October 1, 2002

New Exhibit Features Shelley's Frankenstein

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Dr. Frankenstein and his monster arrived in Ithaca yesterday, as the Tompkins County Public Library opened a six-week traveling exhibit entitled, “Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature.”

The exhibition was developed by the National Library of Medicine and the American Library Association. Funding was provided by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Tompkins County Public Library applied to host the exhibition and was chosen to be one of the first of only 80 libraries to showcase the exhibit.

According to the exhibit introduction, “this exhibit explores the woman and the world that gave birth to Frankenstein. It examines how playwrights and filmmakers transformed the Frankenstein story into the western world’s most enduring myth. Finally, it considers how Mary Shelley’s unfortunate monster frequently provides a framework for discussions about contemporary biomedical advances such as cloning, which challenge our traditional understanding of what it means to be human.”

The exhibit features discussions and pictures of a variety of different topics, all dealing with the themes found in Frankenstein. The exhibit is made up of several panels with topics ranging from Mary Shelley’s life and work to Frankenstein in Hollywood and the changes the story has endured at the hands of movie and play directors.

Sally Grubb, program coordinator at the Tompkins County Public Library, said that while the exhibit opened yesterday, an opening ceremony celebration including discussions and a reception will be held on Oct. 9.

According to Grubb, the first event the library is holding will be a so-called, “Monster Talk” given by Cornell Prof. David Kirby, science and technology studies, entitled, “Big, Green, and Out of Control: Frankenstein in Film.”

Kirby said that he became involved with the program because of the research he conducts.

“My research is on the communication of science through film,” he said, “when you do that kind of research, Frankenstein tends to pop up.”

Other speakers currently on the calendar of events for the exhibit include Pulitzer prize winning author and Cornell professor Alison Lurie, who will be giving a talk entitled, “Monsters in Children’s Literature” and Dr. Bruce Green of Cayuga Medical Center, who will be giving a talk concerning hip replacement entitled, “Replacing Body Parts.”

Grubb said that many of the speakers volunteered to give speeches.

“They all chose themselves, in a sense,” she said.

According to Grubb, when the library applied for and received permission to host the Frankenstein exhibit, Cornell was incidentally planning its new student book program sponsored by the provost’s office, to include Frankenstein as the novel to be read and discussed by new students. The University and the Public Library were able to plan joint projects, including the, “Monster Talk” speeches and Cornell Cinema’s “Frankenstein Fridays” program among others.

One major obstacle that the library had to overcome in its development of Frankenstein programming was the lack of funding. According to Grubb, county budget cuts caused the library’s programming to have little to no funding.

Grubb said, “All we could do was sit back and hope people would volunteer.”

Grubb called the development of the program in coordination with the exhibition and local organizations, “totally serendipitous.”

Other programming planned in conjunction with the Frankenstein exhibit includes, “Monster Mondays,” a program for children at the library.

According to Grubb, “they will be choosing a monster book and reading it and discussing it.”

Grubb said that several programs have been aimed at children, as the exhibition itself is “not a children’s exhibition.”

“We’re hoping that different school groups will do this,” Grubb said.

Archived article by Kate Cooper