The theme for the open house was “STEM and Beyond.” It featured rare and unique materials related to the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. “Though the focus is on the STEM disciplines, there is something for everyone,” said Head of Special Collections Jessica Lacher-Feldman. “Our oldest photograph, a daguerreotype image of Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s wife Varina Davis from the late 1840s or early 1850s, will be on display. It represents a huge technological breakthrough of its time, where chemistry, art, and technology met.”
Hill Memorial Library is home to more than 5,000 manuscript collections and tens of thousands of rare books. The holdings represent human history, as well as the history and culture of Louisiana and the Lower Mississippi Valley. One item that will be featured is a relatively new acquisition, Institutiones geometricae of Albrecht Dürer, widely considered to be one of the most important works of the artistic Renaissance in Northern Europe. Divided into four parts, the first two focus on linear and two-dimensional geometry. In the third, Dürer discusses how these principles can be applied to architecture, engineering, painting, and type design. The final section tackles linear perspective, or how to accurately represent a three-dimensional scene on a flat canvas or piece of paper—one of the great developments of Renaissance art. It was Dürer, in large part, who helped spread this concept from Italy to the rest of Europe, an important step down the long road that has now brought us to 3-D computer graphics.
The event featured demonstrations of some of the work we do, including minor conservation work such as making enclosures; processing and cataloging; and digitizing and microfilming. There will also be information on projects and areas in Special Collections, including the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, the Civil War Book Review, and two grant projects relating to digitizing newspapers and materials about Louisiana’s Free People of Color.
The open house was also an opportunity for the public to talk with curators, subject specialists, and other staff about how Special Collections materials help further research, scholarship, and teaching at every level.
In addition to the showcase of collections, projects, and processes, there were two exhibits in Hill’s gallery areas, both of which touched upon the STEM disciplines. “The Greater University: LSU Agricultural and Mechanical College” features historical documents and photographs that tell the story of LSU’s expansion and move to the present campus from downtown Baton Rouge in 1926. Materials are drawn from the University Archives, housed in the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections. Selected items highlighted the diverse experiences of Louisianans over the past century in rural and urban regions, from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.