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UB Libraries unveils the unusual in new artifacts exhibit

Release Date: October 27, 2015

“The libraries are more than just books. This exhibit showcases a range of items from the quaint and the quirky to the beautiful and bizarre.”
Joseph Patton, UB Libraries exhibit and outreach archivist

BUFFALO, N.Y. – What do a poem bound in a shoe, a German $500 million bill and a disturbing mask from a 20-year-old horror film have in common?

Nothing at all. These items do, however, highlight a portion of the unusual objects the University at Buffalo Libraries have collected.

These objects and more will be revealed to the UB community in the new exhibition, “Artifact: An Exploration of Format and Function.” The displays will feature items from all departments of the University Libraries Special Collections, including the Rare Books Collection, Poetry Collection, Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection and the University Archives.

The exhibition will run from Oct. 28 to Jan. 15. An opening reception will be held from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 28 in 420 Capen Hall. The event is free and open to the public and will include light refreshments.

“The libraries are more than just books,” says Joseph Patton, an exhibit and outreach archivist and one of the exhibition’s curators. “This exhibit showcases a range of items from the quaint and the quirky to the beautiful and bizarre.”

Additional curators include Elliot McNally, project archivist, and Marie Elia, processing archivist.

“These are all items for which the inherent value is a part of the artifact,” says Elia. “You can definitely digitize them and still get the information, but almost all of these pieces are one of a kind.”

Some of the artifacts featured in the exhibition include:

Paper Napkin by Jack Powers: Powers, founder of the Stone Soup Poets, scribbled this list onto a napkin. Other than sharing a comical to-do list, the poem demonstrates the many objects poetry can reside on or in, including bottles, mail and napkins.

Baby Alice Thumb Guard: This metal device from the 1920s was used to prevent infants from sucking their thumbs.

Floppy disks and audio cassettes: Believe it or not, these objects are officially remnants of the past. “It gets scary when you can start seeing history in the rearview mirror,” says Patton.

Wooden wallpaper printing block from Charles E. Burchfield: Before the days of printers, wallpaper print and other designs had to first be carved onto wooden blocks and stamped onto fabrics or paper. This block belonged to prominent painter and artist Charles E. Burchfield.

1928 UB Junior Prom Favors: Before they became high school extravaganzas, proms began as a college affair. These favors from the 1928 UB Junior Prom include a napkin ring for the women and a pocketbook for the men.

On the Slates by Clark Coolidge: Whoever said books need to be bound in paper? Coolidge challenged the convention by inserting his poetry inside of shoes and binding them with a single lace.

The Daughter of a Lumberjack by Melanie Mirasty: Continuing the push of what is considered a book, Mirasty fittingly cased her poem inside the trunk of a tree and covered the front and back pages with sandpaper.

Ammoniaphone: This device was designed to help singers and public speakers improve the quality of their voice. Users would inhale a combination of hydrogen peroxide, ammonia and peppermint oil, or what its inventor Dr. Carter Moffat described as artificial Italian air.

Shadow Creature mask and VHS: This mask is all that remains – that and the VHS – from the dreadful events of “Shadow Creature,” a horror film created in Buffalo in 1995.

Lip Print by Cindy Sherman: Visual artist Cindy Sherman decided to make a role of perfumed, colored toilet paper her canvas and stamped an imprint of her red lipstick-covered lips on each sheet. The roll was a part of a public art display at SUNY Buffalo State in 1975 when she replaced toilet paper on campus with her own creations.

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