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The Armchair traveler in Rare Books

The Library has these exhibit cases.  We’ve been doing what we can to say that because the exhibit cases used to belong to A&SC but they’re not all that practical for most of the exhibits that we do these days.  The cases are flat cases so you mostly have to look down on them from above and that’s not all that ideal for photo exhibits like we typically do.  But there is a certain expectation that we’ll make use of them if they’re not in use by others.  I’ll agree that they do need to be kept filled as they’re in the middle of the Library’s Great Room and empty exhibit cases down there just look strange.  Plus there’s nowhere to store them so it’s not like they can just be put away when not in use.  But I’ve been rather reluctant to use them (this is Arlene, I don’t want anybody else taking the blame for this) since I really think 3-d objects work better in them than flat items like photos or docs.

As the exhibit cases are empty and unscheduled for the next few months and in a weird bit of serendipity, I’ve been working in the Rare Books collection a lot of late, it was time to do something about both things.  Mostly I’m just doing a shelving shift, trying to free up some space for some large incoming collections.  And itching a lot.  I would rather not know what’s on some of these books.  And I’ve been discovering some treasures (along with red rot and lots of paper dust).

So in the spirit of the photographs exhibit we have up right now–Alaskans Indoors–and in the spirit of the season which for most Alaskans is Travel Season, we thought it would be fun to pull some of the travel-oriented books and display them.  Now, not necessarily leisure travel.  A lot of these are books related to exploring expeditions such as Cook’s voyages, North Pole attempts and so forth.  In the short time (maybe 15 minutes?) I spent putting the books in the cases, at least 3 people stopped by to look at them.  That’s not a bad return on time investment.  If you’re around, go look closer.  There’s a very charming account from a man in South America who–judging by the page on display–spent some evenings trying to get his hostelry’s resident vampire bat to bite him on the foot.  Okay, so I didn’t read the whole account so I’m not sure what type of vampire he was trying to get to bite him on the foot, but I have to presume.  Not that I’m an expert on vampire preferences, bats or otherwise.

And now that I’ve gone completely off the rails, back to being an armchair traveler.  Not a lot of armchairs in the A&SC research area, but the chairs aren’t bad.  And we’re pleasant company.  So go take a look at the library catalog–you can even limit your search to Rare Books by selecting the Consortium Library and then selecting the Rare Books collection in the Advanced Search option–pick a few topics and see what comes up.  We’ll gladly pull them for you to look at while you visit.  And we’ll give you gloves to wear while handling them, too.  Not so much to protect the books as to protect you.  Trust me, the itching is annoying.


  1. I wonder if the man trying to get bit by a vampire helped inspire Stephanie Meyer’s development the character Bella. Bella spent a lot of time fixating on getting bit 🙁

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