural history, voyage and travel, religion, philosophy and more.  Edward Augustus Holyoke was the first president of the Athenæum; the Holyoke collection is a group of books that were in his personal library. The Theological Collection includes commentaries, theological tracts, and sermons. The Athenæum also has a sizable collection of books published in the second half of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th century, including works of literature, biographies, historical and scientific works, and travel books.

The Athenæum purchases new fiction, mysteries, poetry and popular non-fiction: art, biography, current affairs, history, scientific discovery, and travel. A special collection focus is on books and libraries. The Athenæum also subscribes to periodicals related to the book collections. Books and magazines may circulate to the members of the Athenæum.

Witchcraft in Connecticut

May it please yr Honble Court, we the Grand inquest now setting for the County of Fairefeild, being made sensable, not only by common fame (but by testamonies duly billed to us) that the widow Mary Staple, Mary Harvey ye wife of Josiah Harvey & Hannah Harvey the daughter of the saide Josiah, all of Fairefeild, remain under the susspition of useing witchecraft, which is abomanable both in ye sight of God & man and ought to be witnessed against. we doe therefore (in complyance to our duty, the Court of Assistants now setting in Fairefeild, that they may be taken in to Custody & proceeded against according to their demerits.Fairefeild 15, Fby, 1692                 
in behalfe of the Grnd Jury, JOSEPH BASTARD, foreman

This reproduction of a grand jury presentment for witchcraft is in The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut, by John M. Taylor, published in 1908.

Found Magazine’s 10th Anniversary Tour

Brothers Davy & Peter Rothbart, creators of Found Magazine, visited the Institute on Monday, September 17th as part of the magazine’s 10th Anniversary Tour. It was an awesome evening. My face hurt from laughing so much by the time I went to bed. Davy read about relationship misadventures from his recently published book, My Heart is an Idiot, and Peter sang about his favorite “found” items. (Found Item: “love letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, doodles — anything that gives a glimpse into someone else’s life. Anything goes.”)

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My favorite moment happened after the event. While we were cleaning up. Davy was commenting on what a great space the library is and then said, “AND I got to meet Jack Hitt! He’s one of my heroes!” This is what the library is about – community engagement and connecting people.

There was some great coverage of the event too – in the New Haven Register and the New York Times

Portsmouth Athenaeum

A benefit of Institute Library membership at the Patron level is reciprocal membership at five other membership libraries (there at 16 in the United States). Since we often hear, “I’ve always lived in New Haven, how did I not know about the Institute Library!” I assume that these other 15 membership libraries have also gone unnoticed.

Porstmouth Athenaeum
Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Portsmouth Athenaeum is one of the five membership libraries that participates with the Institute Library in providing reciprocal membership at the Patron Membership level.

The Athenaeum was established in December 1816 by a group of young men and one woman, “who met to explore the feasibility of establishing a library and subscription reading room in Portsmouth, which had no such institution since the incineration of the bulk of the collection of the Portsmouth Library in the great fire of 1813” (Hardiman, 157).

The free public library in Portsmouth absorbed another one of the town’s membership libraries, The Portsmouth Mercantile Library, founded in 1851. The Athenaeum managed to survive the growth of the free public library and the 20th century due to fulfilling ts mission to, “convivial interchange and intellectual discourse.”

The collection has a wide range of old and new books and there is a special emphasis on collecting Portsmouth imprints and works relevant to the region’s history. The library inherited the personal libraries of Benjamin Tredick (1802 – 1877) and Charles Levi Woodbury (1820 – 1898). Both collections remain intact in designated alcoves.

After getting your Patron Membership to the Institute Library, take a weekend trip up to the darling town of Portsmouth, NH (just over 3 hours from New Haven), and explore the treasures at the Atheneaum.

Hardiman, Thomas. “The Portsmouth Athenaeum.” Ed. Richard Wendorf. America’s Membership Libraries. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll, 2007. 157. Print.

Amateur Hour : HOAX!

Last Tuesday was the library’s second Amateur Hour, which featured media prankster, Alan Abel. While Will helped Abel and Joshua Foer (co-curator of the series) set-up for the event, I was charged with taking tickets. At the height of ticketed patrons checking in, an elderly man dropped a flier next to me, mumbling, “I don’t care about the birds.” I was a bit confused, but went back to collecting tickets and chatting with library members. Shortly before the event began, I had a chance to read the flier:

Bird Watchers are Voyeurs!

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, 48 million people watch birds. A private research group, the Good Conduct Society, has discovered Bird Watchers are more sexually active than others.
The elderly find that Bird Watching is not strenuous. And this erotic experience can be enjoyed privately through binoculars.
‘Most disturbing,’ said the Society’s director Anaida Krok, ‘are the groups of Bird Watchers seeking vicarious sexual gratification in the woods. Shamelessly, they blatantly observe God’s defenseless creatures mating.’

Amazing. Absolutely amazing. Abel explained that he and his wife pass out these fliers in Washington, D.C. from time to time. It’s an extension of his social commentary from the 1960s when he started the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals – an organization to clothe animals.

Old New Haven

The Institute Library has many out-of-print books on the history of New Haven and other Connecticut towns, as well as the new books that I featured in Monday’s post. One of these books is especially important, not only to New Haven, but to everywhere that has local history and folklore. The man in the print about the fireplace at the Institute Library is John W. Barber – who is credited as the first person to collect, record, and publish local histories. He learned the craft of print making and opened a store in New Haven in 1823, and traveled around Connecticut, making etches and engravings of the sites and collecting stories from the people. He published History and Antiquities of New Haven, Conn., in 1856

This isn’t the only out of print New Haven book either – we have an entire alcove of local history books! The back wall is mostly Connecticut towns, with a few books on Massachusetts. The outer walls of the alcove have books on other states and some books on the Central & North American countries. 

(From right to left) History of the Colony of New Haven, published 1881, Hartford Conn., published 1889, Catalogue of the Trustees, Rectors, Instructors and Alumni of the Hopkins Grammar School of New Haven, Connecticut: 1660 – 1902, published 1902, The English Memorial: New Haven Colony Historical Society, published 1893, History of Wallingford, Meriden, and Cheshire, published in 1870, North Haven Annuals, published 1892, History of the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut, published 1887, and An Old New England Town, published 1895.

The covers of a lot of these older books are cloth – without much on the cover. I photographed a few of the title pages:

There are many, MANY more books on New Haven and other Connecticut towns — please visit and learn some New Haven secrets.