Book Illustration and Visual Culture

To celebrate the Smithsonian Libraries exhibition Picturing Words: The Power of Book Illustration, SIL hosted “Book Illustration and Visual Culture,” a lecture and reception on June 24, 2009 in the National Museum of American History. Helena Wright, curator for graphic arts in the Museum of American History and guest curator of the exhibition, was the speaker for the event. Wright addressed the Libraries’ strengths in all Smithsonian disciplines - science, history, and art - in terms of the power illustrations have to communicate as Inspiration, Information, and Influence. She spoke of how pictures reach audiences more directly than text alone, and explain complicated ideas at a glance, even taking precedence over words. The lecture also included discussion of the changing nature of illustration, including digitization and the Internet, and concluded with remarks on current interpretations of book illustration as part of a larger visual culture. The lecture was well attended by over 150 people, and followed by a reception in the museum’s Presidential Suite.