Lilly Library will host “Flora + Fauna: A Bounty of Beast and Botanicals,” which will feature curated pieces that explore the connection between humanity and nature, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 6 through May 20.
Lilly Library was established in 1960. It was originally constructed to house the J.K. Lilly Jr.’s collection of works, which featured about 20,000 rare books and 17,000 manuscript pieces. Many collectors have donated literature in addition to purchases from IU itself.
The library is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and closed Sunday. The Reading Room is available for use by appointment.
The Flora + Fauna exhibition features 85 items of over 480,000 books and 8.5 million pieces of manuscript owned by the Lilly Library. Each piece connects to the themes of flora – plants and flowers — and fauna — animals and wildlife — and ranges from books about dangerous and mythical plants and animals to cookbooks with vegetarian and meat recipes.
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“We’re kind of showcasing some of our strengths,” Isabel Huber Planton, the reference librarian at Lilly Library, said.
The display aligns the pieces to their respective themes of flora or fauna. John James Audubon’s “Birds of America,” for example, features illustrations of botanicals and birds, Planton said.
She started planning the exhibit in June 2022 with Erin Chiparo, the teaching and research coordinator at Lilly Library, she said. The museum exhibition specialist, Jenny Mack, suggested the theme, Planton said. From there, they started with a cart full of the library’s collection and searched through thousands of works to connect to the theme.
The measurements of each work had to be precise to fit within each case without crowding each artifact. Chiparo said one of the hardest tasks was labeling each piece of work and providing a concise description, given that it was difficult to encapsulate the work’s significance in a mere 70 words. Chiparo said they repeated the process 10 times for each of the 10 cases on display.
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“I think here we try to think about more (of) the cultural value within materials than necessarily the monetary value,” Chiparo said. “It can be really easy to focus on that number, but that kind of takes away from all the lives that these individual books have lived – what they meant to people through time.”
Lilly Library coordinates several exhibitions to highlight the items the organization owns.
It supplements research and other interesting content to students and members in the community. The library also offers classes where professors can bring their students one or several times in the semester to use the space and its materials.
“There are very few libraries like this in the country,” Chiparo said. “Students are able to get this really unique experience of being able to interact with these primary sources that may, in some cases, only exist here.”