Saturday, September 24, 2011

When the Librarian was a Dandy

Museum of the Book, National Library of Spain / Museo del Libro, Biblioteca Nacional de España
09/24/11 - Paseo de Recoletos, 20-22
Early edition of Don Quixote
On this first Saturday of fall, we arrived at the Archaeology Museum to find it closed for renovation.  Son 2 had tagged along, eager to see replicas of the Altamira cave paintings he’d heard about this week in social studies class.  Since the National Library is right next door, we instead entered the Museum of the Book. 

I won’t recommend this museum to the casual foreign tourist—there are too many other treasures in town.  The descriptive text is a key component, and translations are not providedAs a drop-out of library schools in two states, with a profound respect for the field of librarianship and the printed word (and a functional reading knowledge of Spanish), I struggled to attend to the collection of manuscripts and incunabula on display.  I understand the need for dim lighting to protect precious materials, but museum objects should transcend their surroundings, whether through clever staging or the ineffable, innate glow of their being.  I do think it would help if I were better-versed in Spanish history and letters; a sample of materials from the museum’s archive of the romantic writer Carolina Coronado Romero (1820-1911) made me want to learn more about her. In one exhibit of library technology, the presence of a Macintosh SE (c. 1989) and a microfilm reader—clunky and sad-looking both—made me feel ancient as the hills.  On the other hand, I was thrilled by the official uniform of a head librarian from 1830, with its gold-embroidered blue frock-coat, red vest, and white shirt (ruffled at neck and cuffs). 

1830 head librarian uniform
The printing presses created a fine opportunity to discuss with Son 2 what it means to dramatically increase and control the flow of information.  In the age of Facebook, he must learn to fathom such things. The book and typewriter are still beloved.  For that microfilm machine, I won’t shed a single tear. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm on my way to Target to look for a gold embroidered red frock coat!