May 15 - August 4, 2001. Voyages: A Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition. Curated by Mary Augusta Thomas.
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May 15 - August 4, 2001
Voyages: A Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition
Curated by Mary Augusta Thomas

In May of 2001 the Grolier Club will mount Voyages: A Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition, featuring illustrated books in the physical and natural sciences, artists books, and sheet music selected from the riches of the Smithsonian Libraries. The nearly 100 examples collectively represent the theme of discovery, real and metaphorical, and will introduce the public to the Libraries' unusual and varied collections.

The exhibition is organized in three parts. "Journeys Over Land and Sea" contains reports of people, animals, plants, and unknown lands. "Journeys of the Mind" deals with scientists, whose intellectual journeys organized information on the subjects of botany, zoology, chemistry and physics. Finally, "Journeys of the Imagination" features the works of architects, designers, and artists. Regarding the exhibition's theme of travel and exploration, Voyages curator Mary Augusta Thomas says, "Entering a library is always a voyage of discovery. Any researcher who embarks on a project enters into the unknown. From these studies, a sort of map is constructed, which others may follow."

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Bernhard von Breydenbach's Peregrinatio in terram sanctam (1486), an account of the author's 1483 pilgrimage to the Holy Land
  • Albrecht Dürer's Institutionum geometricarum (1535), dedicated to art and its relation to geometry
  • Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia (1582), the most thorough geographical, biological, and cultural treatise known from the ancient world
  • Robert Hooke's Micrographia (1665), a captivating and influential collection of plates by Hooke made during his studies with early microscopes
  • Giuseppe Bibiena's Architetture, e prospettive (1740), a work containing engravings of the artist's spectacular theatrical designs
  • Charles Darwin's On the Origin of the Species (1859), which sets out his theory of evolution by natural selection
  • Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon (1874), which speculated on what the first space voyage would be like
  • Neil Armstrong's First On the Moon (1970), a book about the author's landmark lunar stroll, autographed by Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin
  • Qauqaua: a San folk story from Botswana told by Coex'ae Qgam (1996), a collaboration between The Artists' Press and nine Bushmen artists to preserve traditional culture in a time of rapid change in South Africa

Since 1846, the Smithsonian has been both explorer and gatherer on the one hand, and curator and guardian of artistic and scientific discoveries on the other. Voyages illustrates the ways in which books and other writings are used every day by the scientist or curator, and form a vital part of the research and exhibition enterprises of the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian Institution Libraries, uniquely placed in the center of the world's largest museum and research complex, provide the varied and fascinating resources used in creating this exhibition.

An exhibition handlist is available, as is a hardcover catalogue, An Odyssey in Print: Adventures in the Smithsonian Llibraries. The catalogue contains a foreword by Nancy E. Gwinn, Director of the Smithsonian Libraries, a history of the Libraries' collections by Mary Augusta Thomas, Assistant Director of the Smithsonian Libraries and exhibition curator, and essays by Michael Dirda, Senior Editor for The Washington Post Book World, and Storrs Olson, Curator and Senior Zoologist at the National Museum of Natural History.

Voyages: A Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition will be open to the public without charge, Monday-Saturday, 10 am - 5 pm, 15 May - 28 July 2001, except 28 May and 4 July 2001, when the Club is closed.

For an online, illustrated virtual tour of the exhibition, click here.

Visitors are invited to attend a

Free Public Lecture Series

by Smithsonian Institution Library staff
Thursdays at noon, at the Grolier Club
47 East 60th Street, New York City

May 17: A Voyage Through the Smithsonian Libraries

Mary Augusta Thomas, Exhibition Curator,
Smithsonian Institution Libraries

May 31: Journeys of the Mind

Ronald Brashear, Curator of Science & Technology Rare Books,
Smithsonian Institution Libraries

June 14: Journeys Over Land and Sea

Leslie Overstreet, Curator of Natural History Rare Books,
Smithsonian Institution Libraries

June 21: Journeys in the Air

Paul McCutcheon, Reference Librarian,
National Air & Space Museum Library

June 28: Journeys of the Imagination

Stephen Van Dyk, Librarian,
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library


Saturday, June 23: 10 am - noon at the Grolier Club
A program for elementary-school age children and their parents by
Mary Pope Osborne, noted children's author of the
Magic Tree House series.

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