Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Before Pictures

MedChi’s original building was purpose-built for the organization in 1909. There are many beautiful parts of it, but over the years, some of the rooms, which are used several times a week, have begun to show their age. The Krause Reading Room was last refurbished in 1986-88, which you will see immediately from the color scheme of mauve, Williamsburg blue and cream, with chintz curtains in matching shades.originalOne of my assignments over the next month or so, is to refresh this room and bring it back to what its original purpose was: a reading room where our physicians could study the latest information from one of the more than 65,000 books then in our library. A physician would call Marcia Noyes, our librarian, and request a book. She’d find it in the stacks and bring it down to the reading room for the physician to study.

After consulting with one of my friends who is an interior designer, we decided there were a few mandatory items on the list of things to be done to bring the room back to its original beauty.

First, ditch the curtains – they’re almost 30 years old, and have been in the sun for all of that time, and are very faded. I told our facilities manager that I wanted to have a ceremonial tearing-down of the curtains and he thought I was serious!The designer has suggested that we forgo the curtains altogether, since they don’t really fit the space between the bookcases and the windows, and just go with nice two-inch Venetian blinds. That will give the room a cleaner look. And following the original scheme, we will leave the top windows plain.

Second on the list is painting all the blue trim the same cream/antique white as the rest of the woodwork,imageand while they’ve got the paint out, they’re going to paint the “fruits and veg” festoon in cream.imageThe expert in American decorative art with whom I consulted says that historically, the festoon would have been painted the same color as the rest of the trim, and it would have emulated marble carvings.

The third item is painting the soffit where the a/c ducts in the room were added during the 1988 renovation. Right now that space has three difference colors and looks very disjointed. The decorator’s suggestion was to paint it the same cream as the rest of the woodwork, so it looks all of a piece. 

After some thinking, and suggestions, we chose a gorgeous shade of paint, generously supplied by my friends at C2 Paints.imageIt’s called Turtleback, and is a mossy deep green with more yellow in it than blue.imageWhen you buy paints and have them tinted, the paint store uses three or five tints to achieve the shade you want. C2 paints use 16 tints to make up the paints, and they have so much depth to them. When I knew I was going to be working on the reading room, I knew I wanted C2 paint for the job.

Because the long walls are mostly book-cases, windows and doors, we think that the Turtleback won’t overwhelm the space. The tall windows are west-facing, so the room gets lots of great light. And harkening back to its original use, the Turtleback will give the room the gravitas it once had… Not to mention that our earliest members founded the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, and the school’s mascot is a turtle!

The other thing that’s bothered me about this room is that many of the bookcases are empty! It’s not like we have any shortage of books, with the stacks just down the hall with an inventory of 50,000+ books.imageI measured all of the shelves that need to be filled and it came up to 172 linear feet of books. Some of the shelves already have artifacts and ephemera on them, but I’ve got a lot of spaces to fill. So, I will be heading up to the stacks, where our ghost resides, to mark off books which will be transferred to the reading room, where they’ve probably not been for 75+ years.Img 027Bringing the books downstairs will be its own adventure. I’ve tagged specific shelves that I want to have moved, but all of the books will require some cleaning before they’re put on the shelves, and I’ve invested in some soft make-up and paint brushes, all-purpose cleaning cloths, dust-masks and latex gloves and a lot of newspapers to cover the tables. I don’t want to put dusty books into the shelves.

I have also found some other fascinating items up in the stacks and will be adding them to the shelves to create both visual and medical interest.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we progress on this project!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Roman Punch

As I search through our archives, I frequently find old menus from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Occasionally, there’s a term that I’ve never heard before, like Saratoga Chips, or Cardinal Punch.

This menu, from the dedication of the library in the new Cathedral Street building in 1909, features a drink called Roman Punch. It’s served, with Pall Mall cigarettes, as an intermission between the courses, each of which feature their own alcoholic drinks, including Sherry, Champagne, Hock (a German white wine) and assorted liqueurs.

Library dedication menu

According to an article by Amanda Hesser from the New York Times, this drink was very popular in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It’s lemon and orange juice, with champagne and rum, topped by meringue. Here’s the general recipe:

1 cup of lemonade
Juice of an orange
4 oz. of Champagne
4 oz. of Rum
One egg white
1.5 cup of 10x sugar

Mix the lemonade, orange juice, Champagne and rum and chill, or freeze until slushy. Make a meringue from the egg whites and sugar. Fill a Champagne couple/saucer with the chilled punch and float a meringue island on top.

Another recipe I’ve seen calls for lemon sorbet, rum, brandy, CuraƧao and champagne and is served in hollowed out oranges.

By 1922, manners expert Emily Post had declared it “unknown except at a public dinner, or in the dining-room of a parvenu.”

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Treatise on Madness, and a Four-Leaf Clover

Generally on Fridays, I spend time on the History of Maryland Medicine, which involves poking through the artifacts, or working up in the stacks. I am working on a big project, see here, and I need to fill 172 linear feet of bookshelves in the Krause Reading Room. Cabinet (1)

So I headed up to the stacks to measure, post sticky notes in bright green, make notes on length and select a range of books. I am working to make sure there’s a mix of topics, bindings, eras, and other aesthetic and medical concerns.

As I was poking around, I pulled out a little book, no bigger than a sheet of paper. Its covers were missing and so was its title page. As I leafed through the book, I realized that it was William Battie’s Treatise on Madness, originally published in 1758 or so. IMG_2249

Imagine my surprise as I noticed something stuck between the pages and realized that it was a huge four-leaf clover!IMG_2247

Who left it there? How long has it been there? Why did they leave it?

There was something so poignant about finding it.