LCS Ph.D. Student Presents Exhibit Through Competitive Internship
Out of a pool of about 30 applicants, only two students are selected for Carnegie Mellon’s Posner Center internship each year. Literary and Cultural Studies Ph.D. student Matthew Lambert was selected for his proposed exhibit on the early nineteenth century American author, Washington Irving.
Lambert was looking for a way to gain experience working with special collections and putting together information in a visual way using objects and pictures, so he proposed the exhibit. The judges loved his idea.
The Posner Center houses rare and historic books and art collected by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Posner Sr. Its Memorial Collection holds finely bound books, classic literature, and other important documents.
After researching 15 hours each week this semester in the Posner Memorial Collection, Lambert’s exhibit, “Washington Irving: Sketches of an Emerging Author and Nation” opens Friday, May 8.
“I’m particularly interested in the various roles Irving played during the early development of the U.S., including his influence on the development of American popular and literary culture as well as his diplomatic work in London and Spain,” said Lambert. “I think visitors will be able to rediscover Irving’s importance as an early American writer and historical figure, and see certain similarities between the values and uncertainties of his day and ours.”
Lambert will showcase the Posner Center’s 1849 edition of Washington Irving’s “The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent” – one of the first fully compiled editions of earlier serialized work. He will also feature an 1819 first American edition of the work’s original publication.
Each Posner Center intern is expected to exhibit the Memorial Collection's holdings in a way that visitors can relate to in our current time.
The 1849 edition includes the famous lithographic illustrations by F. O. C. Darley of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and a carving of St. Nicholas on the front cover. Lambert will exhibit this to show Irving’s role in popularizing Christmas in the U.S.
Special Collections and Design Librarian Mary Kay Johnsen works closely with each intern once a week to make sure research and production is on track and that the exhibit resonates with visitors.
"I helped Matt focus on the needs of the visitor in the exhibit viewing cases," said Johnsen. "Visitors need a clear story told with books, relevant images, and short pithy labels."
Johnsen also assisted with image searches, ordering the catering for the exhibit's opening night, and physical preparation of the exhibit.
Lambert will also exhibit the Posner Center’s 1855-1859 first editions of Irving’s five-volume biography of George Washington, titled “The Life of George Washington.”
“I plan on using this to highlight Irving’s interests and role in fashioning national history and identity,” said Lambert. “Along these same lines and to show his interests and diplomatic work in Spain, I plan on using the Posner’s copy of a manuscript Irving made for his short work, “The Adelantado of the Seven Cities,” which includes Irving’s actual handwriting and corrections.”
In addition, Lambert will include other holdings from both the Memorial Collection and Hunt Library’s Fine and Rare Book Room, including first and early editions of Laurence Sterne’s “A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy” (1768), Sir Walter Scott’s “Rob Roy” (1818), Herman Melville’s “Typee” (1846), and other rare books, letters, and manuscripts.
“I hope to argue for the importance of Irving in studying American literature and popular culture by showing his often unrecognized influences on American writers like Hawthorne, Poe, and Twain, traditions Americans have taken up like Christmas, and important historical events in the making of America, such as the War of 1812, the development of American trade, westward expansion, etc.,” said Lambert. “I also hope to allow visitors access to some really old and interesting books, manuscripts, letters, and other objects.”
The Posner Center internship program is open to all undergraduate and graduate students. Lambert’s internship follows in the footsteps of his Literary and Cultural Studies predecessors, such as Sheila Liming, Kate Holterhoff, and Dave Haeselin who described the program as being a rewarding experience – inspiring Lambert to apply for the internship.
"It is vital for emerging scholars in the humanities to gain experience communicating with the public at large," said David Shumway, professor of English and director of the Humanities Center. "The Posner Center internship does just that by asking the intern to turn expert knowledge into an informative and entertaining exhibition enjoyable by anyone. Such experience is preparation not only for other work in exhibitions and museums, but also for writing for nonacademic audiences. This is a wonderful opportunity for Matt."
“Washington Irving: Sketches of an Emerging Author and Nation” opens at the Posner Center on Friday, May 8th with an opening reception from 5-7:30 p.m. The exhibit will most likely run through the summer and through the fall. Posner Center exhibits are open Monday through Friday from 1-4:00 p.m., except holidays and during designated VIP events.
By: Amanda King
Photo: Literary and Cultural Studies Ph.D. student Matthew Lambert stands in front of one of several of his exhibit cases at the Posner Center. This case features an 1849 edition of Washington Irving’s “The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent," which includes the famous lithographic illustrations by F. O. C. Darley of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and a carving of St. Nicholas on the front cover.