From the extensive collection held in UVA’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, to Whitman’s beloved Manhattan and the Sokan Gakkai International of Japan, Whitman lovers across the globe are highlighting the bicentennial of the American poet’s May 31 birth all this year.
The library will mark the exhibition’s opening Tuesday with chief curator George Riser giving 20-minute tours, beginning at 4 p.m. in the Main Gallery of the Harrison Institute and Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, and with a 5 p.m. panel discussion, free and open to the public. University Librarian and Dean of Libraries John Unsworth will welcome the panel to the Harrison/Small Auditorium: exhibition co-curators and poets Stephen Cushman, Robert C. Taylor Professor of English, and Lisa Russ Spaar, professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program; and Deborah McDowell, director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute and Alice Griffin Professor of English. McDowell will read from the preface to the first edition of “Leaves of Grass,” where Whitman shows the expansive nature of his writing, giving the reader a list, “This is what you shall do” so that “your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency …”
Representing the many topics that captured Whitman’s imagination and examples of his work took a team of five curators to choose and design what books, manuscripts and other items should be included in the exhibit. In addition to the content curation from Cushman and Spaar, Riser brought in the talents of Charlotte Hennessy, now a UVA Library ambassador, and Holly Robertson, UVA Library exhibitions coordinator, on the exhibit design.