Student Choice Exhibit: Observing Changes in Technology and Society through the Book

Submitted by on March 23, 2012

From leather bound pages and covers to the Kindle, technology has transformed the way we view and experience literature.  Last semester, Dr. Daniel Snydacker, adjunct professor of art history at Fairfield University and executive director of the Pequot Library, started the course, “From Codex to Kindle: The Art and History of the Book.” The course surveyed the history of the book and its current existence in light of technological advances.  Beginning with the earliest form of literature, cuneiform to incunabula and the recent phenomenon of E-books, the course examined the changes in art, literature, and society from the point of view of the book.

As a final project for the course, Dr. Snydacker, asked students to select books from the Special Collections that spoke to them.  Students then created “book biographies” addressing the publication, design, cover, and illustrations of the selected work.

On March 22, at 4 p.m. a reception was held at both the DiMenna-Nyselius Library and the Pequot Library celebrating the work of the students and the inspiration of the book.  Six of the books were featured at the DiMenna-Nyselius Library and the remaining at the Pequot Library. After the exhibit, the research completed will be included in the permanent record of the book in both the University and Pequot Catalog.

The books chosen by students ranged from library assistant and student Hayley Battaglia’s curation of the Notre Dame de Paris (1831) written by Victor Hugo, to Kevin Sherman’s ’12 curation of White Fang (1907) by Jack London. Snydacker also conducted a project of his own on the 12th century manuscript Letters of St. Gregory.

Curtis Ferree, reference and electronic resources librarian and a student of the course conducted his book biography on the Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891) by Thomas Hardy. “I picked the Thomas Hardy book because it was representative of an interesting way they used to print books. It appeared first serially in a magazine and then it would be published in a three volume set and then a one volume set,” Ferree continued,” I also chose it because it was a controversial book.” The controversy arose from the character Tess and the moral challenges she presented in Victorian England.  The book caused quite the controversy in a society where issues of morality were beginning to surface.

“We are so much people of the book. Who we are, what we think, what we know, comes out of books.  Books serve as repositories as we gather information, we organize and screen it and write it up in books and that becomes accumulated knowledge and the basis of our culture,” Sydacker continued, “The conversation that you and I are having, your role as a senior in college, my role as an adjunct professor is informed by what we’ve read.”

The Pequot Library has also opened its doors to the community, allowing those interested to perform research on selected works and curate their own book exhibit.

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