Many people know of the Library of Congress and take time to visit it’s beautiful Jefferson Building while here in Washington, D.C. But they may not realize that the core of the library was Thomas Jefferson’s own collection of books. Jefferson was an avid reader and acquired books throughout his lifetime. He eventually amassed the largest personal collection in the United States at the time. Then came the War of 1812, when the British burned Congress’s first library of 1000 titles. Jefferson offered to sell his library of 6,487 volumes to Congress. They purchased it for $23,950 in 1815. Sadly, a second fire in the library in 1851 destroyed approximately 4000 of those books.
Over the past ten years, the Library of Congress has been attempting to re-create the original Jefferson collection. Working with book dealers in the U.S. and Europe, they have managed to locate copies of most of the books. (There are still about 300 very rare books that are missing and may never be found.) The books are on display at the library, in the same configuration that they were at Jefferson’s Monticello home: in a spiral, organized into the categories of memory, reason, and imagination. The exhibit is behind glass, but visitors can look through the books digitally on computers using touch-screen technology to turn the pages.
To see photos of some of the books in Jefferson’s Library, visit the exhibit at http://myloc.gov/exhibitions/jeffersonslibrary/Pages/default.aspx
What is art? Critics have debated this question forever. Here is a funny yet thoughtful discussion of the subject, presented in claymation by a host of gregarious animal characters. Though they don’t answer the question definitively, they make some pertinent points.
These landscapes by British photographer Carl Warner are composed of the stuff of grocery stores and farmers’ markets. Fruits, vegetables, and grains all serve to suggest landscape elements. The artist photographs individual components while his subjects are fresh, then digitally constructs the layers into finished scenes. To see more of Warner’s work, visit the haha.nu blogzine or Warner’s fancy website (requiring Flash 6 or above).
Matt Schlian does amazing things with paper! But even more fascinating is his collaborative work with scientists at the University of Michigan. There they are studying how paper folding relates to protein structure. Mis-folded proteins are suspected to be one of the causes of Alzehimer’s disease, for example, and paper folding on a nano scale might lead to a better understanding of how to correct this problem. To see images of Matt’s work and read more about this project, visit marcusprize.blogspot.com/2008/02/matt-schlian.html and also his website www.mattschlian.com
Since August, 2003, artist Shelley Jackson has been “publishing” her 2095-word story, one word at a time. Volunteers to the project agree to tattoo a word that Shelly assigns to them somewhere on their bodies. The word must be in a classic font and large enough to be readable by the naked eye. The project is ongoing, and documentation of it can be seen at her web site, www.inedradicablestain.com If you want to volunteer for your own word, you can sign up through the site.