Same Object, Different Audiences

By Elliot Shore
February 2011

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Castle BookCastle Book of Hours #2, use of Rouen. Manuscript, written and illustrated in Rouen, France, mid-15th century. Bryn Mawr College Library.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The encounter of the person with the object: that is the object of this journal and the focus of this first issue.   This particular object, the Castle Book of Hours #2, a gift to the Bryn Mawr College Library, has been in my hands several times and is now part of an exhibition of objects from the College’s Special Collections.  All of the objects in the exhibition have been in the hands of students and faculty over the years, encountered in classrooms, used in assignments, touched.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 How do people encounter the Castle Book of Hours #2? We get some answer to this question in “Worlds to Discover”, an exhibit in honor of the 125th anniversary of Bryn Mawr College. The exhibit features objects that are set off by statements from students and faculty about how the object matters.  With this Book of Hours, faculty member Martha Easton remarks that instead of one page – out of context – when one has this manuscript in one’s hands, one gets a better sense of how this object “might have been used and consumed.” The encounters for Anne Harding, a student at Bryn Mawr, seem to be moving her towards a career that will keep her in touch with objects like these.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 I want to point to another encounter with this same object.  The teacher of a fifth grade art class, teaching the students to create their own illuminated manuscripts, asked that I bring in examples of illuminated manuscripts, and this was one of two that I brought along.  The fascination to the students was two-fold:  one, was the value of the object – how much was it worth?  This is something that college students ask too, so I say something like – well, as much as maybe a house is worth.  But that fascination was replaced quickly by the issue at hand:  the students had work to do; they were creating their own illumination and they wanted to use and consume this manuscript themselves.  Each of them had an initial letter, the first letter in their first name, to create for their own manuscript.  So the hunt was on, and luckily for them and for me, each of those letters could be found in the pages of this manuscript. Unlike Easton and Harding, the fifth graders themselves consumed the manuscripts, as opposed to getting the sense of how the manuscript was consumed.  They served as a reminder of the many ways that objects now in special collections speak to those who encounter them, from the first users of the Castle Book of Hours #2 to 21st-century students of all ages.

Same Object, Different Audiences

Elliot Shore

Constance A. Jones Director of Libraries and Professor of History — Bryn Mawr College

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