Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

21 September 2006

Adventures in Browsing: an Assignment for My Bibliography & Research Class

In the last four weeks I’ve seemingly spent hours in the Strozier library. At this point I feel like I know my way around that place like the back of my hand. My favorite day there so far was last Sunday. The Documentary Theatre class was asked to attend a conference that commenced on Sunday evening and I decided I would go early and spend some quality time at la bibliothèque. Roomie decided she would come too, so off we went. We spent a little time together in the library and then without really talking about it we just sort of split up. I had all kinds of journal articles I wanted to read and so I ran around on the second floor copying journals. Then I headed for the fifth floor to find some more stuff on Faust and some other journals they had up there. As I walked into certain sections of the fifth floor, the lights came on—literally. It hadn’t occurred to me that the lights would be on a timer, although that makes perfect sense now that I think about it. I hunted around on the fifth floor some more until I looked up and saw Roomie about a hundred feet away from me in the same row. I chuckled to myself and we compared what we had found. The amount of stuff in the original Deutsch surprised me the most. But I love just looking at the shelves, hunting and pecking for data and ideas in the same way I type on a keyboard. Funnily enough, many journal articles can no longer be found in the library itself: they are all electronically stored now. I couldn’t even locate the journal Theatre Topics in the Strozier library. They don’t carry it. It is now available exclusively as an "e-resource."

My next place of exploration was the Music Library. They have a seemingly endless number of scores and pieces of music, all arranged in a manner similar to the Library of Congress sorting methods for traditional manuscripts. The Music Library also had more journals than I could count, though my favorite part of the library was probably its reference section, which was filled with data on various contributors to the field. I got stuck in the “W” book for a good thirty minutes: Richard Wagner, Kurt Weill—so interesting.

Roomie and I also ventured down to FAMU’s library for a book she wanted, though I don’t think we quite understood the browsing assignment at this juncture. My attitude towards FAMU’s library was “it’s a library; big deal.” Of course, they have some really interesting special collections, none of which we explored, being so focused on retrieving a plethora of books on musical theatre. I have to get down there and look at the Black Archives. I read a little about them and I’m very interested. The traditional library part is going to be much the same no matter what library I visit: it is what makes the library special that deserves a special trip and extra digging. Even the art on the wall at FAMU is specific and different and deserving of attention. I, unfortunately, wasn’t paying very close attention. Bizarrely, I did, in my browsing of the shelves, find a book I had wanted on queer theory and performance art. The find was random and serendipitous.

Roomie and I also took a trip down to The Mary Brogan Museum in downtown Tallahassee. They have a standard sort of instructional science gadgets there, aimed at teaching (young) people about pressure, leverage, color, vision, etc. They also have a wind tunnel and a couple other neat gadgets. We were followed around by the Science director of the museum, who showed us anything that was anything in the science area. He asked us, rather pointedly, if we were “science people or art people”: in order to gauge our knowledge? interest? I wasn’t sure which. I pronounced us “art people,” though Roomie objected. Easily, though, the best part of The Brogan was their top-floor exhibit, called Currency: Art as Money/Money as Art. It is a fascinating exhibit with some really interesting pieces and a lot of political dialogue. My favorite was this collection of pieces of food fashioned out of money. Various countries were represented, each by a different food item, and each food item was made of the national currency. The United States was represented by the ubiquitous hot dog, Japan by a piece of sushi and some chopsticks, Malawi by worms, etc. This is definitely a museum that wants to create dialogue.

We also visited the (new) Capitol Building of Tallahassee. They have a beautiful fountain/sculpture outside, though it is in the rear of the building. It fit in perfectly with the previous day’s conference discussion on public art and how public art can be affirmative of local cultures and society. I am currently questioning ideas about public art: theatre seems to me to be the most public of arts and the question for me continues to be what is the artist’s relationship with the audience? My art is public and my audience must be considered. Is this a fact? I am not sure. Surprisingly, there isn’t much at the Capitol, though they do have two “walls of fame:” one filled with famous Floridian artists, the other with famous Floridian females. (Zora Neale Hurston graces both walls and I didn’t even know she was Floridian!) What the Capitol does have is quite a few brochures for various cultural sites around Florida: in this way, the Capitol is really its own kind of resource: a sort of jumping-off point for what Florida has to offer in the way of culture and possibility. There is, for instance, a strawberry festival, and about two hours away, a museum dedicated to Salvador Dalí. There’s also a chapel, with bronze plaques on the wall depicting the religious history of the state, and though there aren’t any crosses on the wall, there is a small altar and a very large King James Version Bible: with a format very like one I remember having in my library at home as a small child, with descriptive headings every twenty verses or so, ushering me toward what was to come. I had forgotten all about it.