Sunday, January 20, 2008

Magic in Castlecrag

Jack Perry Brown, Director of the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries, at Haven Amphitheatre, Castlecrag, Sydney, 20 January 2007. Photo by Tom Worthington.The Walter Burley Griffin Society created magic in Sydney today, with a talk by Jack Perry Brown, Director of the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Institute released a web version of Marion's book The Magic of America, last August and this talk about the book was held in the Haven Amphitheater, designed by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin.

The Haven Amphitheatre is at the corner The Scarp and The Barricade, Castlecrag is in a bushland gully with native trees. The seating is on rock terraces, with a wooden deck and bush backdrop.

The Magic of America was completed in 1949 by Marion Mahony Griffin after the death of Walter Burley Griffin in India. The unpublished work is half original text by Marion and half transcripts, newspaper clippings and other materials. Jack Brown argues that it is her final work of art, covering the time of her her husband's work in India, Canberra, Castlecrag and Chicago.

Unfortunately I had to leave the excellent talk early. The question I wanted to ask, but did not get the chance, was could Marion's work now be published. The manuscript was not in a form suitable for use other than for scholarly research. Placing the manuscript on the Internet has made it available for research, but it is still not something readable by a wider audience. Could the material be edited into one or more books suitable for online and print publication? By the time the material which was from other sources (and so would be difficult to obtain copyright clearance to include) was removed the work would be a more manageable size. With other editing, could it it be made into something with more of a conventional narrative, or would that destroy its essence?

The fact that the full manuscript is already available should allow the work to be edited without doing it any great harm. An electronic abridged version could have a switch to allow the reader to see what had been removed. By using online collaborative tools, the editing need not be an overwhelming or lengthy task. By using the approach used in developing open source software, where disagreements between editors could not be agreed, different versions could be produced, with the result being a discussion and analysis of the work, a process and not just one supposedly final result.

Another was to look at the manuscript would be as
Marion Mahony Griffin's blog. After all, the Griffin's were early pioneers of multimedia, producing a film promotion for Castlecrag in 1928. ;-)

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