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.: Traveling Exhibitions

Picturing Words: The Power of Book Illustration

National Museum of American History curators Helena Wright and Joan Boudreau created the panel exhibit for the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. It showcases reproductions of some of the world's greatest pieces of illustration from the Libraries' collection of rare books and documents. Through historic illustrations, viewers of the exhibit are able to see what inspires and drives graphic art. Andreas Vesalius, an early physician and progressive scientist, wrote the book "De Humani Corporis Fabrica" (1543) with illustrations of the human body showing muscles pulled back to see what was underneath. The illustrations of Vesalius changed the way people looked at the human form and helped develop modern medicine. Letters have been shown to be inspiration for some writers, as seen through the graphic images from children's alphabet books; and pictures drawn with a calligraphic style add a degree of artistry to poems about birds in Armand Monjo's "Tu l'as vu l'oiseau?" (1993). The labor-intensive engraving process is shown through meticulously rendered illustrations, such as "The Wood Beyond the World" by William Morris (1894), giving the viewer an appreciation for the thought, time and effort that went into his work.

Individual panels of the exhibit vividly demonstrate how illustrations catch readers' eyes, draw them into their reading material and make a more direct connection to the information. A website featuring the exhibit may be viewed at www.sil.si.edu/exhibitions/PicturingWords.


Doodles, Drafts and Designs: Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian

A Traveling Exhibition organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Click here for the tour schedule.

This exhibition presents examples of industrial drawings in the collections of the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Some are working drawings, ideas sketched in pencil or ink. Others are more finished, designed for presentation. A few are printed, either as sales material or as part of a patent application. They visually document American industrial creativity, from inventor's hand and investor's boardroom, to patent office, factory floor, and manufacturer's showroom.

As you look at these drawings and printed documents, think about their aesthetic merit and the ways they reflect the skills and knowledge of their creators. But also consider their purpose. These drawings capture on paper key aspects of technological and industrial process. They document thought, organization, work, and production. A website featuring the exhibit may be viewed a www.sil.si.edu/exhibitions/doodles/.

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