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Spoonful of Sugar: Medicinal Preparation in the Domestic Sphere

Meredith E. Torre, Guest Curator
December 1, 2006 - February 28, 2007

About the Curator

Meredith Torre and Terry Burton

Meredith E. Torre, UW School of Information and Library Science graduate student (MLS 2007), created a practicum project consisting of 140 hours of project development, research, selection, created promotional materials, and oversaw the final arrangement of an exhibition in the Historical Reading Room of the Ebling Library.

Meredith's reflections of the exhibit are below.

(Meredith and Terry Burton, Director of the Ebling Library)

This exhibit was completed for the practicum requirement and in partial fulfillment of the MA degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Wisconsin.  Overseen by the Historical Services Staff of Micaela Sullivan-Fowler and Mary Hitchcock, this practicum allowed me to explore the rare book librarian’s professional role. Beyond being able to look at and hold "old books," it showed me how this role is multifaceted and interwoven into many areas of librarianship, such as outreach and community cooperative ventures. Opportunities to receive training specific to this field are limited and positions within the field are competitive.  Creating this exhibit offered me the opportunity to develop specialized skills and acquire practical knowledge and experience that is sometimes difficult to find prior to entering the profession.

By creating this exhibit I gained a familiarity with rare books themselves.  I had handled rare books through my training and work in book conservation, but I wanted to further develop the skills to examine rare books within their historical context. Exhibits are visual, so I had to expand my perceptions of how visual cues functioned; illustrations needed to be not merely attractive, but have the ability to shape the story or theme being conveyed.  Images and artifacts need to work well with each other to create a logical path for the patron to follow. In order to meet these requirements, I considered the history of the sources and organized them in a way that would best present information in a proficient, yet engaging way.  Also, I learned, depending on the number of cases one uses, each case must be able to stand on its own within the overall exhibit. The organization, use of artifacts to supplement the chosen images, and use of succinct and concise text is a necessity to fill a case without being too crowded or spare.

In order to supplement images within the exhibition, I collaborated with the Special Collections of Memorial Library and the American Historical Institute of Pharmacy staff.  Working with a variety of institutions to create this exhibit allowed me to develop and understand the nature of loaning and social obligations, potential for collaboration and outreach, and limitations of this specialty in librarianship.

I hope those who have visited the exhibition, both in person and online, will carry away a sense of curiosity for the history that the books represent and the story the exhibit told.  I selected from these materials just a few aspects of their historical relevance, but the thrill of rare books is their inexhaustible potential to have more than one layer of meaning and to continue to tell good stories. 

This online exhibit has been brought to you by Historical Services at the Ebling Library, University of Wisconsin Madison.

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The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
Ebling Library
Health Sciences Learning Center
750 Highland Ave
Madison, WI  53705-2221
(608) 262-2020

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