Universiteit Leiden

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Touching Treasures An exhibition on the materiality of text and image

Books, manuscripts and images are of course made to be read and looked at, but they are also so much more. There is a world to discover in this new exhibition: hidden content, moving parts, pop-up images and much else besides. Touching Treasures by Leiden University Libraries (UBL) revolves around the materiality of text and image. The exhibition opens in the University Library on 15 June and runs through 9 September 2018.

From a Curtain to a Lock of Hair
A book bearing the visible traces of the Leiden gunpowder disaster of 1807, a portrait of a loved one embellished with a lock of hair, or a Turkish banner abandoned on the battlefield: they are objects with the power to move us, objects able to tell a story that far transcends the content of the text or image. Other objects invite the visitor to interact, as in the case of a miniature hidden behind a small curtain, a book with an astronomical volvelle, or a print with a moveable flap that reveals what is hidden underneath the dress. The materiality of objects shines a different light on their meaning and value. They are special for a variety of reasons. 

A Source of Information
Objects have physical qualities that can tell us how their makers or users emotionally connected with the object. The materiality of an object is an added source of information. As a result, the physical qualities of historical texts and images play a major role in academic research and education. To a considerable degree they also determine the value and rarity of these items, as well as their fragility and their charm. As such, the materiality of text and image is of great importance to the Special Collections department of UBL.

Beyond the Content
The exhibition is part of the theme programme Beyond the Content, a programme by UBL focusing on the materiality of text and image. The programme specifically highlights the ways in which historical texts and images have been transmitted, but also deals with digital techniques that have recently been developed to study them closer. Students, researchers and also the general public are involved through a series of blog posts, publications, workshops and lectures. 

Touching Treasures
15 June through 9 September 2018
Exhibition space of the University Library Leiden
Witte Singel 27
Open: Monday-Friday 08:30-24:00; Saturday-Sunday 10:00-23:00 (free admission). Closed on holidays. 



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