Sunday, November 27, 2011

Even Genius Needs to Do Paperwork

The exhibition "Handwritten: Ten Centuries of Manuscript Treasures from Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin" at the the National Library of Australia shows a great range of work over the centuries. Some of the manuscripts shown are of great works, such as a draft of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but others show that great people had to deal with paperwork, such as receipt from Michelangelo acknowledging funds from a patron. Others show that even geniuses don't always get it right, with Heisenberg's draft of a universal equation for everything which did not work out.

The exhibition's music room was of most interest, with a cacophony of the different music displayed being played in the background. There is an iPad on a wall with headphones, where you can pick from the works. The exhibition organisers need to install a set of white headphones on a white hook, as the room so dim (to preserve the manuscripts) and so the headphones and where to hand them up is almost invisible.

Other works to get my attention were Schliemann writing about the discovery of Troy, a patent by Watt (of steam engine fame), Diesel asking for state funding for his engine and several authors complaining about reviews they got.

It is unfortunate there is not a web site to accompany the exhibition, given the work which has gone into its preparation. Such a web site could be produced with a few days work, using the materials already prepared for the exhibition. This is something the ACT Government might consider funding to boost tourist numbers.

The exhibition is open until 18 March 2012 and is free, but it is a good idea to book a free ticket online (the NLA is using an Apple iPad to check the bookings at a desk in the foyer). There are also various events associated with the exhibition.

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