Friday, May 06, 2011

Opening Soon: The rare book library at the R.W. Norton Art Gallery, Shreveport

Pardon the unusually exuberant post, but I've just been given a "sneak peek" tour of the rare book library of the R.W. Norton Art Gallery by Jennifer DeFratis, tour and special event coordinator for the Norton, where "the largest wave of changes to the gallery since it opened in 1966" is underway. The Norton's library has become something of an urban legend in Shreveport-Bossier. DeFratis says that the project, five years in the making, will be completed and will open to the public this summer. She actually threw out a specific date, but asked me not to share it. I feel I can say this: the library looked to be very near completion. The books are on the shelves (as of Tuesday) and statues and busts of great writers and thinkers are being put in place.

Among the most exciting elements of the library is a beautiful new display case for the Norton's breathtaking double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon's "The Birds of America." The crowning jewel of the Norton's rare book collection, the Audubon book is said to be worth $11.5 million. The new case will make it possible for museum staffers to change the pages of the book more often, DeFratis said, indicating that a different print would be displayed each month.

Other glass cases, which line the walls on one side of the room, will allow viewers to see a regularly-rotated exhibit of books from the collection. DeFratis said that other ways for the public to enjoy this incredible collection are currently being discussed.

The Norton has also just completed a remodeling of their Charles Marion Russell gallery and are currently creating a Pre-Modernist gallery.

DeFratis cites "new leadership" as the driving force behind all of these changes. "There really is a renaissance under way here," she said.

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