Archive for the ‘Exhibitions’ Category

This post is by guest author and Archives Student Assistant, Alexis Scalese ’22

October 11th, 2021 was the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the so-called United States. Indigenous Peoples’ Day centers the lives, stories, cultures, and diversity of experiences Indigenous peoples hold. 

Banner reading "You are on Nonotuck Land, Everyday is Indigenous Peoples' Day"

In conjunction with the display of an Indigenous Peoples’ Day banner of Frost Library created by Carley Malloy ‘22 (Citizen Band Potawatomi), I was asked to put together an exhibit celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day using books and printed material from the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg (KWE) Collection of Native American Literature. This was my first exhibition so I was really excited! 

Mariah Leavitt, who is the Preservation Specialist and supervisor of student staff members, guided me through the process of exhibiting materials from Archives and Special Collections. Before I selected books and other printed materials, Mariah suggested that I think of a theme or story I wanted to share with my audience. I originally thought about doing an exhibit about Native humor, but my theme shifted once I came across a beautiful book titled Between Earth and Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places by Joseph Bruchac.

Cover of Between Earth & Sky by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Thomas Locker

The book struck me because of its visuals and the incorporation of Land on the cover. I carefully opened the book and skimmed the text: poetry, paintings, and stories about the Land were prevalent. This book resonated with me because, in my Pueblo, Land is very much part of the stories we tell as it is the reason for our livelihood as Indigenous Peoples. With that said, Bruchac’s book, Between Earth and Sky, shifted the exhibit from Native humor to sharing different materials that illustrate the different ways Indigenous peoples tell stories about their personal and communities’ experiences. 


Text and illustration from Between Earth & Sky by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Thomas Locker

After deciding on an exhibit theme, it was time to select materials from the KWE Native American Literature collection. I knew I wanted to include Earth and Sky and the super awesome card game, Cards Against Colonialism display. Once I pulled these materials from the shelf, I began to physically browse and sift through the file cabinets and shelves that hold materials from the KWE Collection. While it might have been better to use the Five College Catalog to look up the exact location of material (which I encourage people to do), I could not remember the names of books I had in mind, only a mental image of the covers. With that said, the Five College Catalog is a very comprehensive tool for searching for materials, however, yielding a search with keywords like “Pretty yellow cover” is not possible. I enjoyed physically searching through the archives. It was a great experience because I was able to connect with the materials by touching them rather than looking at them through their catalog entry. 

After selecting about 20 materials, I narrowed my selection down to 9 materials that fit the exhibit’s storytelling theme and were visually appealing. Once I selected my materials, I took my cart of materials to the Archives and Special Collections office space and drafted the label for the exhibit. 

Image of plate formerly used in Valentine Dining Hall featuring a design of Lord Jeffrey Amherst chasing an Indigenous person

The next day, I took my cart to the first-level of Frost where Mariah and I began the process of assembling the exhibit. Mariah and I disassembled the previous exhibit which celebrated Amherst College’s Bicentennial. The previous exhibit that showcased many aspects of Amherst College’s history including plates from Valentine Dining Hall which featured Lord Jeffery Amherst chasing an Indigenous person. Deconstructing the previous exhibit allowed me to reflect on the act of removing anti-Indigenous material and replacing it with Indigenous stories. I think this was a moment that I will hold and reflect on as I continue my interests in archives.

After removing the materials from the Bicentennial exhibit, Mariah went downstairs to retrieve the book cradles and exhibit ‘furniture’. When she came back, we began arranging together. Mariah and I both agreed that Deer Woman, a comic book with assorted promotional items, and Cards Against Colonialism had to be spread out to show how one may interact with the materials behind glass. After Mariah and I spread out the different cards from both texts, we began to place the books on the shelves, arranging them in ways that would grab the viewer’s attention. I wanted to balance out the two yellow books: Land of the North Carolina Cherokees and Yellow Woman and spent time rearranging the books. These yellow books were originally placed on the middle shelf, but I noticed my eyes were drawn to the middle shelf because of the warm yellow tones. Mariah then placed the two yellow books on the top shelf and it felt balanced. With the intriguing printed material on the bottom shelf, and the yellow books on the top, my eyes were drawn to all shelves. 

Photograph of completed book exhibit for Indigenous Peoples' Day

Setting up this exhibit was such a wonderful experience. It was so interesting to see the processes that go into creating a display. I learned that the visual element of exhibits was very important, especially in regards to cover art. Understanding the importance of the visual in curating an exhibit allowed me to reflect on my own biases and preferences. As I mentioned earlier in the post, Joseph Bruchac’s book Between Earth and Sky resonated with me the most because of my Pueblo’s worldview which may differ from other communities’ worldviews. I say this to reflect on the biases I hold and to state that exhibits are not created in a vacuum, they are created through our own experiences and worldviews we each hold.    

I learned a lot through this process and I will take this experience with me as I continue to learn more about the world of archives. Finishing the exhibit left me with some questions and thoughts to carry in the future: How can myself and others interested in archives and museums address the colonial history of exhibiting Indigenous materials in our exhibition processes? What words can we use that are not objectifying? For example, words like “material”, “curation”, and “display” limit the agency of the stories which are living.  With more experience and curation practice, I hope to think of ways to address these questions and be in conversation with others.

Alexis Scalese ‘22 is enrolled in the Pueblo of Isleta with familial ancestry to Pueblo of Laguna. She is an American Studies major and pursuing a Five College Certificate in Native and Indigenous Studies. She is interested in incorporating Indigenous Knowledge systems and Tiwa Pueblo concepts of relationality into archival and museum practices. 

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Shakespeare’s Desk

Last spring, Professor Anston Bosman and I led a seminar on “Shakespeare and the History of Books.” Our seven intrepid Sophomores explored a wide range of readings and primary sources around that topic, much of which they documented in the course blog: https://blogs.ats.amherst.edu/colq-231-1314s/

Over the summer, several of our students worked on an exhibition that will be on display in the Archives & Special Collections for the whole of the fall semester. They took the title for their exhibition from an essay by Peter Stallybrass that we read for class: “Shakespeare’s Desk: Authorship as Material Practice.” This passage appears in the opening paragraph:

The plots of Shakespeare’s plays, like those of his fellow-dramatists, were drawn from his reading. It is extraordinary how little this simple fact seems to have impinged upon Shakespearean studies: Shakespeare’s writing developed out of his reading.

Although the Archives & Special Collections holds a respectable teaching collection of early modern printed books, including nearly 500 books and manuscripts created before Shakespeare’s death in 1616, the exhibition moves from a consideration of what Shakespeare might have read to explore how Shakespeare has been packaged for the desks of other readers over the past 400 years.

A fuller web-version of the exhibition is currently under construction, so I will use this post to highlight just a couple of items.

Illustrated editions of Shakespeare’s works are a fascinating topic, and this exhibition features two fine examples.

Caliban (detail) Boydell, 1852.

Caliban (detail) Boydell, 1852.

This detail of Caliban in “The Tempest” is taken from the large folio copy of The American Edition of Boydell’s Illustrations of the Dramatic works of Shakespeare by the Most Eminent Artists of Great Britain, which was published by Shearjashub Spooner in New York City in 1852.

A volume from our set of The Dramatic Works of Shakspeare (1791-1802), edited by George Steevens and published with illustrations that match those published as Boydell’s Graphic Illustrations of the dramatic works of Shakspeare. Here is the rendition of Caliban from that edition:

Caliban. Boydell, 1802.

Caliban. Boydell, 1802.

The complete history of John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery is a fascinating story. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC mounted an exhibition titled “Marketing Shakespeare: The Boydell Gallery (1789-1805) and Beyond” in late 2007. The online version of their exhibition contains images of some of the original paintings Boydell commissioned for his Gallery and explores the printmaking process, among other things.

These two illustrations were selected for a different reason that ties them into the theme of Shakespeare’s Desk. “The Tempest” is generally regarded as a response, in part, to European exploration of North and South America. One of the cases in our exhibition features books representative of the information Shakespeare might have encountered about the “New World.”

Frontispiece from Ogilby's America (1671).

Frontispiece from Ogilby’s America (1671).

Although our copy of John Ogilby’s book America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World (1671) was written long after Shakespeare’s death, it is the best example in our collections of an illustrated work of exploration. One goal of this exhibition is to suggest some ways that examining early books can open up new paths of research. Clearly, these three images suggest there may be something very interesting going on here. Deeper exploration of representations of Caliban as they relate to illustrations of “New World” inhabitants would require a visit to a library like the Folger.

Installation of this new exhibition will wrap up later this week. In addition to the works shown here, visitors will be able to see our copy of Shakespeare’s Second Folio, along with published books ranging from the sixteenth century to the present.

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Here in the Reading Room of the Special Collections, we have on semi-permanent exhibit a 3 piece unique art collection comprised of a newspaper publication, a lead-encased book of posters, and a one-of-a-kind art installation.  The installation consists of 432 color slides permanently mounted in a sizable light box.  The slides show the creation and in situ installations of street art posters from Bullet Space’s “Your House is Mine” project. The light box itself is constructed from a frame originally used for the silkscreen printing of the posters.



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Archives and Special Collections staff regularly work with classes to show how rare books and manuscripts offer interesting perspectives on contemporary life, as well as shedding light on past events. As we approach the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States this September 17, even a quick survey of ongoing political debates reveals the continued relevance of this historical document. These clashes are not new.

The text of the new Constitution, printed in the Massachusetts Gazette, September 28, 1787. So that citizens would be able to read the Constitution, the text was printed in papers throughout the Republic. Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.

Debate over the substance and meaning of the Constitution is part of the document’s legacy. The text submitted to the states for ratification was itself  the product of great compromise by the representatives present at the Constitutional Convention. At the close of the convention, Benjamin Franklin said, “…when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does.”


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We are pleased to invite you to the Archives and Special Collections to see our new summer exhibition, the Poultry and Garden Show. The exhibition is a fun glimpse into old poultry, gardening and agricultural manuals from 1588 to 1911 along with a selection of agricultural posters from the John P. Cushing World War I Posters Collection, which is currently being organized. The exhibition is in the Archive and Special Collections main gallery on A level of Frost Library, Amherst College. Open Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm; the show will be up through late August. Come on down and get your county fair on!


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