Earlier in the week I posted something I’d written a couple of weeks ago about my various activities for the Blake exhibition at the John Rylands Library.
I’ve been making progress since then — I had my schools workshops this week and have written the first few bits of text for the web version of the exhibition. I’ve also finalised the order for photography of items in the collection and for the objects I am going to be showing in my “Collection Encounter” sessions for the public programme.
The web exhibition will be able to explore some of the objects in the exhibition, and the connections between them, in more detail than is possible in a physical exhibition, because there is space for more text and, because, particular to the display of books, it becomes possible to show more than one page online.
This week, I’ve been working on the text about Blake’s commercial engravings, which has prompted me to look at these in more detail than I have previously (and might otherwise have done), which has helped me to spot some unexpected connections with images I am looking at in my thesis, which is great.
I’ve also been looking through photos of the work produced in the schools workshops which have been run alongside the exhibition — both my own and workshops by two MA students, Amy and Liz. It has been great to see the quality of some of the work produced, but I need to think about choosing a selection to actually feature on the website to avoid overwhelming the online visitors.
Meanwhile, in PhD-land, having finished most of the research for my chapter on Christ’s public ministry and accumulated far too much material, I’m now in the process of working out what will actually go into the thesis, which is going to mean me being pretty ruthless with myself.
Below is a record of the workshops I ran this week for schools for the Blake exhibition at the John Rylands Library which will eventually form part of a write-up of all my activities related to the exhibition for the Afterlife of Heritage Research Project. It largely repeats things I’ve said here before, but I’ve written it for my own benefit while it’s still fresh in my mind.
As part of the education programme to accompany the exhibition Burning Bright: William Blake and the Art of the Book, I created a workshop for schools which focused on how Blake took inspiration the Bible and explored other ways of representing Bible stories.
The workshop was inspired by Blake’s Illustrations to the Book of Job, a series of engravings which he published in 1826. The Library’s copy was discovered two years ago by student interns ‘excavating’ Blake material in the collection (it was previously uncatalogued), so this is (probably) the first time it has been on display to the public. Each engraving is composed of an image surrounded by a wide margin containing text and motifs which act as a commentary on the story.
Another star object in the exhibition is the 1797 edition of Edward Young’s Night Thoughts which contains engravings by Blake surrounding the text of the poem. The Library’s copy is particularly special because it is one of twenty-six copies hand-coloured by Blake and his wife Catherine. Although not explicitly referenced in Young’s poem, Blake uses Biblical stories in several of his illustrations.
I took as the prompt for my activity Blake’s image of the Good Samaritan in Night Thoughts which illustrates the poet’s idea that “Love, and Love only, is the Loan for Love” (NT II 571). The parable features in the Religious Studies syllabus, and it is an image which I have looked at for my own research (I am working on a PhD thesis on Blake’s images of Christ), so it seemed a good starting point.
We talked about different ways that Bible stories can be recreated (painting, literature, film …) and about what Blake does with Biblical narratives. The main activity consisted of students creating their own version of the Good Samaritan, either in a format like Blake’s Job designs, or with a more modern twist as a newspaper article.
I ran this workshop for two groups (rather less than my original five owing to cancellations and a no-show): the first was eight quiet Year 10s (aged 14-15), the second twenty-nine lively Year 9s (aged 13-14). So the two sessions had completely different dynamics, but both groups produced some good work, with some students picking up ideas from Blake, which was great to see. Examples of work produced will be included in a web version of the exhibition.