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  • signs, Serpents, Salvation

    Photographs by Lauren Pond, 2016 Winner of the CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography

    Lauren Pond was chosen by curator Peter Barberie, to win the eighth biennial Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography for her series Test of Faith. The images document, as Pond writes, “a family of Pentecostal Holiness serpent handlers that I have photographed since 2011.”

    “Serpent handlers, also known as Signs Followers, hold a literal interpretation of a verse in the New Testament’s Gospel of Mark, which states that, among other abilities, true believers shall be able to ‘take up serpents.’ Despite scores of deaths from snakebites and the closure of numerous churches, there remains a small contingent of serpent handlers devoted to keeping the practice alive.

    “Who are the serpent handlers? What motivates them to keep going? These are questions that I sought to answer when I first traveled to West Virginia and met Pastor Randy “Mack” Wolford, one of the best-known Signs Following preachers in the region. I spent the following year getting to know him and his family, but the course of my project changed dramatically in May 2012 when Mack, then forty-four years old, was bitten by a rattlesnake during a worship service I attended.”

    Lauren Pond, a documentary photographer who specializes in faith and religion, is currently the multimedia content producer for the American Religious Sounds Project within The Ohio State University's Center for the Study of Religion. She also manages an art gallery and works on freelance projects across the country.

    The CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography is awarded by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the Honickman Foundation. Book available through Duke University Press.

    IMAGE: Pastor Mack Wolford’s yellow timber rattlesnake Old Yeller slithers around his neck during an outdoor worship service, Panther, West Virginia, May 2011. Photograph by Lauren Pond.

    Rubenstein Photography Gallery
  • Picturing Social Life in the Nineteenth Century

    For the last seven years, Brandon Stanton has run a successful photoblog entitled Humans of New York (HONY) that attracts 7 million Instagram followers and 18 million on Facebook. HONY’s intimate window into the lives of New Yorkers breaks down stereotypes and fosters viewers’ empathy for his photographic subjects. 

    HONY accomplishes this feat by quoting a patently internet-age format: the image macro, otherwise known as a captioned image. Image macros are the standard format for almost every meme you’ve seen on Snapchat, Imgur, Facebook, Instagram, or via text message and e-mail forward. When these images spread virally through shares and re-posts, they become a “meme”—a term coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Unlike HONY, however, successful memes tend to reinforce stereotypes and are satirical rather than sympathetic.

    Memes, however, are not an invention of the internet. Widely available, image-based humorous stereotypes can circulate in any medium, such as paper. This exhibit explores a genre of meme that went viral in early nineteenth-century Paris: taxonomies of urban types and subcultures. Not unlike a nineteenth-century Urban Dictionary, cheeky nicknames and slang were assigned to invented social types that one might encounter on Paris’ bustling streets. These social types were humorously described in cheap, illustrated pocket-sized pamphlets or collectible leaflets. 

    Paris and Parisians increasingly became a source of fascination and curiosity as the city expanded and modernized. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the population of Paris more than doubled, and the laws of fashion relaxed after the fall of France’s Absolutist Monarchy following the French Revolution of 1789. The humans of Paris themselves became a source of spectacle and study. In the 1830s and 1840s, Parisians were inundated with cheap, heavily illustrated sketch writing that provided tongue-in-cheek taxonomies of Paris’ flourishing urban landscape.

    The Jerry and Bruce Chappell Family Gallery
  • The materials shown in this gallery demonstrate the breadth of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and feature some of our newest acquisitions and initiatives.  The exhibition will change throughout the year.

    Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery
  • Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

    Carefully assembled over 45 years by noted bibliophile, activist and collector Lisa Unger Baskin, the collection includes more than 8,600 rare books and thousands of manuscripts, journals, ephemera and artifacts, including author Virginia Woolf’s writing desk.

    Among the works are many well-known monuments of women’s history and literature, as well as lesser-known works produced by female scholars, printers, publishers, scientists, artists and political activists. Taken together, they comprise a mosaic of the ways women have been productive, creative, and socially engaged over more than 500 years. The collection will become a part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture within the Rubenstein Library.

    Materials from the collection will be available to researchers once they have been cataloged. Some items will be on display in the renovated Rubenstein Library when it reopens to the public at the end of August 2015.

    Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery

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