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Becton students catch a glimpse of the past at NYC museum

English 11 Honors students examine rare collections from the Middle Ages and Tennessee Williams

Students analyze a book entitled Temporale: Easter (Moveable Feast).

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Becton’s English 11 Honors students gained firsthand knowledge of literary artifacts while visiting The Morgan Library and Museum on March 9. While at the museum, the beginning of the field trip was comprised of a one-hour personalized tour of financier J.P. Morgan’s library followed by an exploration of rare materials from the medieval time period.

Upon entering the building, students were immediately asked probing questions by their insightful tour guide, Klara, about the artwork on the ceilings. Directly afterwards, scenes from The Odyssey, Le Morte D’Arthur and Renaissance poetry were each identified on the walls.

“A majority of the Morgan’s fortune was spent on collecting art,” said the tour guide.

The class’s attention was then drawn to the Treasures from the Vault collection where they spent an extended amount of time analyzing illuminated, literary and historical manuscripts, each accented with real gold. The manuscripts were written by hand on parchment paper, which the group learned is made of animal skin. “Hundreds of animals went into the making of each book,” noted the tour guide.

Students learn more about religious manuscripts.

Gene Lee mentioned how he particularly liked learning what each of the books were made up of back then, and Maya Dobrygowski added that she found it fascinating how a lot of the books were written in Latin.

The group of juniors then went on to examine the Gutenberg Bible and learned that only two dozen exist in complete form, three of which can be found in the Morgan Library.

The original Guttenberg Bible

Moving on, the tour of Now and Forever: The Art of Medieval Time began with a mini-lesson on the origin of the calendar and the measurement of time. The tour guide educated the students on how the sun was used to decipher the time of day and environmental changes and the faces of the moon helped determine the length of the month.

Students get a mini-lesson from their tour guide Klara.

At this point in the day, several artifacts that the Becton group learned more about were the medieval maps of time such as Peter Poitier’s Geneology of Christ. They gained knowledge on how it was the first historical synopsis with a linear structure.

In addition, they analyzed a real pre-written certificate for those to be permitted to leave purgatory as well as a real Italian astrolabe. They were given specific instructions on how the wheels used to be turned in order to match up the day with the zodiac sign and feast days, so one was able to tell exactly what day it was. “I didn’t know that they used the zodiac so much back then,” said Jacklyn Sewastianowicz.

The only moveable calendar of this type that has survived the Middle Ages

After the personalized tour, students dined at The Morgan Dining Room whose menu was inspired by early twentieth century New York City cuisine. Lunch was then followed by a walk-through of the Tennessee Williams: No Refuge But Writing Exhibition where they were given the opportunity to see prized possessions of the author along with original notes written by him and texts from the mid-twentieth century. “I read about how the author’s first play was a flop, and immediately afterwards, his play The Glass Menagerie was a ‘catastrophic success’,’’ said Jenny Palzom. Maya commented how it was sad learning about the erratic behavior of Williams’ sister Rose.

The Morgan Library & Museum is located at 255 Madison Avenue in NYC. Upcoming exhibitions include oil sketches from artist Eugene Thaw’s collection and newly discovered drawings by Saint-Exupery, the author of The Little Prince.

 

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Becton students catch a glimpse of the past at NYC museum