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Author: Liz O'Brien

Opening this week: Cultivating America’s Gardens

C. Ribsam & Sons trade card. Courtesy of Smithsonian Gardens.

Smithsonian Libraries and Smithsonian Gardens will present a new exhibition, “Cultivating America’s Gardens,” at the National Museum of American History May 4 through August 2018.

Amateurs and professionals, young and old, schoolchildren and scientists—Americans of every sort—have put their backs into gardening for a variety of motives: beauty, food, science and prestige. Americans garden to feed themselves and their families and to create a sense of place and beauty in their backyards and beyond. National parks, public parks and gardens and the individual plots of earth that people cultivate are all examples of their deep connections to the natural world. American garden making has evolved over time, shaped by history, social attitudes, the environment and new ideas.

Donations Reveal a Family’s History

Last year, the Dibner Library for the History of Science and Technology received four unique donations by siblings James L. Cerruti and Vera V. Magruder (nee Cerruti): James Bishop’s musical Gamut of 1766, Uri Bishop’s Military Music from the War of 1812, and Jonathan Edwards’ Treatise on Religious Affections (New York: American Tract Society) and Sermons on Various Important Subjects (Edinburgh/Boston: Gray, 1785). These items provide fascinating glimpses into early American history as well as their own family tale.

Moving Pictures: Renaissance Painter-Engineers

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Noa Turel in the Dibner Library vault.

This post was written by Noa Turel, Ph.D./Assistant Professor, Department of Art & Art History, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Dibner Library Fellow, January-March 2016. Applications are currently open for 2017 fellowship opportunities.

My three-month winter residency at the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology was tremendously helpful in shaping and grounding my book project Ingenious Secrets: Painting and Research in Fifteenth-Century Courts. Coming in, I had three bibliographies of Dibner Library special collections materials through which I sought to advance my understanding of the phenomenon at the heart of this book, the curious employment of painters as engineers in Renaissance courts. The rare books, manuscripts, and visual materials I found in the course of my residency far exceeded my original estimation in the proposal. I wound up consulting many more items as well as secondary sources, finding over 130 to be helpful for my research.