The late and great Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell once sang, "Ain’t nothing like the real thing baby." These words hold true for how to best experience our material culture. People who have visited the Rare Book Department will often describe the exhilaration they feel when seeing the writing of authors in the library’s collections, such as Oscar Wilde or Edgar Allan Poe. This experience is not limited to literary manuscripts, however. A painting, letter, artifact, or memento can also inspire.
It is for this reason that programs like Traveling Treasures and the Hands-on Tours at the Rosenbach Museum & Library are offered and resonate with so many people. Not long ago, I attended one of the Hands-on Tours at the Rosenbach. The experience was unforgettable. Among the many items shown was the autographed manuscript of James Joyce’s Ulysses, written in his hand.
In an effort to continue offering Philadelphians memorable experiences such as these, Special Collections in conjunction with the subject departments at Parkway Central Library now offer the Hands-on History series, on the second Saturday of each month. The series kicks off Saturday, January 12, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. in the Rare Book Department. In connection with the exhibition Philadelphia: The Changing City, visitors can handle books and photo albums exploring the history of city planning in Philadelphia.
In February, Hands-on History will celebrate Philly Theatre Week by exploring materials relating to two of the most famous theatrical families in Philadelphia: the Drews and the Barrymores; and Black History Month with the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906). Patrons interested in Americana and Canadian artifacts will have to wait for the summer, when Hands-on History explores Canadiana (in honor of Canada Day) during which a torn hotel register from Montreal signed by John Wilkes Booth in 1864 will be shown.
Find more upcoming Hands-On History events in our calendar and sign up for your favorite programs!