National Archives at Philadelphia

Press Releases

The National Archives at Philadelphia and
Philadelphia Center for the Book Present
Libro Curio: Reconstructing the Book
Exhibit Opening Reception September 27, 2011

Philadelphia, PA - September 22, 2011

Refer to CaptionLibro Curio

Libro Curio: Reconstructing the Book isn't your typical art exhibit.

Leslie Simon, director of the National Archives at Philadelphia (NARA), explains, "Last winter, we were renovating one of our stack areas when we came across a fair amount of book debris hiding beneath a section of shelving. Largely it was composed of book spines, covers and tabs that had long ago been separated from their volumes. Obviously, these fragments had lost their immediate artifactual and intellectual usefulness; but it occurred to me as I was sweeping it all up that perhaps they actually had artistic value. Maybe we could do something with them. So I contacted one of our community partners, Philadelphia Center for the Book (PCB), and voilá! Libro Curio was born."

The exhibit features the creations of 15 artists, each of whom have utilized, interpreted and incorporated 19th century discarded book detritus from the National Archives into original works of art.

NARA hosted a salon for PCB member-artists this past spring. There they gathered to examine the fragments that had been collected. "We used a lottery system to distribute the book debris, which introduced an element of unpredictability to the process," says Donna Globus, chair of PCB's exhibitions committee. Each artist was challenged to create art with the bits and pieces they took away with them that day.

The hope is that this exhibit will stimulate thought and encourage conversation about book and paper conservation; book construction techniques; the material reality of primary sources; the human element of records (from the perspectives of both their creation and eventual retention); and storytelling.

The public is cordially invited to help celebrate the opening of this unique exhibition. A reception will be held at the National Archives at Philadelphia (entrance on Chestnut Street between 9th and 10th Streets) on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. The event is free. R.S.V.Ps are appreciated, but not required: please call (215) 305-2044 or e-mail

The National Archives at Philadelphia is one of 15 archives across the United States that comprise the National Archives' nationwide network. The National Archives is our nation's official record keeper. It holds the permanent records that document the rights and entitlements of Americans and our national heritage.

Philadelphia Center for the Book brings together book artists, librarians, educators and the public to appreciate the book as a contemporary art form within the context of its historical antecedents.


Leslie Simon, Director of Archival Operations, 215-606-0101 or