USA Today just published an interview with Chip Kidd, longtime book cover designer for Knopf. Asked to name his biggest career high, he replied, “‘Jurassic Park.’ That will be the first line of my obituary, and I’m extremely proud of that.”
I don’t blame him. It’s one of the most iconic logos of all time.
And it’s based on one of history’s most influential dinosaur displays: the old T. rex mount at the American Museum of Natural History.
The AMNH dismantled the skeleton in the nineties and re-mounted it in a more anatomically correct posture. By then, the old reconstruction had inspired so many books, paintings, movies, and toys that it stamped an indelible image in the minds of generations of dino aficionados. Even for people who never saw the skeleton in person, that was simply what a T. rex looked like.
Kidd’s 2012 TED Talk has more info on his Jurassic Park cover. (The whole thing’s engaging, but you can skip to 4:27 for the Jurassic bit.)
Remember a few months ago when I posted this?
Maybe there’s a way to incorporate “teachable moments” into visitors’ gift shop browsing. Some chain bookstores have staff recommendation sections where the displays include a brief message from employees about why particular books appealed to them. Maybe museum shops should set aside some shelf space where curators and staff historians could highlight especially good works in their fields, complete with blurbs about why each title appeals to them. Besides encouraging people to pick up solid works, it would have the added benefit of putting a human face on the staff, allowing them to engage visitors on a personal level without even setting foot outside their offices.
Well, we’re going to give it a try at the ALLM, at the suggestion of our program coordinator, Natalie Sweet. We’ve selected a few of our favorite books from the gift shop and added personalized blurbs to the shelf display. Maybe it’ll prompt visitors to give these titles an extra look and foster their own independent historical studies.
Natalie picked Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln. It was the first Lincoln book she read as a kid. Her note to visitors explains why it made an impression on her.
Steven Wilson, our curator, recommended The Wilderness Road. It’s an engaging history of the museum’s neck of the woods by a former LMU president, first published in 1947.
And I decided to recommend Battle Cry of Freedom, still my favorite one-volume history of the Civil War. We want visitors to leave hungry for more information about Lincoln’s era, and I think it’s as good a place to start as any.
If this little experiment works out, we might devote more shelf space to staff recommendations, and maybe get suggestions from the Civil War historians on the faculty.
Just ran across this listicle on ten signs of a hardcore bookworm. Since history aficionados tend to be bibliophiles, you’ll probably recognize some of your own habits therein.
The Bookworm by Carl Spitzweg, via Wikimedia Commons
The only one I’m not guilty of is number eight—reading various books simultaneously. I only read one book at a time. Well, actually, I only read through
one book at a time. I’ll dip into books I’ve already read while in the process of reading a new one from beginning to end. But when it comes to reading straight through a new title, I don’t juggle multiple books. Maybe it has something to do with my OCD.
I’m ridiculously uptight about my books. I don’t scribble notes in the margins, I don’t underline passages, and I darn sure don’t use a highlighter. (I do, however, stamp the half title page of each one I’ve read with a personal embosser I received as a Christmas present, as a means of staking an indelible claim without defacing them.) I live in mortal dread of a fire; the idea of losing the library it’s taken me years to build is almost too horrible to contemplate.
My apartment doesn’t have space for all my books, so about half of them are at my mom’s house: most of my dinosaur books, my religion books, almost all the fiction, and a smattering of other titles on miscellaneous topics. I miss them.
Part of the space problem is my backlog of unread books. I used to avoid stocking up on too many new books until I’d made significant headway in my pile of titles to be read. (The OCD again.) My buying habits changed when I started frequenting used bookstores. If you run across an interesting title in good condition and at a steep discount, you have to snag even the opportunity’s there. Now I have stacks of unread books that I have to pick up and move whenever I vacuum. I could probably get caught up if somebody imposed a four-year moratorium on the publication of new Rev War books, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.