Monday, August 6, 2012
Location, Location, Location
No matter how perfect the reproduction, there are characteristics of the original that are hard to capture, including the fact that thousands-upon-thousands of people had been in exactly the same place, having their own reactions to a masterwork. Add in the realization that this was the work over which a master labored, this was the work in which a patron invested, this was the work that inspired the scholars and critics and people before considered a "masterwork", and it's a powerful experience. When the masterwork is a building, such as in Florence's Duomo, then there's no comparison to reproductions at all.
Location matters. Being in the same location as a work that is part of the world's cultural heritage is a feeling that can't really be described. Here, in Florence, I've seen the masterworks of the Renaissance, and I've held the books that were banned by the inquisition. I could write about that feeling all day, describing facets of the whole without ever being able to impart the nuances of the feeling.
Until this trip, I wouldn't have considered myself a rare-books/preservation/archives-focused librarian. I still doubt that I'll end up in one of those jobs, but I have a new respect for that sort of work. I appreciate, more, the effort that librarians and curators choose to spend on replicating a space that once existed, or creating a new one to showcase the works under their purview (which is technically an information-design problem, but that's a can of worms I don't want to open now).
I applied for #SUiSchoolFirenze because I wanted to travel more, and because I thought that talking about non-American librarianship would be easier and more enriching if I was outside the country. I knew there would be opportunities here I would never get in the States. The pleasant surprise, though, has been the places themselves.
Our locations change us, and partially determine what we can experience in a given situation. Here in Florence, I know that I'm faced with history I never would have understood if I hadn't been able to walk through the streets, to feel the weight of the traditions and the culture. Certainly, I have questions, but they are informed by the places I see, the places I go, and my questions are the better for it.
I'll be asking many of those questions as these reflections continue. Hopefully, I might even come to some conclusions, even if I don't get "answers" in the traditional sense. Bear with me?