For immediate release | April 26, 2011

2011 RBMS Leab Exhibition Award winners

CHICAGO – The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) has selected five winners and one honorable mention for the 2011 Katharine Kyes Leab and Daniel J. Leab “American Book Prices Current” Exhibition Awards.

The awards, funded by an endowment established by Katharine Kyes Leab and Daniel J. Leab, editors of “American Book Prices Current,” recognize outstanding exhibition catalogues issued by American or Canadian institutions in conjunction with library exhibitions as well as electronic exhibition catalogues of outstanding merit issued within the digital/Web environment. Certificates will be presented to each winner at 4 p.m. CDT on Sunday, June 26, during the RBMS Membership Meeting and Information Exchange at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans.

The Division One (expensive) winner is “Claude Bragdon and the Beautiful Necessity,” submitted by the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of Rochester River Campus Libraries.

“The committee was swift to award this catalogue, a broad survey of the life and career of architect, artist and designer Claude Bragdon,” said Molly Schwartzburg, chair of the RBMS Exhibition Awards committee and Cline Curator of Literature at the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center. “Described by one judge as ‘transcendent,’ the volume is an exemplar in its category. A definitive study of a relatively unknown figure in the history of 20th-century American architecture, it contains a rich variety of information. The greatest strength of the volume is its success in communicating how many kinds of intellectual work a single creative archive can foster in its users. The beautifully curated catalog of images from the Bragdon Family Papers at the University of Rochester is complemented by essays on Bragdon’s diverse interests by an equally diverse set of contributors including academics, independent scholars and practicing architects. The volume’s broad reach and enduring value to all audiences interested in Bragdon’s work - and American architectural history more generally - is confirmed by extensive apparatus, including a timeline, bibliography and full subject index.”

The Division Two (moderately expensive) winners are the Stanford University Libraries Department of Special Collections and the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley for “Celebrating Mexico: The Grito de Dolores and the Mexican Revolution, 1810 | 1910 | 2010.”

“This volume celebrating the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution is also an implicit celebration of inter-institutional collaboration,” said Schwartzburg. “Documenting concurrent exhibitions mounted at the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University, it reveals to audiences the complementary resources of these institutions through twin checklists and essays by library staff and faculty at both universities. Bilingual text - in English and Spanish - makes the volume accessible to a wide audience, and a careful integration of text, images and the checklist offers readers a fully unified reading experience. Richly illustrated with extensive commentary, the volume serves not just to document the exhibitions but to provide an excellent introduction to the Mexican Revolution more generally. The use of historic typefaces and colorful section dividers throughout the volume confirms the volume’s welcoming, celebratory success.”

The Division Three (inexpensive) winner is “The Power of Refined Beauty: Photographing Society Women for Pond’s, 1920s to 1950s,” submitted by the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History at Duke University.

“This slender, concise volume is a fascinating study of the interplay of high art, marketing and the lives of high-society women from the 1920s to the 1950s,” Schwartzburg said. “Perhaps the volume’s most important success is its ability to tell a complex, information-rich story in a manner that is cogent, compelling and visually appealing. Anyone designing a catalog about the idea of beauty is faced with quite a challenge; the results of this project are entirely successful. The mostly black-and-white images jump off the page and are complemented by a subdued pastel color palette that evokes the period being described but is anything but outdated. The exhibition topic brings alive the rich research value inherent in commercial archives, asking audiences to consider a compelling set of questions about gender, social class, corporate marketing and ideals of beauty that can help us better understand the vastly changed world of advertising in our own time.”

The Division Four (brochures) winner is the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University for its brochure entitled “A View of the Parade: H. L. Mencken and American Magazines.”

“This whimsical brochure captures the spirit of Mencken’s work in the magazine industry,” noted Schwartzburg. “Its witty design and carefully selected images frame a substantive essay that is engaging, informative and does just what an exhibition brochure should do: encourage audiences to attend the exhibition and learn more on their own afterwards. The exhibition topic is pitched beautifully for its Baltimore audience, which likely knows Mencken’s work already: limiting the project’s scope to magazines not only offers the opportunity for an in-depth investigation of the topic, but aligns with a surge of scholarly interest today in early 20th-century periodical culture.”

The Division Five (electronic exhibition) winner is the Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering & Technology for “The Grandeur of Life,” available online at

“Of the many centenary exhibitions of Darwin mounted recently, Linda Hall’s Web exhibition stands out as a thoroughly engaging, carefully researched and flexible resource for audiences of all ages,” Schwartzburg said. “The website conveys a great deal of visual and textual information in a manner that feels intuitive and inviting. The site is carefully designed so that it does not overwhelm viewers with content, but provides ample opportunity to learn more through in-depth essays and becomes further useful through the addition of a site index. The diverse, richly colorful illustrations produce a second, implicit narrative about the development of scientific illustration, and high-resolution images ensure that audiences will be able to fully enjoy the high-quality scans.”

The Division Five honorable mention winner is awarded to the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University for “Remember Haiti,” available online at

“The committee agreed that ‘Remembering Haiti’ deserved special recognition for its innovative use of the Internet Archive to curate an exhibition that is both historical and topical,” Schwartzburg said. “As more and more massive collections of digital images appear on the internet, opportunities are created for experts to curate selections of these materials for audiences who might be overwhelmed by the scale of the collections as a whole. This project’s elegant interface, varied section topics and French-language option offer numerous points of entry for a broad audience. Built to take full advantage of the Web, the site connects directly to the Internet Archive and Brown’s own digital repository social interactivity, including links to share the collection on Facebook, Twitter and other venues, and will expand in the future.”


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David Free