Typically, February 14th is a day set aside for love, flowers and candy. For those in a less romantic spirit, we suggest celebrating Ferris Wheel Day instead! Ferris Wheel Day celebrates the birthday of George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. and his most famous invention.
This image, from Hubert Howe Bancroft's The book of the fair : an historical and descriptive presentation of the world's science, art, and industry, as viewed through the Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893 (Chicago, San Francisco: The Bancroft Company, 1895), shows the very first Ferris Wheel at the Columbian Exposition's Midway Plaisance. Ferris build the attraction, sometimes know as the "Chicago Wheel", as a landmark for the Fair. After being dismantled and rebuilt multiple times all over the country, it was finally destroyed in 1906.
It’s hard to believe that my time at the Libraries has come to an end! Since there was a post about me here when I began my internship back in January, I thought I’d give a summary of what I’ve done since then.
I worked with Doug Dunlop through January, all of February, and the first week or so of March. For this assignment, Doug and I traveled to almost every branch in the Libraries, searching for images and information that may prove useful in the development of the Smithsonian Books proposal he’s working on, tentatively titled The Time-Traveler's Guide to the 19th Century. We spent hours looking for late 18th through early 20th century images with a “steampunk” feel that could illustrate the fictitious text about a time traveler’s encounters with James Smithson. This proved more challenging than it sounds, considering that steampunk is a very recent invention that relies on anachronistic technologies. Although we came across many images that we found hard to believe existed, Jules Verne and the World's Fairs tended to appear the most in our selections.
In March I transferred to the Libraries’ Research Annex in Maryland to organize boxes of paperwork related to special exhibits. I created a filing system that will help employees working on exhibitions to sort out what paperwork should be kept and what should be disposed of. These files ranged from the 1970s through the present. Papers could usually be sorted into one of about 10 categories, although there were thousands of sheets to sort relating to nearly every exhibit over the past 30 years.
In April, I moved out to the Dibner Library, the Libraries' rare book collection for the history of science and technology, and began enhancing catalog entries for the Heralds of Science collection. It’s been a treat to go through that collection, searching for details that might distinguish one copy of an edition from another. While there I’ve learned about gilt-tooled spines with brown leather labels, headpieces, tailpieces, initials, and marbled endpapers and edges, though I still haven’t learned enough Latin to read some of the titles. I wrote a blog entry during my time there in which I examined Johann Prüss’s Ortus Sanitatis.
I only got about halfway through the collection before moving to the Book Conservation Lab at the beginning of May. There I worked on the general collections with Phu Pham, doing paper repair, mixing wheat paste, sizing and folding boxes, creating enclosures, and shipping books out after work was completed.
I worked in the Book Conservation Lab until mid-June, when I returned to Dibner to finish work on the Heralds catalog entries. Once I completed that project, I worked on various other projects such as editing desiderata lists and cleaning recent acquisitions for my last couple of weeks at the Smithsonian. My final assignment was to go through dealer catalogues with collection growth and management in mind.
It’s been a busy few months, but I’ve learned many skills here that will help me as I enter library school at the University of North Carolina next month and continue on my career path.
But I also found some other interesting quotes on the subject, perfect for National Inventor's Day (which is in honor of Mr. Edison.)
“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success ... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”—Nikola Tesla
“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist of creating out of void, but out of chaos”—Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
“The greatest inventions were produced in the times of ignorance, as the use of the compass, gunpowder, and printing”—Jonathan Swift
“Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.”—Ambrose Bierce
“Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.”—Leonardo da Vinci
“These are bagpipes. I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the man-made sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig.”—Alfred Hitchcock
Masterpieces of the Centennial International Exhibition illustrated . . . Earl Shinn, Walter Smith and Joseph M. Wilson. Imprint: Philadelphia: Gebbie & Barrie, [1876-1878], p. cxlvi (vol. 3) ("Main Building - Central Avenue looking West").
International World’s Fairs and Expositions have been popular cultural events since the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London. The opportunity for visitors to see and experience new technologies, products, peoples, and ideas had a tremendous impact on the people who attended these world-wide events in Europe, North America, and Asia.
These fairs are of particular interest to Smithsonian researchers and to scholars from outside the Institution. They use the Libraries' World’s Fairs collection of original print editions or microfilm copies that include official reports by contributing organizations and government agencies or exhibition guides and maps given to visitors, to understand their impact on the modern world. Many of these unique publications came to the Smithsonian from people who had attended particular fairs or who collected literature from the many fairs that were held in the 19th, 20th and now 21st centuries.
The latest international fair, World Expo 2010, just opened in Shanghai, China. Should you or someone you know attend this latest world’s fair, please consider the Smithsonian Institution Libraries as a potential home for the published material that may be available at this newest World’s Fair.