On March 22, the John Martin Rare Book Room and Special Collections and University Archives teamed up to create the event, “Curating Frankenstein”, which included a lecture from Peter Balestrieri, Curator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture at Special Collections, and material from both the John Martin Rare Book Room and Special Collections.
Caroline Hogan, graduate student in the School of Library and Information Sciences and a student worker for the John Martin Rare Book Room, and Elizabeth Riordan, graduate student in the School of Library and Information Sciences and the Brokaw Graduate Assistant at Special Collections, collaborated together for close to six months to create this event that took place at the Rare Book Room’s open house.
The idea for this event came to Hogan and Riordan when they were attending the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section conference in June 2017. They had finished a talk about ghosts in the library and doing spooky things, like candlelight readings, when Riordan mentioned it was going to be 200 years since Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” was released. After that, they started working together to make the event happen.
“I talked to Donna, the head of the Rare Book Room, and she thought it would be perfect to do it here and for our open house,” Hogan said.
“We have an open house every March, but this one is a little more special because we’ve never teamed up with Special Collections or have had a lecture before. We added a lot to this open house.”
All of the materials they had on display were from the late 1700s or early 1800s that were mentioned in “Frankenstein” in some way. For example, Darwin was mentioned in the novel, who could have been Charles Darwin’s relative, so there was book written by Charles Darwin out on display. Not only were the materials related to the novel, but some were also linked back to Iowa.
“This event opens up different ideas in your head,” Cheryl Jacobson, a spectator from the event, said.
“It’s interesting how there’s a connection between all of these writers and how they influence each other and their works.”
People who attended the event learned things they never knew before. Craig Gibson, another spectator from the event, said he used to teach this novel but learned a lot more about it from coming to this event and listening to Balestrieri and seeing the materials.
This was Gibson’s second time attending an event with the John Martin Rare Book Room. He attended one on the Black Death a couple of years ago with his daughter and they both agreed this one was more interesting with the lecture and materials on display.
One of the only problems the event had was it wasn’t long enough. Balestreri had a time limit on his lecture, and when it was up, Balastreri had more to say and people were still asking questions.
“I am always learning more about ‘Frankenstein’, sometimes purposely, sometimes serendipity, and probably because there seems to be growing interest in the subject, expressed in a variety of ways by various authors and artists,” Balesteri said.