A Word on Wordlessness

A Word on Wordlessness

By April C. Armstrong *14

It’s hard for me to imagine, but we’ve shared a full year of wordless selections with you so far! A full 52 items from our collections, showing content drawn across centuries, physical repositories, and diverse staff interests, have been featured here in the past year. Thanks for “reading” along with us.

You may wonder: Why is the series wordless?

My answer: It’s easy—both for us, and for you! Although we love providing context for you, drawing materials together in one post to show connections among them or giving you the historical background you need to more fully understand the significance of an item, not everything requires that all the time. Sometimes, some of what we have is just plain fun to see. Having fun is a legitimate use of our materials (so long as the physical items stay safe, of course), and worthwhile in and of itself.

Criteria for selections for Wordless Wednesday include a requirement that the item can be shown without context. We’re not looking to offend or frustrate you, but just to give you a momentary look at something we enjoy from our collections. Although the occasional word can appear, we also don’t seek to include written documents here, either. Blog visitors should be able to take in the image in an instant. Thus, it’s easy for you to engage with it.

Sometimes, making things easy for you is hard for us. A lot of work will go into an exhibition, a workshop, or a blog post that gives more context, usually involving much more of our time than the audience will spend when they engage with it. Wordless Wednesday makes it easy for us to share things with you. We don’t always have the time available to say as much as we would like, but we want to be consistently sharing things. Wordless Wednesday makes that possible.

Although the posts themselves are wordless, they also have a special feature that will include words. If you click on the image in an individual Wordless Wednesday post, or in the caption below the image that will appear in those Wordless Wednesday entries, it will take you to the place the item can be found on our finding aids or in the Princeton University Library Catalog. That way, you aren’t entirely without context, and you can find out more if you want. We hope you’ll be inspired to do that with at least some of the selections, but we understand that not everyone will have the time available. However, getting to see what we’ve selected, whether or not you want to learn more, helps you to learn about our collections anyway—one of our primary goals for this blog.

The gallery below, featuring many of the selections we’ve highlighted in the series over the past year, gives you a peek at the diversity of our holdings and shares a little of the sense of wonder the materials in Special Collections can spark. We hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as we do.

Here’s to another year showing you what we have in Princeton University Library’s Special Collections, with and without words! We hope you’ll follow along as we continue our work here. If you want to be sure to see every post, you can subscribe to get email notifications from us.

See you tomorrow—wordlessly, of course.