A few stories for Children’s Book Week

It’s Children’s Book Week (16–22 August 2014), so let’s enjoy a few stories about literature for the young (and young-at-heart).

First up, an old school/new kid project out of the University of Colorado (Boulder): the Tactile Picture Books Project.

Tactile books have been around for a long time. They’re fantastic objects for introducing the magical world of books to very young children who are blind or visually impaired. You can read about the Tactile Book Advancement Group here, and about how to make fabric tactile books here. You can also find out more here about Vision Australia’s Feelix Library. It’s a great Braille book library for children who are blind or have low vision.

But the CU-Boulder Tactile Picture Books Project has a surprising ‘new kid’ aspect. It’s producing the first-ever 3D-printed tactile picture books.

University of Colorado Boulder students Abby Stangl and Jeeeun Kim are using 3D printers to assist very young blind and visually impaired readers (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)
Some pages from Goodnight moon – University of Colorado Boulder students Abby Stangl and Jeeeun Kim are using 3D printers to assist very young blind and visually impaired readers (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

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Escape into online treasures #2

(Members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are respectfully advised that a person in a photograph in this post has passed away.)

Researching online can be a bit like taking off on a magic carpet ride.

There’s that sense of wonder at clicking on a website and easily navigating your way to a masterpiece. You can zoom in on the details of brushstrokes, handwriting, gesture. You get to see works that you may never see otherwise.

More prosaically, it certainly helps me to look at artworks closely when I’m editing a text describing them!

Portrait of Pixie Herbert in a bat costume, c 1923, NLA Commons on Flickr
She could almost be the e-genie of online treasures! Portrait of Pixie Herbert in a bat costume, c 1923, NLA Commons on Flickr

Do you ever get used to visiting a digitised treasure chest? I still feel like a genie’s spread the wishes of the world before me: a wealth of treasures … famed works at my fingertips … the power of creativity, right there on screen …

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The presence of books

Last week I was in an inner-city cafe, gathering my thoughts before an important meeting. Without thinking, I did what I always do to calm down. I quietly began studying everyone and everything else around me.

There were the guys behind the counter; the people lining up for coffee; local office-workers at other tables, having meetings over laptops; two young men hovering around out the front, smoking quick ciggies; the hints of traffic movement and light in the busy street outside.

Mio Mia cafe, in Ultimo, Sydney (from the cafe's Facebook page)
Mio Mia café in a quieter moment, Ultimo, Sydney (from the cafe’s Facebook page)

It was a small, noisy place. My eyes lingered on the delicious food on display. But what really stood out was the wall beside me.

It’d been completely covered with wallpaper depicting trompe-l’oeil shelves filled with old-style hard-back books, from floor to high ceiling. Continue reading

Escape into online treasures #1

Without a doubt, among the great wonders of digitisation are the treasures it’s opened to the world.

In December last year, the Vatican Library and Oxford University’s Bodleian Library launched a project to make freely available online ancient texts from their incredible collections.

Both institutions have been digitising their collections prior to this. But the present project allows them to increase digital access on a much larger scale.

The Bodleian trove disseminated online last month includes no less than its Gutenberg Bible (1455).

The project’s been supported by a ₤2 million award from the Polonsky Foundation. You can read more about the foundation here, and about one of the trustees driving the project, Dr Leonard Polonsky and the foundation’s reasons for supporting the project. Continue reading

A curator’s abiding passion for books

Paul Brunton. Picture supplied by Paul Brunton.
Paul Brunton

An interview with Paul Brunton, emeritus curator at the State Library of NSW

The State Library of New South Wales is one of those places you just can’t miss.

Maybe it’s the grand sandstone architecture of the Mitchell Library, looming like an immoveable dowager beside the freeway to the eastern suburbs. Or is it the location, between the lush peace of the Botanical Gardens and the tough political arena of state parliament? It’s a large library too, with a glass-fronted contemporary wing on Macquarie Street.

Thousands of children (and more than a few adults) have looked at the Mitchell Library with awe: what is that place, alive with the vistas, whispers and magic of books? It’s the library that all libraries lead to, in New South Wales.

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Photograph by Greg O’Beirne, 2006.

So it seems entirely appropriate that the person who grew up to become an emeritus curator at the State Library of New South Wales found his passion for books as a nine-year-old in his local suburban library. Continue reading

An abiding passion for books (part 2)

Paul is well known for his talks. He has a natural gift for telling history so vividly that the characters seem to burst free from their letters and journals, suddenly alive in the room, brushing page, ink and the ages from their clothes.

‘I’m flattered and honoured when people comment on it,’ he says, ‘but I’m not conscious of doing it.

‘My parents influenced me in my love of history. They seemed to know a lot when not a lot of Australian history was really known.

‘They took the family to the few places of historical interest there were in Sydney at the time: Vaucluse House and the Experiment Farm at Parramatta.

Vaucluse House. Photo © Brett Broadman, for Sydney Living Museums
Vaucluse House. Photo © Brett Broadman, for Sydney Living Museums

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