From Far from the Madding Crowd to Back Onto Center Stage

My, what big paws you have…   Cotsen’s beloved tiger now back in residence in his old haunt atop the Wall of Books and ready to greet Cotsen Gallery visitors again.

Life is all about serenity, isn’t it? Comfort, peace of mind, and the chance to hang out the “Do Not Disturb” sign when you want a little down time and R&R…

But sometimes you can have a little too much of a good thing, can’t you?  A little too much quiet, calm, and distance from old friends — or admiring fans, in the case of public figures.

Perhaps this was how the Cotsen Gallery’s peaceable kingdom of stuffed animals and fairy tale figures felt during their year-long vacation from the Cotsen Gallery during the (now completed) renovations of the Gallery and Wall of Books?  All of them usually live on top of and inside the Wall of Books, keeping company with many of the oldest and most notable books in the Cotsen collection (dating from the 15th through the 18th centuries).

Of course there’s no way for mere mortals to know what “inanimate” objects think and feel, but children’s literature is full of stories where dolls, plants, and objects of all sorts have secret inner lives and even adventures.  (For some more info on that fascinating aspect of children’s stories, take a look at “The Secret Lives of Plants” on the Cotsen blog.)

During the renovation work, the animals and books from the Wall of Books lived together in the extremely quiet, calm, and quite secure depths of the Rare Book vaults. But apart from the occasional passer-by staff members paging books for library patrons, this must have been a bit lonely after a while.

“Where did all our visitors and the children go?” —- Cotsen’s “peaceable kingdom” animals in the Rare Books vaults during renovation of the Cotsen Gallery.

No admiring visitors saying “hello,” no undergraduates passing by, and — most important of all — no delighted children coming in to visit, admire you, and sometimes even talk to you. (Providing a space for children to enjoy was a key part of Lloyd Cotsen’s vision for the Cotsen Library, in addition to establishing a rare book collection for use by scholars, researchers, faculty, students, and Princeton classes.)

Madeleine and friends inside the Rare Book vaults. “It’s nice and quiet in here, but we miss all our friends!”

Well, that phase is over now.  After a nice hiatus, all the Cotsen animals and figures are back in their familiar homes — atop the Wall of Books, inside the Wall with the books, and inside the Cotsen curatorial offices.  Tan, rested, and ready, as they say… And eagerly waiting for new visitors and old friends to pay them a visit, as of this coming Monday, April 23.

Cotsen’s bear and sheep back inside the Wall of Books, perhaps getting a quick nap in anticipation of all their visitors?

Cotsen’s bear and sheep back inside the Wall of Books, perhaps getting a quick nap in anticipation of all their visitors?

Why not stop by and say “hello”?  The animals will thank you — in their own quiet way, of course… Wait a second, did I hear a whisper of a talking stuffed animal or a talking horse?

The Books are Back! (and we’re ALMOST ready to reopen)

Cotsen’s “Wall of Books” — repopulated with the collections rare books and other items, after the move back — and the (lighting-improved) Cotsen gallery.

The Cotsen gallery closed in June of 2017 for our long-awaited renovation, part of the broader, multi-year Firestone Renovation Project. Our offices were temporarily located downstairs in the Rare Books & special Collections spaces, and the collections normally shelved in the gallery’s “Wall of Books” were also moved into the rare book vaults. Renovations were ongoing but over time, the gallery was renovated and restored, the outreach office moved back up, and finally (just two days ago) Cotsen’s curatorial staff and our books and collection items were re-shelved back into their usual home.

The space will look little changed except to the most discerning of eyes. Updates were subtle but necessary and include things like new LED lighting and new sprinkler heads. The rare book collections were also reorganized for better retrieval for patrons, security, and future collection growth.

We still need time to unpack and finish preparing before our reopening. But we plan to open to the public in late April!  We look forward to being frequented once again by our variously laughing, shrieking, or well mannered guests (of all ages) who all share in those senses of creativity and imagination that they bring with them to Cotsen.

An empty “Wall of Books” and a darkened Cotsen gallery on the eve of the move back.


We’d like to thank the ever-diligent Cotsen Move Task Force group, who helped plan and execute this last (fingers crossed!) of 20 or so Rare Books & Special Collections moves!