Library collections, archives and other information that aren't accessible online, and how to find them. Use the links at top right to ask a question or submit a post. Contact: jacquelinekbarlow [at] gmail [dot] com or tweet @thatsnotonline

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Smell, part five: Musée international de la parfumerie, Grasse, France

Image courtesy Vanity Fair.

The Musée international de la parfumerie, in Grasse, birthplace of the luxury perfume trade, boasts 50,000 items related to the history of perfume. Since its 2009 renovation the museum offers olfactory tours, allowing participants to sample various scents in the perfumery’s collection. Also available are interactive exhibits for children, a contemporary art collection, and a garden of sweet-smelling plants such as centifolia rose, jasmine, and orange blossom.

The collections of the Musée may be searched here, along with those of the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Provence and the Villa-Musée Jean-Honoré Fragonard (search facility in French only).

The Musee received much attention when it reopened in 2009, after a four-year renovation. You can watch a report from France 24 on the Museum’s 2009 reopening, listen to this NPR story, or read an article from Vanity Fair.

Click here to download a guide and schedule of exhibitions at the Musée, and for contact information.

Click here to see previous posts in That’s Not Online’s series on smell.

Smell, part three: Museu del Perfum / Museo del Perfume, Barcelona

While the Osmothèque in Versailles covers the history of perfumery as a science, Barcelona’s Museo del Perfume (site in Spanish and Catalan) takes it a bit farther than that. With the very grand claim that “la historia de la perfumería es tan antigua como la historia de la humanidad" (the history of perfumery is as old as the history of humanity), the Museo lays claim to over 5000 bottles, miniatures, catalogues, labels, and old advertising relating to the history of perfume from prehistory to the present day, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel, Greece, the Phoenicians and Carthage, Rome, Islamic civilizations, and the Renaissance. All this is organized into two parts: one containing flasks, bottles and jars from ancient civilisations and the Modern era, and the other containing relics from the current, industrialized era of perfumes.

Scent itself is not the focus of this collection, founded in 1961, but rather the receptacles that have held the various ointments, oils and other liquids with which people have perfumed themselves throughout the ages. These containers tell us something about the centrality of perfume in human history, as Ramon Planas, the Museum’s founder, explains:

El perfume, en todos los tiempos ha sido y es, un producto apreciado y valioso, por lo que, los frascos y demás recipientes que los han contenido, han destacado, desde siempre, por ser originales en sus formas, o valiosos en los materiales empleados, o ambas cosas a la vez.

(Throughout history perfume has been and is a valued and valuable product, inasmuch as the bottles and other receptacles that have contained it have always been designed to be original in form, or valuable in the materials used, or both at once.)

For those who cannot visit the museum, una mini visita has been constructed consisting of photographs and information on selected pieces, as well as some information on the perfumes contained within. It is not clear what percentage of the collection may be viewed online. This gallery, like the museum itself, is divided into precommercial and commercial collections. 

Although (according to this reviewer) it does not provide samples of historical perfumes, El Museo del Perfume has been included in our series on smell as a reminder of the importance of smells and perfumes — which, so far, can’t be transmitted via the internet — to the human experience. But the museum has been criticised for “turning the olfactory art into a visual one, which is more familiar and therefore less challenging”: see this 2011 interview with Chandler Burr, former perfume critic for the New York Times and current director and curator of the Center of Olfactory Art in New York City. (Watch this space for more on the COA!)

El Museo del Perfume is located in the back of the Perfumería Regia in the centre of Barcelona. Click here for their location and opening hours, or check their list of useful links for more information on perfumes and perfumery.

Smell, part one: L’Osmothèque

That’s Not Online! reader and idea-generator Vassiliki Veros (@VaVeros, shallowreader.wordpress.com) has suggested a post on the olfactory sense. We’ll take it, since we haven’t gone wrong with her suggestions yet: previous posts inspired by Vassiliki were those on Wood and Meteora Monasteries. And of course, smells can’t be transmitted online (yet). As it turns out, though, there is more than one institution worldwide dedicated to preserving the history of scent. One such is the Osmothèque in Versailles (website in French only).

The Osmothèque takes its name from the ancient Greek words osme, meaning smell, and theke, meaning repository or receptacle. True to its name, then, the Osmothèque’s mission is to “protège le patrimoine mondial de la parfumerie" (protect the world heritage of perfumery). The brainchild of the Commission technique de la Société française des Parfumeurs and founded with the support of the Comité du Parfum and the Versailles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Osmothèque was inaugurated on 26 April 1990. At the time, the perfume enthusiasts and devotees who founded the institution had in their possession 400 perfumes, 70 of which were no longer in production. Today that collection has grown to 2300 perfumes, of which 400 are no longer being produced. Frangrantica (page in English) reports that the Osmothèque is in possession of 170 formulae for historical perfumes. According to the Versailles Office of Tourism, the Osmothèque played a key role in recreating Marie Antoinette’s perfume in 2007. Read more about the Osmothèque’s collection; see France Today for a brief history in English.

A team of “osmothècaires” delivers olfactory training and conferences in Versailles, on the campus of the Institut Supérieur International du Parfum de la Cosmétique et de l’Aromatique Alimentaire (ISIPCA). Through a partnership with the Academy of Perfumery and Aromatics, “Osmothèque-based presentations" are also available in New York City.

The Osmothèque is supported by the Société des Amis de l’Osmothèque; to become un ami, follow the joining instructions. To learn more, try a conference, visit, or cultural activity, where you will be able to sniff scented mouillettes of many perfumes. By appointment only.

Contact:

36 rue du parc de Clagny
78 000 VERSAILLES
FRANCE
Tel : 01.39.55.46.99
email: osmotheque@wanadoo.fr

Ashington Group collection at the Woodhorn Museum

"Pit Yard" by W Crichton courtesy of Woodhorn Museum.

The Ashington Group was an amateur art group founded by miners in the Northumberland town of Ashington in 1934. They originally came together for an art appreciation class; when they became dissatisfied with the class, the instructor suggested they make their own art. The group gained some renown, and their work was exhibited in Newscastle and London, as well as composing the first exhibition of Western art in China after the Cultural Revolution.

Much of the group’s appeal had to do with their relatively humble origins:

…it represented a true development of documentary culture. These men painted their own lives, testified to experiences that no one else, from trained art backgrounds, could truly understand. When the war came, the men painted the building of shelters, the arrangements for gas masks, for evacuation, for extra shifts and Dig for Victory.

The current exhibition at the Woodhorn Museum is comprised of what were considered to be the best pieces produced by the group, some others having been sold for fundraising back when the group was operating out of a hut in Ashington. The remaining collection of eight-six paintings now occupies a purpose-built gallery at Woodhorn. It is not available online, save for eighteen small representative images on the gallery’s website.

The story of the Ashington Group was recently dramatized by playwright Lee Hall and is currently on at London’s Duchess Theatre. The play is based on the book by William Feaver.

The Chicago Read/Write Library

Image courtesy of readwritelibrary.org.

About a month ago we reblogged a photo set on the Chicago Read/Write Library. A further review of the subject shows that this is an institution after our own heart, and deserves a bit more attention, especially with an acquisitions policy like this:

We accept everything from the area (ever), regardless of perceived quality or importance in order to create a detailed index from which connections among the publications will emerge.

It’s like the Library of Congress of Chicago, except more comprehensive.

Their catalogue contains about 700 items and may be searched here.  For their most obscure items of all, take a look at the Obscurity Meter. A few gems:

Locations of catalogued items are generally in the Chicago area though some are as far afield as Pennsylvania and Oregon.

The website is light on information about the Library’s founders and history. The New York Times reports that the library, formerly known as the Chicago Underground Library, has been around for about six years and had as many homes, and is staffed entirely by volunteers.

The Chicago Read/Write Library is on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and can be emailed here.

The Vatican Library, mostly, for now

In March 2010, the Vatican announced that they would be digitizing, in conjunction with Hewlett Packard, 80,000 manuscripts equal to about 40 million pages. The project has a planned duration of 10 years and three phases, employing from 60 to 120 people at a time. At the moment, it does not appear that any of these documents may yet be viewed digitally.

The Vatican Apostolic Library has a long history. Evidence of a manuscript collection in the Roman church dates back to the fourth century and the first Vatican librarian to the eighth. (Given this it is perhaps fitting that the Vatican has its own School of Library Science.) The collection itself has moved between France and Italy only returning to the Holy See in 1891. In the seventeenth century the library was augmented by libraries “of princely or private origin”, many of which have been maintained as separate collections. The twentieth century saw further acquisition of entire libraries as well as substantial physical and technological development. See the Library’s website for a detailed history.

At the present time the Vatican Library “preserves over 180,000 manuscripts (including 80,000 archival units), 1,600,000 printed books, about 8,400 incunabula, over 300,000 coins and medals, 150,000 prints, drawings and engravings and over 150,000 photographs.”  This means the manuscripts selected for digitization count for about 44% of the entire manuscript collection and represent a fraction of the Vatican’s holdings.

The Vatican provides several online catalogues: search the catalogue of printed books, the manuscript collection, the collection of prints and drawings, and that of coins and medals. Information on each collection may be found on the catalogues page. Unavailable manuscripts are listed here.

The website provides details of the criteria for admission, including necessary documentation. Eligible readers will be issues a “reader’s ticket”, valid from the day of issue until the next annual closing, which according to their calendar starts in mid-July and ends mid-September. Photographic reproductions may be requested only if you have registered on the private area of the website. Rules for readers are quite extensive. Maps of the reading rooms are provided.

See also this clip about the digitization of the Vatican’s photographic archives. Please note that this post does not cover the Vatican’s Secret Archives.

Rare Books and Archives at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine

Image courtesy The Osler Photo Collection.

Sir William Osler, by the time of his death the most famous physician of his era, was born in Bond Head, Ontario, Canada in 1849.  He obtained his medical qualifications from McGill University in 1871, went on to help found the Johns Hopkins Hospital and medical school, and rounded off his career as Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, a post he held from 1905 until his death in 1919.  Osler was the author of The Principles and Practice of Medicine, for decades a key medical text.  He was also a collector of rare medical and scientific books.

Osler bequeathed his considerable collection of rare books to his alma mater.  These 8000 books, listed in the Biblioteca Osleriana, now form the heart of a collection of about 100,000, comprising rare and archival materials as well as current books and periodicals.  To date, the Osler Library has digitized two photographic collections: The William Osler Photo Collection and the Marjorie Howard Futcher Photo Collection (the daughter of an influential McGill University physician, Futcher’s photo albums feature many notable figures in medical history).

The Osler Library provides finding aids for the following collections:

All books and periodicals, rare and otherwise, held by the Osler Library are listed in the McGill University Library catalogue.

Charlie Chaplin’s Zepped

On Wednesday, 29th June, Bonhams will auction off the only known surviving copy of Zepped, a seven-minute Charlie Chaplin film that features the Little Tramp taking down a German zeppelin.  Until 2009, when Morace Park purchased the reel on Ebay for a pittance, this film had been lost to history. From the Guardian and the Daily Mail:

Park – who, when he is not buying and selling antiques as a hobby, runs a company that develops products with inventors – bought the film “from someone else who deals in bits and bobs”. When his parcel arrived, he didn’t even bother to open it for a while. But when he did, he unfurled a little of the film and saw the title: Charlie Chaplin in Zepped. “I Googled it,” he said, “and then my interest was pricked. I couldn’t find any sign of it on the internet.”

Further research by film historians showed that the film was probably produced in about 1916, as propaganda to reassure Britons concerned by zeppelin raids from Germany.  It was likely a compilation film, put together from existing footage, and possibly against Chaplin’s wishes.  An advertisement for a showing in Manchester in 1917 is the only surviving evidence of the film having shown publicly.

ClearChampion, an independent film production company, is currently producing a documentary about the lost film, The Rarest Film In the World?  See excerpts on their YouTube channel, or follow the project on Twitter here.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

This article in the Sun will have tipped many Britons off to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation’s INtervene Now! campaign, launched on 27th January 2011, World Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 66th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.  From the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum site:

INtervene Now!” is an initiative to engage individuals, organizations and governments around the world to protect and preserve the authentic remains of the Auschwitz concentration camp and the memory of the victims and survivors of one of the most heinous crimes in our history.

After 66 years, the camp and grounds, along with thousands of invaluable historical objects, face accelerated irreversible deterioration and natural erosion.  It is the mission of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation to create a Perpetual Capital Fund to finance long-term conservation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Site to safeguard it for future generations.

You can donate to this initiative through the Museum website.  There is also a Facebook page. The preservation plan is focused on preserving buildings, including drawings, inscriptions and wall paintings, as well as “thousands of moveable objects and documents that constitute evidence of the crimes committed at Auschwitz-Birkenau”.

The Museum already has a devoted preservation team; you can read about their activities here.  One current preservation effort involves the digitization of archival documents from the SS-Hygiene Institut.  Documents are scanned before and after preservation efforts, resulting in “a digital record that can be used in detailed historical studies.”  No link to a digital archive is provided, nor does there appear to be an online catalogue of the Museum’s holdings.  Other ongoing projects include the preservation of children’s shoes and of the remains of chimneys of barracks in Birkenau.

While some photographs are available through the museum site, like this gallery from the Let Us Build a Memory exhibition (other photographs of exhibitions and activities can be seen here), the images available represent only a fraction of the collection, and are not in sufficient detail to replace the experience of viewing the items firsthand.

The Jewish Virtual Library has compiled a directory of major concentration camps of the Nazi era, including locations and visitor information.

awesomearchives:

housingworksbookstore:

A rare book dealer, Ken Sanders, could not stop looking at what may have been the biggest findings of his career, when a man paid $2 to have his antique book examined.
“A gentleman walked in and said I’ve got a really important book here and I’m sitting there rolling my eyes and thing, ‘yeah, sure you do,’” Sanders said. “Then he opens it up and it’s a Nuremberg Chronicles from 1494.”
(via A 600-year-old book is found - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana)

I think book dealers live for these moments.

Yes, you can look at the Nuremberg Chronicle online — notably, at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek or the Morse Library of Beloit College.  But the thing about rare books is that, even if two copies were identical at first (unlikely in the 15th century), after five hundred years no two copies can be the same.  Printing or binding errors, smudges, marginalia will always distinguish one book from another, and so, for now, this amazing discovery remains offline only.

awesomearchives:

housingworksbookstore:

A rare book dealer, Ken Sanders, could not stop looking at what may have been the biggest findings of his career, when a man paid $2 to have his antique book examined.

“A gentleman walked in and said I’ve got a really important book here and I’m sitting there rolling my eyes and thing, ‘yeah, sure you do,’” Sanders said. “Then he opens it up and it’s a Nuremberg Chronicles from 1494.”

(via A 600-year-old book is found - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana)

I think book dealers live for these moments.

Yes, you can look at the Nuremberg Chronicle online — notably, at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek or the Morse Library of Beloit College.  But the thing about rare books is that, even if two copies were identical at first (unlikely in the 15th century), after five hundred years no two copies can be the same.  Printing or binding errors, smudges, marginalia will always distinguish one book from another, and so, for now, this amazing discovery remains offline only.

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