Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Back to School

I was pretty excited for this school year to start. I've been on leave since last Christmas, and I really missed my job. I ended up spending alot of time thinking about how to make our displays more visually appealing and more engaging. I got this idea for a vintage school theme, and I couldn't wait to get into the library and start putting it together.

Because I'm kind of a hoarder and a bibliophile to boot, I have a decent collection of old school books. Not just the 'cute' ones either, like the first year spellers or the music books with bright illustrations. I have several 19th century history textbooks, as well as a shorthand dictionary (probably from a secretarial school), poems for memorization, arithmetic, and helpful guides meant to aid post-war American teens in their quests for popularity.

I used the lobby/hallway area to create a vignette of School Days, using an old school desk (I got it for free from the flea market when I lived in Maryland) a faux apple and a good ol' black and white marble cover composition book.

I also put all the antique and vintage school books on display with bookmarks in them that provide a quote from the book and/or a question to the viewer.

For example: In this 1865 history book, there is a bookmark with a quote about the 'current' labor conditions in the country, and a question aimed at the student (or teacher) about how this statement could be argued. The book states that in the US, "labor is so highly respected, and privileges are extended to all."

Ummmmmmm, that doesn't seem right to me. In 1865, there were no laws prohibiting or limiting child labor, nor laws to ensure the safety of employees, nor fair pay. In fact, any third-wave feminist could argue that we're still losing the working women's fight with lower pay, and very few amenities like child care, maternity leave, or even proper accommodations for breastfeeding mothers who need to pump milk during the day.

The book marks are meant to get people thinking about what we know, what we thought we knew, and what we (think we) know now. It's kind of my way of introducing the concept of historiography to a middle-school audience.

I like this display, even if it is on the drier side. Later this month we'll be setting up a display for Banned Books week, and I'm already working on the bonfire.