The Curatorial Eye: Discoveries from the Folger Vault

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The Curatorial Eye: Discoveries from the Folger Vault, one of the Exhibitions at the Folger opened on June 13, 2009 and closed on August 29, 2009. The Curatorial Eye was an exhibition about discovery and interaction—discovery of items new, hidden, or underused in the collection, and interaction between these objects and the staff that works with them. The Curatorial Eye explored a variety of different collections at the Folger and shows how the staff members who curated the exhibition came to choose these items for exhibit. Topics including magic, censorship, juvenile drama, pamphlets, manuals, letters, Victorian bindings, and the ethics of conservation and librarianship connected a staff with diverse interests and backgrounds to a collection rich with material—some well-known, and some unexplored. The exhibition offered a rare glimpse into the myriad treasures behind the doors of the Folger’s vault.


Curators of the exhibition

Erin Blake, Curator of Art and Special Collections

Ronald Bogdan, Senior Cataloger

Alison Bridger, Senior Manuscript Cataloger

Kathleen Burlingame, Manuscript Cataloger

Stephanie Fell, Manuscript Cataloger

Steven Galbraith, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Books

Jim Kuhn, Head of Collection Information Services

Rosalind Larry, Head of Circulation

J. Franklin Mowery, Eric Weinmann Head of Conservation

Nadia Seiler, Manuscript Cataloger

Bettina Smith, Art Cataloger

Elizabeth Walsh, Head of Reader Services

Heather Wolfe, Curator of Manuscripts

Georgianna Ziegler, Louis B. Thalheimer Head of Reference

Individually curated cases

Lost and Found: A Manuscript Grimoire

This magical manuscript abounds with images and spells—including Abracadabra—teaching the lay person how to cast their own.

Henry Fuseli Sketches: Figure Studies

Very unlike the Fuseli paintings on display in the Folger reading rooms, these figure studies show another side of Fuseli's work. Adding to their rareness is the fact that they had never before been displayed.

Prohibiti: Censorship in Sixteenth-Century Italy

Allowing us to see through the eyes of a working censor, this mixed print and manuscript book shows the intricate and time-consuming nature of the censor's job.

The Juvenile Theater: a Microcosm of Theater

Children's toys have evolved over time, but their ability to imagine has always been capacious. The Juvenile Theater discusses a child's play theater equipped with movable actors and actresses of the day to excite everyday play.

Recycled Manuscripts

Once printed works became the norm, manuscripts became supports for the newly printed materials as bindings. In this article, we read the story of one of the oldest English manuscripts found hidden in the Folger collection.

Pamphlets and Papers: Collecting and Preserving Bound Ephemera

Early pamphlets may have been ephemeral, but they certainly had productive lifespans. This article discusses the use and reuse of these works and the study of them as both parts and wholes.

Reuniting Pamphlets, Restoring Provenance

This article tells the story of the reuniting of disbound books through many ephemeral clues.

How-to Books for Everyday Living

With the advent of print, came the advent of instructional manuals of every type. From standard cook books, to personal hygiene, to swimming, any reader could theoretically learn any skill just by picking up a book.

The Technical Manual

Early technical manuals provided up to date information on scientific and mathematical developments from the period. This survey also includes introductory books for various artisanal crafts such as glassmaking.

Manuscripts from the Age of Print

Manuscripts survived the advent of print in a variety of ways. This article discusses coterie poetry circulated in manuscript form, manuscript production of almanacs, newspapers, and other items we would typically think of as print-exclusive.

Cultural Cross-Currents of the Nineteenth Century

This article elaborates the feelings about, difficulties with, and appropriations of Shakespeare's works in various cultures, specifically focused on English and American performances of the nineteenth century.

Shakespeare in Translation

The Folger holds a variety of personal and published translated editions of Shakespeare's works, which are the focus of this article.

Personalizing Shakespeare

Read about the association copies—autographed copies of books owned by famous authors and actors—of Shakespeare's works held in the Folger collection.

Gilding Shakespeare: the Art of Decorative Bindings

This article describes the artful and colorful ways Victorian printers embellished their editions of Shakespeare's works in order to set them apart in the crowded marketplace.

Supplemental materials

Audio tour

To listen to the curators give in-depth insights into selected items from the exhibition, click the linked heading to access the audio tour online.

The Curatorial Eye: Discoveries from the Folger Vault children's exhibition

The Curatorial Eye: Discoveries from the Folger Vault family guide