Connected \\ November 28, 2016
Fly Me to the Moon
As a reference librarian one of my favorite parts of my job is helping researchers find the answers to their (many) burning questions. Most often, this involves working with our patrons in the reading room. However, on several happy occasions, it has meant working with the PEM curatorial staff doing exhibition research and development. Most recently, the library has worked in close conjunction with the curatorial team working on Lunar Attractions, which just opened in the Art and Nature Center.
Cart of lunar related library materials. Courtesy of the author.
Over a year ago, members from the curatorial and interpretation departments emailed the reference team asking what we could find in the collection related to the moon, ranging from materials on lunar phases, technologies, and even superstitions and werewolf culture. After filling a cart with dozens of resources from the 1500s through to the present day, we had a show-and-tell and went through each item for potential research and exhibition value. At the end of the day, the exhibition designers chose five items from the library’s collection to go on display.
Edward Holyoke solar eclipse, MSS 49, Box 2, Folder 2. Courtesy Sarah Jennette.
Framed and installed on the wall gallery in the exhibit, is a page from a manuscript collection belonging to Edward Holyoke (1689-1769). Holyoke was an amateur astronomer and former President of Harvard College. In this work, dated 1713, Holyoke drew a solar eclipse alongside his astronomical observations, complete with multiple faces of the man in the moon. This is a common motif in our collections related to astronomical research. In the image below, Nathaniel Bowditch made a similar artistic decision in his rendering of a solar eclipse from 1811.