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Kai Alexis Smith
Book a Space and Program Coordinator
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Page Turnings at Pequot Library
Make your event at Pequot Library truly unique by including an exploration of some of the internationally important treasures in our Special Collections. Our staff will showcase and turn the pages of our treasures so you and your guests can have an unforgettable experience.
Pequot’s Special Collections form a vibrant portrait of the literary, religious, political, military, musical, and cultural life of America at the time of the Library’s founding. This is one of the most important and impeccably selected collections of its kind in the country.
The Pequot Library Special Collections are about history, but they are about other things as well. There are hundreds of editions of most of the great works in the canon of English Literature. There is an exceptional array of Presidential papers from George Washington to Dwight David Eisenhower. They are about art and architecture. They are about the beauty and diversity of the natural world around us even as it is disappearing at an alarming rate.
These Collections have a magic to them. They jump to life. They are full of cross currents and interconnections, and are a source of pride and joy and inspiration for us all.
There are three section sections in the Special Collections that are particularly popular, but there are over 30,000 items to choose from. Work with our staff to select the topic that appeals to you, and make them part of your special event at Pequot!
1. NATURAL HISTORY
The unspoiled, natural world in America was beginning to disappear as Pequot Library was being founded. Natural history was of particular interest to all involved with the creation of the Library’s Special Collections, and, as a result, it has some of the very best works available in the field.
The flagship of the Natural History section of the collection is, of course, the Bien edition of Audubon’s Birds of America. This breathtakingly beautiful double elephant folio is considered by some to be one of the most important early examples of the chromolithographic process through which the plates were produced.
There are other beautifully illustrated volumes in the Natural History collection, and some that are even more beautiful than the Audubon. The John Gould volumes on hummingbirds are considered to be among the finest ornithological illustrations of the 19th century. They are a tour de force of the hand-colored lithograph as a medium. Gold leaf, transparent oil colors, water colors, lacquers and gum Arabic are combined to capture the iridescent quality of these most colorful of birds.
Daniel Giraud Elliot’s books on birds were not constrained by the lack of funding that hamstringed Audubon. Elliot was one of the founders of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and curator of zoology at the Field Museum in Chicago. Elliot used his wealth to publish a series of sumptuous color-plate books on birds and animals.
These books are full of breathtaking beauty and they represent the art of the book at its best. Those attending your event at Pequot Library will never forget seeing them and leave grateful for the opportunity.
Genealogy has never been more popular than it is today. In an increasingly rootless world, from Web sites to shows on PBS and NBC, we are all interested in finding out more about our families. A great deal of this new interest springs out of the internet, but all of it comes back to the documentary sources contained in historical collections like the one at Pequot Library. It is here that the hard facts are found, where the proof is established and often the only trace of an individual family member’s life is documented.
This section shows the enduring appeal of genealogy from the early days of the Republic up to today. The material it contains is full of the history of families and the communities in which they lived. A few minutes spent with some of the treasures in this section of the Library’s Special Collections is often all it takes to launch someone on a remarkably satisfying exploration of their own family history.
3. THE CIVIL WAR
The Library’s materials on the Civil War are rich and remarkably personal. The collection, it will be remembered, was assembled only 20 years after this horrible conflict that left an indelible mark on the country, and especially on the generation that founded Pequot Library.
This part of the Special Collections starts with the deep, unresolved issues left over from the Revolutionary War and the ingrained racism that cast a shadow over the promise of the country. Included here is the verbatim text of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, a fascinating document in today’s context of sound bites and YouTube. How appropriate it is that these collections also include a strong section on Abraham Lincoln.
Young men went off to war and to die from all the states whose history is documented in Pequot Library Special Collections. As if creating a memorial to that loss, the bright minds that assembled this collection proceed regiment by regiment across the battlefield, collecting the memoirs, published diaries, and log books, allowing those who were there to tell their first-hand story.
The result is an overwhelming picture of bravery, loss, incompetence, brilliance and everything in between. There are very few collections that tell such a complete story of the Civil War and demonstrate how important Pequot Library’s Special Collections really are.