Category Archives: katchadourian

the year-long Interdisciplinary Library Exhibit launches

proteus_gowanus_prelinger.jpgThe year-long Interdisciplinary Library Exhibit started last night at Proteus Gowanus, an arts organization located in Brooklyn, New York. The opening event was a standing room only presentation by Rick Prelinger and Megan Shaw Prelinger who run the Prelinger Library. Their presentation focused on their work leading up to the creation of the library, a highly curated collection of printed matter they have accumulated over two decades. The collection has a strong focus on books, print ephemera and periodicals. The 40,000 plus items are now on display and open to the public in downtown San Francisco. Visitors are allowed to stop in and browse items from the collection. The library’s collection is an amazing experiment in curation, taxonomy (they created their own,) and commentary on how libraries are shifting forms. We were fortunate to have lunch with Rick and Megan before their event. Everyone at the institute found their work very inspiring and they will be discussed in more detail in upcoming posts.
The spirit of the Prelinger’s work is great introduction to Proteus Gowanus’ exploration on this theme. Libraries are in flux, as they have historically played many roles, including distributors of knowledge, places that support research, archives and now quite often, community centers. For the next year, Proteus Gowans is displaying in their gallery, artwork related to libraries as well as hosting presentations and films. Photos by Nina Katchadourian depict the spines of various books which compose textual messages. Artist Jeffrey Schiff’s contribution plays with the Dewey Decimal System and themes of categorizations by applying call numbers to everyday objects and spaces. Also, included in the exhibit is the Reanimation Library, curated and owned by Andrew Beccone. This collection preserves books that are not typically saved in public and academic libraries, including titles such as “Simplified Taxidermy,” “A Guide to Gymnastics” and “Judo: Thirty Lessons in the Modern Science of Jiu-Jitsu.” The next event is Deirdre Lawrence, the Principal Librarian and Coordinator of Research Services Museum Libraries and Archives at the Brooklyn Museum, on October 27th.
Issues of funding, the rise of the digital, and intellectual property are all changing the role of libraries and how people interact with them. Many large questions are being asked about the future of the library. The most basic one being, what will it look like? Will it start to shift towards smaller nodes of semi-private collections connected to each other via the network? Are collections of books going to be increasingly less tied to physical spaces? Will the public library continue to shift towards acting more like a community center? Are publishers and libraries going fuse and produce a new hybrid institution?
Realizing that libraries are going through a cultural as well as technological transformation, Proteus Gowanus is embarking on an year long examination in a variety of media which track these changes. They may not be able to answer any of these questions directly, but they are certainly providing new directions and understandings. Most importantly, the Interdisciplinary Library Exhibit is opening up the conversation to a diversity of voices, including the public at large.