Episode 5: We Look to the Moon

Listen to the podcast recording here:

Episode 5: We Look To The Moon ExhibitionArtist Name
00:00 / 28:57

This recording can be listened to in isolation, or you can scroll through the pictures of the objects and locations we're discussing below. 

In this special episode of the Living Libraries podcast, we interviewed Dr Karen Patricia Heath and Dr Sarah Griffin, the curators of the 'We Look To The Moon’ exhibition on display in the Old Bodleian's Proscholium from 13th of July to 15th of September 2019.  We spoke to them in the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford, with Sarah joining us from Germany via Skype. 

We Look To The Moon exhibition.jpg

As well as the physical exhibition , there is also a significant digital element to the project. Sarah and Karen talk us through the process of supplementing the display with images and film shown on the Blackwell Hall Heritage Screen. They also tell us about the Cabinet project, which hosts a digital extension for the exhibition by providing detailed information about all of the objects on display, interactive images and other cultural referents. The  website may be accessed here: https://www.cabinet.ox.ac.uk/lunar

We Look to the Moon display

Copyright: Bodleian Libraries

Photographer: Daniel McNaboe, Courtesy of Bodleian Libraries

We start the interview by asking how Sarah and Karen came to be in their current positions, and what elements they enjoy about their work the most. We then asked them how they conceived the idea of their exhibition, which is displayed on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo XI Moon landing (20th of July 1969), and which explores humanity's understandings of, and fascination with, the Moon across time and different cultures.

we look to the moon heritage screen .jpg

Caption: Heritage screen in Blackwell Hall, Bodleian Library, with Moon landing footage playing

Photographer: Karen Patricia Heath, Courtesy of Bodleian Libraries

"I wanted to do something that was object-based, that was unusual, that was perhaps unexpected" - Dr Karen Patricia Heath


Sarah's Wild Card:

The Pergamon globe is the only three dimensional representation of the Moon in the display. It is so called because it was published by the Pergamon Press here in Oxford in the 1960's, using Russian satellite photographs taken in 1959. One side of the globe is left blank because they didn't manage to completely map the far side of the Moon!

Pergamon Moon globe (Oxford, c. early 1960s)

Photographer: Sarah Griffin, Courtesy of Bodleian Libraries

Karen's Wild Card: 

Karen's choice is an advertising card from Massachusetts in the late nineteenth century. Lydia Pinkham was a pharmaceutical business woman who developed a vegetable compound which claimed to cure a variety of ailments. It was predominantly advertised as providing relief from period pain and other female complaints, and Karen notes how the image of the Moon is used to symbolise ideas of femininity and sell the product to women.

vegetable compound.jpg

 Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound (Lynn, Massachusetts, c. 1880-90), John Johnson Collection: Patent Medicines 5 (48a)

Copyright: Bodleian Libraries

Sarah's Librarian's (or Curator's!) Choice:

Sarah's choice is the lunar volvelle contained in a late fourteenth century astronomical calendar. The volvelle would have been used to track the Moon and Sun's relationship, and then compare it to the Zodiac Man below to help cure medical complaints. The moving elements of the volvelle may be seen here: https://www.cabinet.ox.ac.uk/lunar-tool

astrological tool .jpg

 John Somer, Astronomical calendar (England, after 1387), MS. Savile 39, folios 6v-7r

Copyright: Bodleian Libraries

Photographer: Sarah Griffin, Courtesy of Bodleian Libraries

Karen's Librarian's (or Curator's!) Choice:

Karen's first choice is that of all of the colleagues who helped her and Sarah put the exhibition together - this was an illegal move, but we let her have it as it was so illustrative of the exhibition's ec. Karen's second choice was the images and film projected on to the Blackwell Hall Heritage Screen, which she felt really brought the exhibition to life.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Living Libraries. The 'We Look To The Moon' exhibition runs until the 15th of September 2019, see here for more details :https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/whatson/whats-on/upcoming-events/2019/july/we-look-to-the-moon