Curatorial Reflection

I was very fortunate to put this exhibition project together using materials from the libraries I work in. Although I work with special collections materials in terms of acquisitions on a near daily basis, I have never interacted with special collections materials in the role of a curator and it was a very fulfilling experience to do so. At Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives, I explored the Special Collections with Roberta Munoz, Librarian/Cataloger of the Wilbour Library of Egyptology, and was able to soak up all of her institutional knowledge about the collection and that helped me decide which materials to include in this project. When I mentioned this project to David Hill, Librarian at the American Numismatic Society Library, he asked if I have seen the coolest thing in the Rare Book Room before. I have not seen the coolest thing in the Rare Book Room before so he pulled out Souvenir of the Holy Land: Jerusalem, which has a very hazy provenance, and I was stunned at how beautiful the book was. It took two of us to bring the Souvenir to a table to look at. There were no special cradles or cushions available so David had to hold the very heavy wooden cover as I flipped through the photographs.    

Because the history of The Grand Tour is primarily drawn from the experiences and writings of male authors and writers, I very much wanted to include at least one item by a female writer in my exhibition project. I was thrilled to find Recollections of an Egyptian princess in the Wilbour collection because it offers a unique female account of traveling in Egypt and also gave a glimpse of the exotic harem that captivated the imagination of people on the Continent.

If I had more time to put together this exhibition project, I would have wanted to include more of the non-printed “stuff” that came out of nineteenth-century travel to Egypt and the Middle East. Most of the nineteenth-century guidebooks on traveling to the Middle East recommended travelers to bring things like "mosquito netting" "iron rat trap[s]" and "horsehair mattresses" (Withey, 1997) with them. I would have liked to include an iron rat trap in my exhibition!

-Marcella Tam