RISD Museum Exhibit Features Brown University Library’s Special Collections

Fig. 7, Blondel from the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection of the Brown University Library

Providence, RI [Brown University] The Festive City is now on view at RISD Museum, featuring materials from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection at the Brown University Library, the RISD Museum, and the collection of Vincent J. Buonanno (Brown, ’66). The exhibit is open through July 14, 2013 in the Buonanno Works on Paper and Tsiaris Photography Galleries.

The Festive City features prints and books that record how cities were transformed by the urban festivals of early modern Europe.  The exhibition originated in an undergraduate seminar taught in Brown’s Department of the History of Art & Architecture in Spring, 2012. It was co-curated by RISD curator Emily Peters and Brown University professor Evelyn Lincoln.  In addition, students working with Professor Andries van Dam collaborated with the RISD Museum graphics and computing staff and used Microsoft Surface technology to make more pages of the festival books available to viewers.

The books and prints on view in this exhibition ensured that the grandeur and significance of ephemeral festivals extended beyond their immediate moment and locality. Expensive to produce, festival books were given by the sponsor to advantageous connections at foreign European courts and city governments or purchased for private libraries by wealthy collectors. The experience of paging through such weighty volumes and opening their large, fold-out plates was interactive and immersive, an event enjoyed in groups while reading aloud. Single-leaf festival prints, also on view, were made more quickly to document important political events. Both provided sought-after information, with their visual and textual inventories of every firework and piece of velvet clothing, and enumeration of every structure, its size, and materials. The products of unified, collective effort, the splendid works in this exhibition represent European cities at the pinnacle of collaborative artistic production.

There will be a day-long symposium about these works at the RISD Museum on March 1, 2013 (registration required).

The Brown University Library is home to more than 6.8 million print items, plus a multitude of electronic resources and expanding digital archives serving the teaching, research, and learning needs of Brown students and faculty, as well as scholars from around the country and the world. http://library.brown.edu/