Songs of Labor and Transcendence: The Trianon Press Archive
The second phase of my work with the The Elisabeth Remak-Honnef Center for Archival Research and Training (CART) at UCSC’s McHenry Library Special Collections involved producing a physical and digital exhibit of the Trianon Press Archive. You can find more information about what the Trianon Press Archive is here. This opportunity to work on exhibitions with university librarians and archivists as well as with the CART fellows Hannah Newburn, Jessica Calvacino, and Nicholas Whittington was rewarding.
The Physical Exhibit
The fellows, librarians, archivists, and I met regularly to plan how we would showcase this massive archive. The exhibit would ultimately focus on the meticulous process Trianon deployed to create its work, collotype images and pochoir coloring. For this, we used one of Trianon’s more recognizable projects, one of the facsimiles of William Blake’s works, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. We selected one page of the text and highlighted the process used to craft this single page, roughly 20 handmade application of pochoir stenciling on top of a collotype base image. We featured the stencils and samples of each color layer being built to create the final image. These objects were enriched and contextualized by additional displays that highlighted the life of the Press’ founder, Arnold Fawcus; the William Blake Trust, under whose auspices the facsimiles of Blake’ s works were produced; the Trianon Press office, where the business end of the Press was managed; and the associated workshop spaces, where we highlighted the the otherwise nearly invisible artists who helped craft these luxurious texts. We also displayed many of the completed texts of the Press. This helped to highlight the image making process and the process of binding, covering, and designing sleeves for many of the works.
It was important to also highlight many other Trianon collaborations beyond Blake. So, the exhibit featured the ephemera and objects related to projects with modern artist Marcel Duchamp, prehistorian Abbé Breuil, and Lithuanian-American artist Ben Shahn. We decided it was also important to discuss UCSC’s acquisition of the Archive and to provide some information on those who have been involved in its processing since its arrival in the 1980’s. All of the work we did was indebted to the legacy of UCSC alumni and archivist Maureen Carey, to whom we dedicated the exhibit. Maureen’s many years of labor and skilled archival techniques facilitated, really made possible, our completion of processing and exhibition work. Sadly, Maureen passed away before the archive saw its final transition. We were excited and honored to have some of her family members come to the exhibit opening. The exhibit will be on the 3rd floor of McHenry Library at UCSC located just outside of the Special Collections reading room from June to November.
The Digital Exhibit
The physical exhibition is complemented by a digital exhibit that lives on the UCSC McHenry Library’s CART website pages alongside past and future CART exhibits. The digital exhibit features items not on display in the physical exhibit and provides insights into the collection that will arouse diverse interests in the Archive.
For our digital exhibit, we chose to present the Archive on the platform Timeline JS, which allows users to organize information chronologically as well as stage imagery, audio, and other media alongside text. The nature of this platform (versus a physical exhibit) allows a different exhibit to emerge from the shared materials, as well as an opportunity to allow different materials to emerge. For example, within the archive there were two audio reels marked as interviews. One was with Arnold Fawcus speaking about the sculptor Giselbertus, and one of Mary Boyle, the long time assistant to Abbé Breuil, who speaks about the Abbé. Without the incorporation of a digital exhibit that allows for multimedia work be hosted, steps may not have been taken to digitize this material. In the case of Mary Boyle, an important part of the work we were doing was to make the female presence of workers and artists more visible and audible, and the digital exhibition of her interview helped us achieve that end. Boyle’s interview illuminates and humanizes the Abbé in ways that only a laughing and spontaneous human voice can deliver. I found her discussion of his sense of touch to be quite interesting and something that sticks with me when I think about the Archive. (Below is a screenshot from the digital project.)
The digital exhibit also allowed us to connect other objects and files held be Special Collections into this piece. Looking at all things Trianon related, we found a short news clip of the very first time any objects from the archive were exhibited on campus, after the archive’s arrival, which allowed us to include the voices and excitement of the librarians who brought the archive to campus.
In case you missed it, here’s another link to the CART digital exhibit of the Trianon Press Archive!
Exhibition in the Classroom
It was exciting to work with an unfamiliar digital scholarship tool that was user-friendly. TimelineJS is an excellent tool for organizing information and images chronologically. It would be a great tool to use within a course or as a final project of some sort.
Exhibition is an excellent frame for in class activities, or for classroom activities in spaces like Special Collections. Something I wanted to try (but didn’t) as a TA in the Horror Films class of which I was a part, was something like a gallery exhibition. I wanted to give students a collection of stills. I wanted to ask them to imagine that they would be displaying these still with something like a museum exhibit intention. They would have to decide on what to include, how to arrange them, and create a short introductory piece of writing for display. I was thinking we could use the classroom space to exhibit their arrangements, and see what other groups made of them.