Is there anything you’ve ever wanted to know about our exhibitions? Maybe you’ve wondered how we sort through our massive collection to put things on display, or you’ve seen something you want to know more about. Now’s the best time to find out.

Today’s Ask a curator day and several of our curators are taking your questions on Twitter until 4pm. First, though, we’d like to introduce them to you.

Dr Anna Welch

Anna Welch, curator for Mirror of the world: books & ideas.

Anne Welch, curator for Mirror of the world: books & ideas:

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my work in the Rare Books collection is helping others to access and learn from the collection. The word ‘curator’ derives from the Latin for ‘care’, and I believe our job is to care for both the collections and for the community for whom we hold this collection in trust: we balance access with preservation, so that these books can continue to enrich people’s lives for many hundreds of years to come.

Like Borges, I have always imagined paradise will be a kind of library, and so working on the Mirror of the world: books & ideas exhibition in our gorgeous domed reading room is a joy, pure and simple. One of my favourite displays was about the history of musical notation in books, a theme that allowed me to select books from across the ages to tell a story, including some that had never been displayed before: a medieval manuscript, examples of the first printed music from the 15th and 16th centuries, a score in an art deco binding published in Paris by Melburnian Louise Dyer in the 1930s, and a 2004 example of ‘graphic notation’ (using colour and symbol in place of notes) by New York ‘programming musician’ Hans-Christoph Steiner, a piece composed using open-source software and shared freely so that anyone can remix it. For me, this display was a celebration of both the richness of the SLV collection, and of the importance of written culture, especially books, which are like time-travel portals, allowing us to connect with past and future – to learn from the past, and to share our dreams and ideas with future generations.

Monica Syrette, curator for Self-made: zines and artist books.

Monica Syrette, curator for Self-made: zines and artist books.

Monica Sytrette, curator for Self-made: zines and artist books:

When I heard that State Library Victoria was looking for a curator for an exhibition of artist books and zines I felt like the job was tailor made for me. I studied fine art and had been involved with zines when I worked at independent retailers such as Waterfront Records in Sydney.

I started my research by viewing a range of artist books and zines in the SLV collection, guided by Des Cowley, History of the Book Manager, who was very generous with his expertise. It was such a privilege to look at so many wonderful publications and it was incredibly difficult to make a selection. There were a few key items that I knew I wanted to include, such artist books by Ed Ruscha and Dieter Roth and Morrissey’s zine about the New York Dolls, and the curatorial concept developed from there.

An exhibition at the Library is a huge team effort and I’ve really enjoyed seeing how all the cogs fit in the machine. It was so interesting to have discussions with the Conservation staff about how to display the very long or tiny books and then see the perfectly crafted cradles. They are such a talented crew!

I love that the State Library collects artist books and zines and treats them with such care. I wanted the exhibition to be a celebration of DIY culture and I hope that it inspires visitors to make their own publications.

Kate Bird, exhibitions curator

Kate Bird, curator for The changing face of Victoria

Kate Bird, curator for The changing face of Victoria:

I like curating with a historical lens – and delving into the stories of figures, artists and rebels that have been immortalised in the Library’s collection. Recently I have been looking at the display on Charles Joseph La Trobe in The changing face of Victoria and what new stories I could explore. This led to my research into Melbourne’s early water supply from the Yan Yean Reservoir. I was searching through the catalogue and found what looked like a great panoramic photograph of the reservoir, and when I looked closer there was an inscription by Charles Joseph La Trobe, who turned the first sod on the site of the reservoir in 1853. As you can imagine, it was one of the first items to go up in my display!

Have anything you’d like to ask our curators? Head over to Twitter and let us know.

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