Out With The Old [Lions] And In With The New [Tigers]

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Our current and on-going library renovation has meant a lot of shuffling of our collections from place to place. “For the move” is a phrase constantly uttered in Rare Books these days. But which move? There have been at least 13 so far since 2011! In order to manage all of these moves (great and small), our department formed a task force in 2013, although work had started well before that. This group consists of four members of Technical Services tasked with assessing the current collections situation, providing data for more informed decision-making, and mapping them to new locations. Like all the best endeavors, it usually starts with a survey and an Access database. For each move our basic raison d’etre is to identify what we have on the shelves (sometimes harder than it sounds), identify projects to facilitate the move, fix any problems, anticipate how (and if) the materials will fit on the new shelves, determine any new organizational methods—physical or virtual, plan the move logistics, and see that the collection materials actually get moved…unscathed.

All of these earlier moves brought to light just how many objects our department has stashed away in various corners and drawers—from hulking great historic furniture to delicate pocket watches. You don’t realize it until you have to find a new place for them all! One project that sprung from the last move was to consolidate many of our museum objects into one location and organize them by size and collection number, both of which are numerous. I have come across many interesting objects during this process of reorganization—new to me, but long-standing library “residents”.

One such item is a 21” wide x 10” high bronze tiger statue that had lost its identification number. The distinct patina and artistic style of this beast looked rather familiar. I could come up with at least two sets of life-sized statues on campus that have a similar look. After a rummage through old accession books (worthy of a blog post themselves), I discovered the secret of our diminutive big cat: it is a cast made by A.P. Proctor.

With further investigation, I found out that it is [probably] a cast for the tiger sculptures outside of Nassau Hall. According to an article in the Daily Princetonian from February 19, 1909, the tiger statues currently flanking the steps were preceded by lions. Alexander P. Proctor (1860-1950) was called upon to make the new sculptures, gifted by the class of 1879. Known for his meticulous portrayal of animals, Proctor has sculptures across the country—including Princeton.

So, out with the old and in with the new. Eventually the collections will settle into their new locations and the RBSC staff will settle into our new offices on C-floor later this year. All this moving gives us a chance to reconnect with the past while enjoying new beginnings.