Dirty Books & Longing Looks: A Selection of Erotic and Romantic Books from the Peabody Library

Institution: Johns Hopkins University

As the new outreach coordinator for a rare books collection, I have been charged with creating interest among the Hopkins community for our older material. In particular, I am tasked with raising the profile of Hopkins’ George Peabody Library, a beautiful 19th library that is underutilized, in part due to its location away from the main Homewood campus. Outreach, of course, cannot be done without the fine assistance of others, and I have been quite fortunate to have a strong team of librarians in both the Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts and the Research Services division to assist with planning and hosting events such as our recent Valentine’s program, “Dirty Books and Longing Looks: Erotic and Romantic Books from the George Peabody Library.”

We worked together to create a book list, promotional material (including coupons to be redeemed for free Valentine’s sweets), and a staffing schedule for the event. What was so wonderful about the teamwork process was that our selection of material was quite diverse, spanning from the 15th to 19th centuries — from incunabula depicting Greek love myths to illustrations of love designed by William Blake, the displayed books did not reflect the interests of just one individual. The various details in putting on such an event are, of course, myriad, permitting team members to offer valuable ideas even if they could not physically make it in person to the event. Furthermore, we decided that since the location of the Peabody is viewed as a detriment to using its resources, we would bring the Peabody to the Homewood community by hosting the event in the library room of the newly restored Gilman Hall. This, of course, posed some challenges, such as receiving approval from Conservation to proceed with our plans, as well as creating guidelines for permitting attendees to handle the materials on display.

Not only did staff from two different departments work together to share their expertise with the Hopkins community, but it was also a terrific way to engage student employees. In particular, one student worker designed flyers and coupons for the event and proved to be such a wonderful promoter that she even gained permission to advertise the event on the campus’s sidewalks via the magic of chalk!

The event itself was a great success with over 200 participants ranging from undergraduates to faculty. By bringing the Peabody to the Homewood campus we were able to raise the profile of the collections, as well as remind attendees that rare books are for scholarship, but can also just be viewed for fun, no questions asked! Students asked numerous questions about the Peabody’s collections, work and internship opportunities. Indeed, the event proved so popular that we as a team will be planning a special rare books-themed haunted house for Halloween at the Peabody!

Promotional photos
Event photos

Project Type: Completed Project

Budget: $70

Team Members:

Heidi Herr – Outreach Coordinator for Rare Books & Manuscripts
Paul Espinosa – Peabody Library Assistant
Chella Vaidyanathan — Librarian for History & Curator of 19th & 20th Century Books & Manuscripts
Don Juedes — Librarian for the History of Art, Classics, Film & Media Studies, & Near Eastern Studies
Gabrielle Dean — Librarian for English and the Writing Seminars & Curator of Literary Manuscripts
Julie DePasquale — Student Assistant in Rare Books & Manuscripts

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