Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ann Arbor Art Fair, July 21-24, 2016

The annual Ann Arbor Art Fair returns this week, and the city's downtown will be transformed as over 1,000 artists set up booths alongside food vendors, performers, and artist demonstrators. The Fair runs from Thursday, July 21st to Sunday, July 24th, and the Clements Library finds itself right at the heart of it all with artists literally at our doorstep.

Hopefully the Ann Arbor Art Fair won't be quite as chaotic as the scene depicted in our hand-colored 1734 copy of William Hogarth's print, [Southwark Fair].
On Thursday, our grand Avenir Foundation Reading Room is only open to registered researchers working with our collections. We will have a tent on the south lawn with information about the library. 

On Friday, July 22nd, our doors are open to all Art Fair revelers who want to come explore our exhibits from 10 am – 4 pm (while simultaneously enjoying an air-conditioned reprieve from the forecasted sweltering heat). We are also offering tours of our newly renovated library on Friday at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 3:00 pm. Space is limited, so please email us at clementsgroupvisit@umich.edu with your preferred time in order to reserve a spot on a tour.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

From the Stacks: Mosquitoes

Balmy summer weather has finally arrived in Ann Arbor, and the staff at the Clements Library are enjoying the season's warmth and sunshine. The joys of sipping lemonade in the shade and lounging in hammocks are tempered by the less popular harbingers of summer-- mosquitoes. Mosquito-borne illnesses continue to plague the modern world, with West Nile, Zika virus, malaria, and dengue fever still making news headlines. While the resources at our disposal to try to mitigate and prevent the spread of disease far outweigh those available in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the annoyance we feel when confronted with a mosquito's whine and bite seems remarkably unchanged from that expressed by our forebears.

Our Edward L. Buttrick Diary records Buttrick's experiences as an itinerant schoolteacher in rural Kentucky in 1843. Buttrick remarked after a particularly restless hot September night, "The musquitoes nearly ate me alive. It was an excessively warm night & I could only cover my face in the bed clothes & be resigned to my fate… I could bear the biting but the singing was what troubled me. They sing you a song & then present their bills which you must receive in spite of all protestations."

The familiarity of the mosquitoes' "song" is referenced in this sheet music from 1899.

Howard Whitney, The Mosquitoes' Parade: A Jersey Review (New York: M. Witmark and Sons, 1899). Versions of the song can be heard on YouTube.

The Mosquitoes' Parade draws on the shared understanding of the insect's high-pitched and incessant drone to add humor and depth to the score.  Laughing at the misfortune of dealing with the evasive and persistent mosquito also tends to be coupled with a good dose of hyperbole to express the sheer frustration caused by them. Take, for example, this illustrated envelope from our Pen and Ink Collection.


While the swarms of mosquitoes featured in this piece labelled "Pleasures of Minnesota Life" may be larger and more ferocious than those in real life, the exaggeration evokes the size of the artist's despair in trying to outrun and outwit the pests in "Mosquito Swamp, Min."

Another type of "mosquito swamp" appears in an illustrated survey map from our Samuel Williams Papers. Samuel Williams served as the chief clerk in the Northwest Territory surveyor general's office, and this map may have been a light-hearted joint effort with his brother, William. Near the center of the survey, the "Musquito Breeding Swamp" would surely be a place to avoid.


This sampling from our collections hints at the long-standing irritation with these summertime pests. As Edward Fenno, of our Fenno-Hoffman Family Papers, lamented while suffering through a New Orleans summer in 1823, mosquitoes "are an obstacle to all improvement of the mind… one must be made of most impenetrable stuff to withstand their attacks." Alternatively, we can sing the praises of the 21st century while using copious amounts of insect repellent.

Friday, July 1, 2016

New Additions to Exhibit on Clements Library Collecting

Tobias Lear, A Minute Account of the Last Sickness and Death of George Washington, Mount Vernon, Virginia: December 14, 1799. Tobias Lear Papers.

Just inside the great bronze doors of the Clements Library, visitors will find an exhibit about the collecting history of the institution. "Clements Library: A Century of Collecting, 1903-2016" uses original examples of Americana from the collection to show how Clements and the four directors who have guided the place since 1923 built up the Library's holdings. The pieces on exhibit are rotated every three months to minimize their exposure to light.

New additions to the exhibit will go on display July 1, 2016. These include a letter describing the dying hours of President Washington; a note from Rachel Revere to her husband, Paul; a watercolor view of a War of 1812 POW camp; and a view of the infant town of York (Toronto) in 1803.

The exhibit is open to the public each Friday 
from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.