By Katie Miller
On a recent Friday afternoon in early April, the Wangensteen Classroom in the Phillips-Wangensteen Building was so vibrant and verdant that one could be forgiven for forgetting that, just days ago, Minneapolis was still huddled under layers of snow.
For the past year, the WHL has been organizing two to three pop up events per semester.
Students, staff, and faculty buzzed through the room for the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine’s (WHL) latest pop up exhibit, “Wangensteen in bloom.” On display was a dazzling array of the WHL’s brightest books — think all things green, growing, crawling, and flying. WHL Public Services Supervisor, Anna Opryszko, explained to me that while this pop up exhibit began as an opportunity to look at “beautiful pictures of flowers,” it quickly blossomed into something so much bigger: an exhibit highlighting the radiant spectrum of flora and fauna that infuse liveliness into our environment. Perfect, she pointed out, to usher in a much-needed thaw after the third-snowiest winter in Twin Cities history.
“Research is the core of what we do, but we’re also interested in finding new ways of allowing people to interact with the collection.”
In addition to providing student employees an opportunity to do a deep dive into the library’s collection, which consists primarily of rare books, manuscripts, and artifacts, these pop ups also offer new, unexpected entry points into the WHL’s one-of-a-kind collection.
Interactivity is especially key: “Research is the core of what we do,” Opryszko noted, “but we’re also interested in finding new ways of allowing people to interact with the collection.”
For WHL student employee Rowan Wylie, one of the key players in designing and organizing this exhibit, “Wangensteen in bloom” was an opportunity to bring her history major to life. It was also a chance to share her enthusiasm for the collection with a wider audience. As we talked, she pointed to a group of students poring over a book on display not too far away. Those, she said, were her friends — here to see firsthand the materials that she’d been working with since the previous fall. “It’s fun to be able to share something I care about, and have them be excited, too.”
Both Anna and Rowan paused when I asked them to point me toward their favorite item in the collection. Each provided a similar answer — it’s nearly impossible to choose! As I wove through the tables, bending close to examine the brilliant yellow-orange petals of a Chysis laevis or the hand-painted, ten-volume manuscript from 1811 depicting the Seven Hot Springs at Hakone, Japan (the most recent acquisition of the books on display!), I could see exactly what they meant.
Learn more about the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine’s distinct collections, and read about the library’s 2022 Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant, which will foster opportunities for further research and study.