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WRBG October In-Person Event

October 24, 2023 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm


The Washington Rare Book Group invites you to join us for

A tour of the Nature of the Book exhibition of the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives

in the National Museum of Natural History (10th and Constitution Avenue, NW).

The Nature of the Book explores the craft, innovation, and ingenuity of the handmade book of centuries past. It tells a story of both local resourcefulness and global influence—from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa—that was essential to the Western book as we know it.

The exhibition examines books of the hand-press era through the myriad natural materials—animal, vegetable, and mineral—that went into their making. From essential ingredients like flax, leather, copper, and lead, to the unexpected, like wasps and seaweed, Nature of the Book shows what the use of these materials can tell us about the book, touching on questions of use, process, global trade, and economy. A fascinating online version of the exhibition – at least a glimpse – is available at Nature of the Book (arcgis.com).

The exhibition was curated by Smithsonian Libraries conservators Vanessa Haight Smith and Katharine C. Wagner, with (now in absentia) Alexandra K. Alvis.

  • Vanessa Haight Smith has held the position as Head of the Smithsonian Libraries Preservation Services since 2010; she oversees the conservation and preservation of over 20 collections spread throughout the Institution. Vanessa treats special collections and prepares materials for exhibitions within the Libraries and serves as registrar for those items loaned to and from outside institutions.
  • Katharine C. Wagner earned her MLIS at the University of Maryland and is a Professional Associate in the American Institute of Conservation; she is a senior rare-book conservator for the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, working primarily with the Cullman and Dibner collections and specializing in the topic of leather degradation through testing and analysis of the changes in the leather tanning process.

The talking (and standing) tour of the exhibition will run 30-40 minutes, after which the group will go to the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History for further, up-close examples of materials and color issues.  Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History (si.edu).

For those who wish to stay on for lunch, we will adjourn to the Museum’s Ocean Terrace Café, offering self-serve salad makings (pay by weight) and prepared sandwiches and desserts.  Dining & Shopping | Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (si.edu).

Because of space considerations, this event is limited to 20 attendees with priority for dues-paying members of WRBG. To reserve a spot, please RSVP below by Friday, October 20th.

We will gather inside the National Museum of Natural History at 10:50 a.m.in the ground-floor Constitution Avenue entrance Lobby (note: NOT the Mall entrance) to go through security and distribute visitor badges and make our way to the Library together. Please be on time as we must start on time and cannot come out to pick up late-comers.

Parking near the Museum is extremely limited. We advise taking Metro and using the Federal Triangle stop on the Orange, Silver, and Blue lines or the Archives/Navy Memorial stop on the Yellow and Green lines.


October 24, 2023
11:00 am - 12:00 pm


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