Magazine article American Libraries

Portable Museums

Magazine article American Libraries

Portable Museums

Article excerpt

The best of the so-called coffee-table books are the equivalent of portable museums. With their pristine reproductions of art works and photographs they mobilize sights most of us would never see, allowing us to indulge ourselves in long, private ponderings tof paintings, the fanciful creations of top designers, natural wonders, the exuberant absurdities of the commercial images of times past, and the emotive faces of people we'd never otherwise meet. The books listed below are a random sampling of new favorites that will enchant the armchair museum-goer.

Remember Edward Steichen's family of Man (1955)? Well this is the Family of Man '90s-style, an entrancing collection of 200 color and black-and-white photographs from around the world. David Cohen, co-creator of the popular "Day in the Life" series of photobooks, organized a coterie of international photographers and scholars to search out and record rites of passage. The tremendous cultural variety depicted in these powerful photographs is matched by the university of the need to celebrate birth, adulthood, marriage, and death--the sacred and mysterious cycle of life.

Billboards can be ugly, but they also can be clever, dynamic, and striking. Fraser, chief librarian at Fairleigh Dickinson University's Florham-Madison (N.J.) campus library (which houses the Outdoor Advertising Association of America archives), has written a brisk and informative history of the billboard. The full-page color illustrations of over 150 billboards from the last hundred years create a vivid timeline of graphic styles, social concerns, political attitudes, and advertising trends and make for some thoroughly enjoyable page turning.

The 10 artists of the subtitle include Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, Willard Metcalf, Frank W. Benson, Edmund C. Tarbell, Thomas W. …

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