It is no secret that I am a huge fan of the Free Library of Philadelphia. This awe inspiring beaux-arts structure houses more than books. Art exhibitions, community programs, rare books, and music performances. Whether I'm popping in for an hour or the day, I always leave feeling like I've been let in on a secret. This visit was no different and yet unlike any other after visiting the collection In Our Nature: Flora and Fauna of the Americas.
"Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens as well."—Mark Haddon
Stepping into the cool rare books department was a respite not just from the summer humidity, but also the hustle and bustle of the city. Fellow pedestrians and desperate drivers faded away as my eyes glanced around the room. I felt a bit like Belle discovering the library in the Beast's castle. Books filled glass cases while drawings and paintings lined the walls. I imagined the hours artists spent lovingly and painstaking documenting the spots on the leopard's coat and the lines shading the roots of sarsaparilla. The furrowed brows of writers pouring over field notes and research in order to transform them into these leather bound beauties.
The end of my recess from the modern day felt bitter only for a moment until the realization that I was absorbing my habitat with new eyes. Among the business filled buildings, lush leaves and petals were waiting to be seen. I observed a couple dive nose deep into basil growing outside of a restaurant while exclaiming, "It's so delicious!". An urban garden stood in defiance of the searing sun and asphalt. This was exactly the reminder that I needed. That there is beauty and quiet life in every part of the world including this urban jungle.
Explore this collection and discover a new side of the city for yourself through September 15, just a couple short weeks away. If you find yourself with the time, be sure to pause on the second floor for Tripod: People, Places, Portraits and connect with the other fauna of the city: people!
Philed by Kim Iburg
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103 US