Where: National Museum of American History
When: through September 5, 2011
This is an exhibit put on by the Smithsonian Institution libraries; they have a nice little space next to the Archives cases on the first floor of the museum. As I think I've mentioned before, I put together many library displays in a former job, so I like to go and see what the librarians and archivists have on offer, if for no other reason than to let them know that someone's interested. I need not have worried about lack of attendance for this exhibit - its was quite crowded when I visited, perhaps due to the time of year?
In addition to seeing many really neat pop-up books, I learned several things about this craft. Did you know that pop-up books are 800 years old? Neither did I, but now we both know. At the front of the show, you can push a button and turn the pages of two different pop-up books - lots of fun, and not just for the kids. And there are not only pop-up books - there's a whole assortment of books on display that open up, fold, and otherwise move. I was much taken with a tunnel book - you look through small circles in the front of the tunnel, and see different parts of the picture behind. It's hard to describe, but fun to see.
Lest you think pop-up books are only for children, think again. Euclid's Geometry features pop-ups, and that's no Dr. Seuss. I saw a copy of Peter and Wendy See the New York World's Fair and was reminded of the Building Museum's world fair exhibit. I still think charging admission is a bad idea on their part...
All movable and pop-up books are assembled by hand, even today. Perhaps if we all read a few more, we could add a few jobs to the economy? I like to see real craftsmanship and outside of a craft fair, one sees little enough of it. This exhibit is not just a collection of kids' books, but a genuine art show.
Verdict: Don't miss this. It's easily managed in a lunch hour, and well worth the time you'll spend.