Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth

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Review

of an Exhibit

by Nicoleq Wallace

Published on May 31, 2019

  • Museum: Morgan Library & Museum

  • Visit Date: May, 2019

  • Description:

    As a huge Tolkien fan, I knew I had to see the new Tolkien exhibit at the Morgan Library. Overall, I was a little disappointed. The exhibit did nothing to capture the magic and wonder of Tolkien’s worlds, or to shed light on Tolkien himself. Information was presented in tiny font, multiple text boxes clustered around a single object, that was nearly impossible to read in the crowded space. The content was definitely geared toward “experts” or fans, and would not have made much sense to someone who was not familiar with Tolkien or his stories. I felt like the museum was missing an opportunity to appeal to a newer audience by making it feel like such an insider’s club.

    There were some beautiful large-scale watercolor paintings that helped the space look less like a library, but most of the images displayed were tiny pages behind glass cases. Nearly the entire exhibit is paper, which was disappointing. While there were some amazing drawing I had never seen before, it would have been nice to have more of Tolkien’s personal objects there to really bring life to his story. The linear format of the exhibit necessitated a slow, assembly-line of viewing, with visitors queuing up to see each piece; it was not possible to wander around and find something less crowded. You couldn’t see the tiny objects without being very close, and that meant waiting your turn in line. The space in general was not free-flowing and felt a little constricting. At least there were two benches in the middle of the room where I could sit and look through some of the heavy tomes they had available, which showed, in larger detail, the drawings and letters on the wall. In some ways, I think I would have preferred to purchase the book rather than see the exhibit!

    (Photos were not allowed inside the exhibit)

Latest Comments (1)

too bad

by Kathleen Mclean - June 04, 2019

Thanks Nicoleq. Do you think there was some kind of theme or focus for the materials presented, or was it more like a Tolkein “sampler” of unrelated materials? Do you think the book had more interesting material than the exhibition, and if so, did there seem to be a rationale for this exhibition approach? Or did you feel that the subject of Tolkien was more of a marketing tactic to get people into the library?

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