Secrets From The Vault

Readers and Vandals in the Ramey Collection

In September 2014, I began an internship in the Department of Printed Books and Bindings at the Morgan Library & Museum while studying for a Master’s of Library Science degree with an emphasis on Special Collections. My academic background is in French literature and cultural studies. The department was looking for an intern to work on the Ramey Collection, and I was pleased to arrive in the right place at the right time.

Rembrandt’s Interiors

Rembrandt’s portrait prints of secular patrons—city officials, physicians and apothecaries, dealers, collectors, and fellow artists—generally depict individuals he knew well. While in most cases, the focus is chiefly on the sitters, in a handful of highly ambitious works, the artist places them in carefully described interior spaces.

Rick Barton: A Curatorial Serial, Part I

Exhibitions are often multiyear projects. With a monographic exhibition—one that focuses on a single artist—the subject, even when not alive, can come to feel like a significant presence in the life of a curator. As someone who has focused on artists who came to prominence in the second half of the increasingly historical twentieth century, I have been fortunate to “get to know” some of the late artists I have worked on, not only through research in libraries and archives, but also through conversations with the artists’ familes, friends, and acquaintances.

Rick Barton: A Curatorial Serial, Part III

In the early days of 2018, I arrived in Los Angeles with appointments to see Henry Evans’s Peregrine Press papers at the Clark Memorial Library and a cache of over 700 drawings by Rick Barton at UCLA Library Special Collections. Although I had been assured that the drawings would be available, I worried that something might go wrong or that the drawings would not have been worth the trip.

Rick Barton: A Curatorial Serial, Part IV–Conclusion

In early 2018, I received the welcome news that UCLA Library Special Collections would consider lending drawings by Rick Barton to an exhibition at the Morgan. Moreover, more than 600 drawings that had not been located at the time of my visit were now available to view. My next opportunity to travel to Los Angeles would not arrive until October of that year. But in the interim, I made a number of crucial discoveries.

Robert Burns on Auld Lang Syne

In the early 1790s the Scottish music collector George Thomson approached Robert Burns, asking for help in compiling and editing his Select Collection of Original Scotish Airs. Burns readily agreed (although with the proviso that his name not be attached to the publication), and the nearly 60 letters from Burns to Thomson that survive are filled to the brim with working and fair copies of some of Burns’s most famous songs.

One letter, written in early September of 1793, discusses in detail no fewer than 74 songs – and it is within this letter, buried nearly at the end, that we find his full text to Auld Lang Syne.

Shiva Ahmadi's Tower

My attraction to Shiva Ahmadi’s Tower (2017) was immediate, but it is a challenging work in both its content and execution. In discussing it, I find it helpful to speak in terms of dualities: seduction and repulsion, translucency and opacity, chaos and control, background and foreground. Ahmadi has done this herself in quotations like the one above.