Message from a bottle

After last week’s blurb about quills, it is hard to resist sharing a few words about vintage ink bottles. Small bottles of ink have been on the market for over two hundred years, and were for the most part made from blown or molded glass, sometimes from metal, or a combination of both. People and museums collect the early ones, and they are fairly easy to find on reselling platforms.

Jane Eastman of Winchester, England is a self-made connoisseur, and demonstrates great appreciation for them. She recklessly seeks and pulls them out of riverbeds, among other treasures. See several beautiful photographs of them, with extra historical background, in her Beach Combing magazine article “My indelible love for ink bottles.” The magazine’s channel has a video of her in action and it is quite an excursion.

As far as museums go, the Charles Dickens Museum has a bottle used by the famous author. Another bottle with a clever design is among the many others at the Corning Museum of Glass, in New York State.

Ink bottle, 1825-1875, AN 2013.4.3. Source: Corning Museum of Glass, 27 August 2022.

If it be your quill

A craft activity is a great way to convey a history lesson. A history lesson should be an opportunity to contemplate what has been long gone, as well as parts of the past that still persists in our time.

If you ever consider making a quill with your child, we suggest that you begin with the word processor in your computer. Have a close look at the many fonts available, and see if you and your child can differentiate the old looking ones from the newer ones. You will be quick to find Old English, Palatino, New Roman, Garamond, and the likes. They are the ones with stylish serifs.

Then, ask the child to gather as many different handwriting devices as possible at home. You might have ballpoint pens, felt pens, pencils, crayons, chalks. You might even have a metal quill. Ask the child to write the alphabet with each and compare the results. If you have one, use a magnifier to have a closer look. Make sure to observe the variations in the thickness of lines, as well as the presence or absence of serifs.

At this point, proceed with your quill making, to find out whether a quill will make writing in old style fonts easier. A good guide to use is one posted by the Rhode Island School of Design, aka RISD Museum on Instructible. You might also like the very detailed one by Liralen Li on this old Flick page, or one of the many videos online.

Whichever way you go about it, there are a few important things to keep in mind. First, hygiene. If you take feathers directly from a farm, make sure to clean, sanitize and dry it thoroughly before you handle them with bare hands or before cutting carefully. Second, safety. For best results, the carving requires a short, sharp blade that gives maximum control. Use more than one feather, because your first attempt might fail, or you might want to try different carvings. Once your quill is ready, get some ink and write for fun, your own secret recipe for a magic potion. Try different kinds of paper, and hang on to the one that best suits your quill.

In the end, take the time with your child to browse books or the web, and see if you can find old style fonts. One fantastic recent book about fonts is The Eternal Letter (MIT Press, 2015) edited by Paul Shaw.

Trimmed and sharpened quill. Photo: RISD Museum. Source: Instructables.com, 19 August 2022.

Go, medievalists!

A couple of years ago in this blog, we introduced Onfim. This thirteenth century child whose drawing on a piece of bark had been discovered by chance, among other archeological findings. Thanks to a growing number of medievalists researchers over the past few years, the images left by medieval children are no longer left to chance.

The advances in child psychology have long helped parents and educators. They now benefit medievalists, and it is great news for children’s drawing conservation. Deborah Ellen Thorpe holds a PhD in Medieval Studies from the University of York (GB). In 2016, her article Young hands, old books: Drawings by children in a fourteen century manuscript, LJS, MS. 361, was published in Cogent Arts and Humanities (Taylor & Francis). In it, she meticulously and convincingly argues that the hands that drew three drawings in the margins of a centuries-old manuscript were those of children. Her observations are strongly supported by the works of several researchers in child psychology and arts education.

Other reputed medievalists, such as Seth Lere (Devotion and Defacement: Reading Children’s Marginalia, University of California Press), and Nicholas Orme (Medieval children, Yale University Press) have been instrumental in nurturing a growing interest in what medieval children have left us.

Drawing by a child in the margin of a 14th Century manuscript. LJS 361, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania Libraries folio 26r. Source: National Library of Medecine, 9 August 2022.

Pupils on holidays

Optical illusions are so much fun. When there is a new one in town, it is time for an optical excursion. Give your dilating and contracting pupils a well deserved vacation right where you are.

Recently, three researchers have published their article The eye pupil adjusts to illusory expanding holes, in which they uncovered the new optical illusion pictured below. Bruno Laeng and Shoaib Nabil, both from the department of psychology at the University of Oslo, and Akiyoshi Kitaoka, from the same at Ritsumeikan University (Japan), “found that participants varied considerably in their perceptions of subjective expansion.” Among many other interesting observations, their study shows that pupils tend to react more to black “holes” than colored ones, in the test images. What about that? The dark side always has such an appeal it seems.

What is your favorite optical illusion? Did you know that there is a Museum of Illusions in Toronto, and in Paris and Lyon as well? Book lovers, get The new book of optical illusions, by Georg Ruschemeyer at Firefly Books.

The « expanding hole» by Dr Akiyoshi Kitaoka, Ritsumeikan University.
PHOTO: RITSUMEIKAN UNIVERSITY /AKIYOSHI KITAOKA. Source: Frontiers.org, 22 July 2022.

Interview with Roger Clark Miller

Musician, composer, conceptual artist Roger Clark Miller shared with us a drawing that he made in 1966, at fourteen. We are lucky that he is a conservationist and thankful he could show it to us and tell its story.

He calls it a GROB and considers it borderline appropriate. Indeed it feels juvenile in a full mid-teens sense, and it remains so to this day, according to the Urban Dictionary. However, little did I suspect before preparing this post, that GROB was not only the name of a German aircraft company, but also a funky philanthropic legal term (Gift with Reservation Of Benefit), as explained by lawyer Sian Davies at Co-op Legal Services in the United Kingdom. How appropriate! We are after all a registered charity. Please donate a GROB, or other gifts as you wish.

Interview with Roger Clark Miller. Source: CDIC-CIDE Youtube channel, 10 July 2022

Great Canadian Giving Challenge

Until the end of June, when making a donation in support of our mission, you also increase our chances to win $20 000. We rely on donors to grow the collection and to preserve items in the best possible conditions. Your donation will make a difference and help us bring fantastic images to our target audiences. Please give generously.

The Great Canadian Giving Challenge is an annual initiative by CanadaHelps, a registered charity just like us.

CDIC at Educate to Innovate Conference

Thank you Rachel Reesor, Program Coordinator, and the Jean Augustine Centre for hosting us at their Educate to Innovate conference in Toronto. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to introduce our organization in person to so many fine people of all ages, at the Design Exchange Building.

With this event, organizers gave a concrete demonstration that artistic creativity goes hand in hand with the creativity that fuels science and technology. Allowing families to share this common value means a lot to a community.

And to the young participant who rushed to our table at the end of the day, to contribute her pencil portrait of a dinosaur, be sure that it is safe with us and will not go extinct.

No small matter

Children’s drawings can be a lot of fun and will, more often than not, bring a smile to the adult who encounters them. There is however one thing that experts seem to agree on, and it is that these images are not to be taken lightly, most of all when it comes to sharing with a child. As children reveal themselves candidly, it is everyone’s responsibility to welcome self-expression in a safe and supportive environment.

We share this video presentation recorded in October 2020, and produced by the Discovery Museum (Boston), in which Dr. Ellen Winner, Professor of Psychology at Boston College and Senior Research Associate at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education, shares her findings on the subject.

The Psychology of Artistic Behavior in Children. By Discovery Museum. Source: Youtube, 2022.

TEDx Talks also has a few short conferences on children’s drawings. This lively one, The Power of Children’s Art, by Dr Martha Skogen, designer, researcher, with a Phd is in Visual Communication from NTNU, has also a lot to show and to think about.

International Archives Week 2022

Our way to celebrate this year’s International Archives Week (June 6-10), was to kick it off locally by meeting families at Imagine in the Park Festival, Hamilton Canada. Many thanks to the organizers for their amazing hospitality.

We were able to meet and interact with many families “unplugged” for the first time in our short history. Children and their parents could see a samples of collection items from the 1940s to 2021. Many shared their stories about their home art and a few grand parents even confided to us about well preserved treasures of their own.

June 9th is International Archives Day, that is the day we begin our annual fundraising drive all the way to International Children’s Rights Day in November. Please help us with your donation.

Family visiting our booth at Imagine in the Park festival, 2022. Photos: CDIC-CIDE. Source: CDIC-CIDE.org.

We need your input

Please take five minutes to answer our short survey. We want to know how children’s drawings can be of interest and of use to you. Anyone can answer and the main question is: “Provide 1 to 3 examples of what you would look for in the collection. It can be as general or as specific as you like.”

We are preparing our digital solution that will make our collection searchable online. We need input from families, researchers, psychologists, historians, educators, curators, archivists, publishers, and artists.

Your answers will greatly help us for the years to come. Your input will influence the way we document and catalogue our archival objects. It will help us maximize accessibility of our collection, and our capacity to reach a diverse and dynamic group of users.

Red room. By Yvon. Gouache, 1960s. Source: CDIC-CIDE.
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