Library exhibition focuses on movement, presents centuries-old historical objects

Aha-moments are those instances that make sense to people, the moments they love, the moments that excite passion and adventure. As one moves through the visual clutter of the environment of culture, politics, education and one’s conscious and unconscious choices, aha-moments are found.

“The Archive in Motion,” a new exhibition at Syracuse University, is a demonstration of the possibilities one has to discover, explore and extend those moments, according to the exhibit’s introduction. Subjects of color, combat, magic, transportation, dance and gravity act toward a larger theme of movement. The exhibit’s theme of movement will echo through the Special Collections gallery at E.S. Bird Library from now until June 27.

Work dated as far back as the 15th century is showcased at the exhibit through a variety of mediums. Exploration of the exhibition could start at stunning photographs of dancers then move to vibrant abstract screen prints and then to Albert Einstein’s handwritten research.

“The Archive in Motion” exhibition lets viewers look at one piece and be inspired to think of something else. The passing student who stumbles upon the exhibit will see the John Vassos print illustrating the phobia of gravity. Next, he or she might see the large photographs of dancers from the Martin Kamin Papers. The Special Collections also offer plenty of early 20th century photographs and books on the development of the first airplanes.

The exhibit leads viewers to contemplate why the exhibit is structured the way it is, which is why exhibit curator Lucy Mulroney said, “thinking about how and why the objects are organized the way they are” is central to the intention of the exhibition.

Zeynep Çelik, assistant professor of architecture, landscape and design at the University of Toronto, spoke at the reception about how the design of an exhibit influences how one thinks of it. She went on to explain the concept of “non-reading,” which involves taking in information through other senses.

In developing the exhibition, a team of curators, historians, research experts, cataloguers and interns brainstormed the relevance of the library and archives as places of unlimited possibility, — “a possibility that is defined by generosity,” Mulroney said. The team went on to say that this “place” offers the means and opportunity to produce new knowledge.

The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) offers the opportunity to access an internationally renowned archive flowing with thousands of primary-source materials.

Rebecca Ellis is a special collections and exhibitions intern for the SCRC and graduate student in the museum studies program. She said she has seen students and faculty of all disciplines come in to the SCRC and work with the archives on projects extending from the personal inquiry to scholarly interest.

Like the exhibition, “the collections in their entirety span time and format,” Ellis said.

People can approach the archives with a certain interest, and those working there will direct them toward a piece of work that will take that interest further, said Ellis.

Ellis also mentioned that works from the special collections may not be checked out of their home on the sixth floor of the library. However, handling and photographing the works is permitted.

Mulroney said the archives’ generosity and endless possibilities are reasons why she loves working there.

“Moving through the stacks, finding connections among the materials; composing essays out of objects, images and documents; thinking about how and why the collections are organized the way that they are — these things keep me intellectually stimulated and I wanted to share that sense of awe through this exhibition,” said Mulroney.


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