One of Dunham’s kinetic sculptures, The Crystal Gem, will be on view in Curious and Curiouser: Surprising Finds from the Rakow Library


Rakow Research Library

Posted 1 April 2017

Share this:

From advertisements for glass eyes to patents for preserving the dead in glass; from glasshouse dollars to drawings by world-famous artists such as Thomas Benton, Salvador Dalí, Eric Gill, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, and Georgia O’Keeffe: these rarely seen wonders are some of the curious and surprising objects from The Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass. Artists, researchers, authors, and glass enthusiasts of all kinds use the Rakow Library’s holdings to learn more about glass, which often leads to voyages of discovery in unexpected directions. Discover how the rare collections and curiosities in the Rakow Library have inspired others and how they can inspire you.
Curious and Curiouser: Surprising Finds from the Rakow Library is curated by Rebecca Hopman, Outreach Librarian, with curatorial advisement provided by Karol Wight.

Bandhu Scott Dunham wanted to be a mad scientist or an alchemist as a kid. Although he’s grown up to be a glass artist, he still manages to infuse many of his pieces with a sense of magic and whimsy. His series of kinetic sculptures, he says, represents “the colorful, magical mysteries that captivated my childhood self.”

During one of his visits to the Rakow Research Library, Dunham came across another group of artists meshing science, mechanics, and art. Itinerant glassworkers traveled around the world entertaining and educating audiences with flameworking demos, intricate glass models, and even scientific experiments. Dunham was particularly inspired by the working glass steam engines built by many troupes in the 1800s, and he used advertisements and images from the Library’s collection to inform the construction and appearance of his own glass engines. The results demonstrate how libraries can inspire people in all sorts of ways.

Bandhu Scott Dunahm

Great Double Working Glass Steam Engine, Fairy Queen!, 1861, CMGL 45696

The Rakow Library is filled to the brim with information on glass and glassmaking. A cornerstone of the Museum’s campus, the Library is open to everyone, and offers guests a chance to learn more about every glass topic imaginable. The shelves are full of the expected and the surprising, often leading visitors like Bandhu Dunham in new directions.

Curious and Curiouser: Surprising Finds from the Rakow Library, on view April 8, 2017, through February 17, 2019, offers guests a taste of what they can find if they venture up the Library’s glass staircase to the reading room. From a patent for preserving the dead in glass to a trilogy of romance novels chronicling the generations of a glassmaking family, the exhibition unites many disparate materials from the Library and glass collections through themes of curiosity and inspiration.

Tintype of glass steam engine on display, 1861, CMGL 137821

Curiosity highly gratified Mr. Hermann, artist in glass, [Hull, England]: T. Topping, 1814,CMGL 112177

Photograph of John T. Backman flameworking glass ship, McCroskey Studio, [1930s], Larry Williams archive, CMGL 152150

Curiosities from the Collection
This book has a secret. You may not notice when you pick it up, or flip through it. But when the pages are angled just right – surprise! A hidden painting is revealed.
The botanic garden: a poem, in two parts is the only book in the Library’s collection with a fore-edge painting. This special feature is just what it sounds like: an original work of art painted on the edges of a book’s pages. The fore-edge painting featured here is a landscape scene of Kew Bridge leading into London’s Botanical Garden. But why is this book of poetry in our collection? Because it includes several engravings of the Portland Vase, an ancient Roman cameo glass vessel.

Curiosities from the Collection

Page from The botanic garden: a poem, in two parts, Erasmus Darwin, London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1791, CMGL 119090

Page from The botanic garden: a poem, in two parts, Erasmus Darwin, London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1791, CMGL 119090

Page from The botanic garden: a poem, in two parts, Erasmus Darwin, London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1791, CMGL 119090

During the 1600s and 1700s, artists like Martin Engelbrecht and Nicolas de Larmessin printed engravings of tradespeople wearing the tools and products of their trade. The Rakow Library’s prints collection includes a number of these images, which illustrate male and female glassmakers and peddlers clothed in bottles, leaded glass windows, molds, bellows, and more. These fanciful designs served to show people the items associated with glassmaking.

Inspired by the Collection
Like all libraries, the Rakow Library is an incubator where all types of creativity can flourish. Bandhu Dunham found his inspiration in a collection of photographs and advertisements; Greg Merkel, a scientist and glass collector, was inspired by a set of notebooks in the archives. He collects works designed by artist Frederick Carder for Steuben Glass in Corning, New York. Carder was a prolific designer who left behind many notebooks filled with recipes for colors and types of glass. However, it can be difficult to pair a written recipe with a finished piece of glass.

Copy of Portland Vase, Josiah Wedgwood, England, Etruria, about 1790, Ceramic, 92.7.2

Une verriere / Eine Glassmacherin, Martin Engelbrecht, Augsburg, Germany, 1730, CMGL 129856

Un verrier / Ein Glassmacher, Martin Engelbrecht, Augsburg, Germany, 1730, CMGL 129853

Un vitrier / Ein Glaser, Martin Engelbrecht, Augsburg, Germany, 1730, CMGL 129851

Celadon Vase, Frederick Carder; Steuben Glass, United States, NY, Corning, 1920-1929, 75.4.440

Merkel, who is interested in both the beauty and chemical composition of Carder’s glass, decided to research the creation and development of each color, and definitively match pieces of glass to their corresponding recipes. As part of this work, he created a database of the recipes from the notebooks in the Rakow Library. He then used XRF (X-ray fluorescence) technology to scan pieces of glass for their composition. By doing so, he is able to connect the glass to a particular recipe. His work has led to the correct identification of many pieces of Carder’s glass, and benefits those who study and collect them.

These are just a few of the stories in Curious and Curiouser: Surprising Finds from the Rakow Library. Come see the rest, and find your own inspiration on the Library’s shelves.
New content will be added to the exhibition every three months. Make sure to stop back into the Rakow frequently to see what’s changed!
Curious and Curiouser: Surprising Finds from the Rakow Library is on view at Rakow Research Library at The Corning Museum of Glass April 8, 2017, through February 17, 2019. Learn more about the exhibition.

See the Agenda>

Rakow Research Library
One Museum Way
Corning, NY 14830
+1 (800) 732-6845

Copyright © 2013-2019  Glass is more!        Copyright, privacy, disclaimer