Knox College
Exhibit on ancient media

Students Create Exhibit on "Media Before Print"

From cuneiform to manuscripts, display in Seymour Library illuminates pre-modern communication

March 30, 2011

Student with medieval bookWe're so accustomed to the flat-screen world of electronic communication that it's possible to lose sight of earlier, equally revolutionary developments in communication media. Knox College students and faculty in art history explore and explain those earlier media revolutions, going back hundreds or thousands of years, in a new exhibit, "Media Revolutions in the Age before Print."

The exhibit on the second floor of Seymour Library features rare objects, books and manuscripts, all selected from Knox's Special Collections. The exhibit is free and open to the public, March 30 through June 3.

Photos: At top of page, art history professor Sherry Lindquist (right) meets with students to plan the exhibit on ancient media. At right, a student working on the exhibit examines a medieval book in the College's Special Collections.

The nine students in the art history class taught by visiting assistant professor Sherry Lindquist spent winter term, from January through March, researching forms of written communication that preceded the invention of the printing press in Europe in the 1400s.

Cuneiform tabletAt the opening reception on March 30, the students in the class will explained the items in the exhibit -- approximately two-dozen objects and documents from the Knox College Special Collections in Seymour Library.

The exhibit items were selected as examples of different modes of communication, from ancient coins and cuneiform tablets (right) used in business transactions, to medieval religious manuscripts  (above right) and music scores. The students also mounted the exhibit themselves and wrote the notes that describe each object.

Because the exhibit includes fragile items, such as documents written on papyrus and parchment, an open display sets out samples of the materials that visitors can handle.

Photos: Above right, one of several cuneiform tablets in the exhibit on ancient media. The students who researched the tablets learned enough cuneiform writing to determine that one of the tablets is a record from the sale of some sheep. Below right, art history professor Sherry Lindquist shows students Valerie James and Kelly Eigenberger sample of papyrus from Egypt in exhibit on ancient media.

Students and professor at art history exhibit."We obtained a sample of parchment from Saudi Arabia, and one of the students in the class had papyrus sent by her mother from Egypt," Lindquist said. "There was a lot of energy among the students and great cooperation from the staff in Seymour Library and the Special Collections."

Kelly Eigenberger, a senior art history major from Broomfield, Colorado, worked with an early edition of Euclid's Elements of Geometry. "This is the most interesting research I've ever done," Eigenberger said. "Other projects that I've done don't begin to compare with this one."

The class also plans to produce a printed catalog to accompany the exhibit.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Knox College Art Department, Seymour Library and Office of the Dean of the College.

Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 48 states and 51 countries. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Whom to Contact:
Peter Bailley
Associate Director of Media Relations
2 East South Street
Galesburg, IL 61401-4999

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