The Morgan Book Project is an annual extended-learning program open and free to New York City public school teachers who work with grades 3–12. Over the course of the school year, students learn about medieval illuminated manuscripts and have the opportunity to work with traditional art-making tools and materials in order to build a book of their own creation with the help of their teachers and Morgan Education Department staff.
During the 2019–20 school year, over 800 students from 24 schools across all five boroughs participated in the Morgan Book Project. Classes visited the museum in person, where our professional educators introduced students to medieval illuminated manuscripts in the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library. In hands-on workshops, students put historic techniques into practice, as they learned to make paint by grinding natural resources into pigments. Red saffron threads amazingly transformed into yellow, and tiny cochineal beetles turned into a purplish-red. Students became gilders as they applied 22-karat gold leaf to their illustrations. They discussed trade along the ancient Silk Road and the intricacies of the medieval global economy. Many were surprised to learn that lapis lazuli stones, which produce a beautiful ultramarine-blue pigment, were once more valuable than gold!
Back in the classroom, work began on individual books. In Elizabeth Fidoten’s art class at the High School for Contemporary Arts in the Bronx, Daisy Hernandez (12th grade) created What You Capture in a Snap about the beauty, and sometimes ugliness, that can be captured with the snap of a camera. At Hunter Elementary School in Manhattan, third-grade students focused on insects under the guidance of teachers Inna Kruvi and Gabbie Carpenter. Arya Shah’s All About the Beautiful Demoiselle Dragonfly, Emily Stoyanov’s The Fire Ant, and Fiona Tushman’s The Amazing Monarch Butterfly are all views into this wonderful world. Over at Goose Grease House for the Arts in Brooklyn, an after-school program run by Juan and Anna Donado, two standout contributions this year are Haiku Bird Book by Zia Salgado Hendranto (3rd grade) and The Scientist by Hayes Chamberlain (4th grade).
The Morgan Book Project usually culminates each year in May with an awards ceremony held at the museum. Always a very festive occasion, teachers, principals, and families are invited to celebrate the hard work and ingenuity of our student scribes and illustrators. An independent judging panel made up of professional book authors and artists select approximately sixty student books to be featured in a one-day installation open to the public prior to the ceremony. Twelve of the most outstanding works remain at the museum for a month-long exhibition entitled “Inspiring and Illuminating the Classroom,” with one additional book chosen by Morgan Director Colin B. Bailey.
Unfortunately, in light of Covid-19, judging and the ceremony could not go on as planned this year. However, we at the Morgan Library & Museum recognize and salute all of our 2019–20 Morgan Book Project participants. We appreciate your creativity, curiosity, dedication, and incredible work. Your unique storytelling, in both words and pictures, makes us proud and is what makes the Morgan Book Project truly wonderful! We also acknowledge the generous support of Marina Kellen French and the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation for making this program possible.
Assistant Manager of School Programs
The Morgan Library & Museum