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


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.

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.

A Bit of History

Stephen Kobasa hung a new bulletin board at the library last week and tacked up a type-writer typed document he found.  I’m not sure what is factual or what is library folklore.  Hopefully, as we dig through documents at the Beinecke, we will be able to do some fact checking.

In the meanwhile, there are some really fun bits of information I’d like to share:

  • Some of the debate topics at the early meetings during the late 1820s and early 1830s:
    • “Does the married man or bachelor enjoy the most happiness?”
    • “Are novels injurious to a reader?”
    • “Would the abolition of slavery in the U.S. be an advantage to the country?”
    • “Are lotteries justifiable in any respect?”
    • “Ought capitol punishment be abolished?”
  • Charles Dickens was made an honorary member, who came to the Institute and presided at a meeting in 1842.
  • The New Haven Camera Club rented a rooms on the third floor of the library for $100.00 per year starting in 1893**
  • The electric lights were installed in the library in 1911
  • The library was broken into in 1964. Only $3.00 worth of stamps were taken.


**According to the New Haven Camera Club’s website – they didn’t become an organization until 1911.  Yale does have information on a New Haven Camera Club exhibit that was on view at the institute library in 1894.  Does anyone have any information on this?


Happy Birthday, Institute Library!!

On this day, August 1st, in 1826, the Apprentices’ Literary Association – which eventually became the Institute Library – held its very first meeting at the home of Albert Wilcox.

Today we applaud the Institute Library’s 186 years of collaboration, book circulation, and the mutual assistance in the attainment of useful knowledge.