10,000 Ways of Looking at Joan of Arc

This summer I am in the mood for unplanned excursions and spontaneous adventures, so yesterday morning, when I read the May 30th entry on Joan of Arc in Helen Dean Fish’s Children’s Almanac of Books and Holidays (1934), I knew that I had to explore that theme. Since I have a backlog of reading material at the moment, I could not follow Fish’s advice to read E.M. Wilmot-Buxton’s The Story of Jeanne d’Arc. Instead, I decided to see the Jean of Arc exhibit at the Boston Public Library.

“10,000 Joans: Treasures from the Joan of Arc Collection of the Boston Public Library”
is not about children’s literature, but children’s literature enthusiasts and anyone fascinated by collectors and collecting will delight in this exhibit. The exhibit is in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the donation of the collection to the BPL by Cardinal John Joseph Wright in 1976, and it shows the many ways the legendary saint has been depicted in print and popular culture over the centuries. A wide range of objects are on display, from posters and early printed books to decorative plates to cigarette cards and prayer cards. Children’s books and prints are scattered throughout the exhibit, but there is one freestanding case devoted to depictions of the saint for children.

The exhibit also reveals the growth and development of a topic collection. For Cardinal Wright, his collection was a lifelong passion. He became fascinated with Joan of Arc as a child when his curiosity was sparked by hearing soldiers returned from France after WWI singing the popular song “Joan of Arc, They Are Calling You”. This interest was further fueled by the gift of a book about Joan of Arc from a teacher. Now, the 6,000 items from his collection form the heart of one the largest and most comprehensive collections on Joan of Arc.

The exhibit runs until June 15, 2006, so if you are in the Boston-area, there are still a few weeks to catch it. Guided tours are available on Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. There will also be a guided gallery tour with the exhibition curators on Wednesday, June 7 at 6 p.m. Admission is free and the exhibit is open the same hours as the library.