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A grand opening of the Robert Seydel Reading Room will showcase one of Hampshire’s most exciting new spaces on Friday, September 12, from 4 to 6 p.m.
The reading room, located on the second floor of the Harold F. Johnson Library, celebrates the legacy of visual art professor Robert Seydel, who passed away in 2011. Designed and constructed by alum Michael Meo 08F of Maryann Thompson Architects, it houses over 4,000 of Seydel’s books in a space created to reflect his living and working spaces.
“The Robert Seydel Reading Room is, we hope, a wonderfully inviting space in the library that will foment quiet reading of the books in his collection, research into twentieth century literary and artistic figures, and small group discussions and readings,” said Professor of Art History Sura Levine, one of the Hampshire faculty members involved in the project. “Because the reading room is unlike any other part of the library, we hope that it will become a favorite space to hang out for our community members.”
Harold F. Johnson Library Director Jennifer Gunter King noted that the Seydel Reading Room came about only through the dedication and generosity of the Hampshire College community. As part of a committee that included Levine, Professor of Film and Photography Jacqueline Hayden, Professor of Film and Video Production Baba Hillman, Photographic Film Administrator and Technical Director Kane Stewart, and librarians Bonnie Vigeland and Rachel Beckwith, King is happy to see the years of involvement coming to fruition.
“Sura, Jackie, alums and librarians realized how important Robert Seydel’s collection would be for this community. While Seydel had a huge impact on faculty and students, his library and the space designed to hold it will inspire and nourish the creativity and thought of future faculty and students,” said King.
Creating an innovative and unique space was a priority for the renovation. She admits that Meo took the concept even further than she imagined and that the design was initially “scary” for her, as it eschewed traditional library shelving. The results, though, push the boundaries for library casework and shelving and have created something memorable.
“Mike convinced us,” said King. “He was so committed and passionate, and he’s been incredibly sensitive to all of the participants here at Hampshire. Aesthetically we love it. He’s created something that’s genius, and students have expressed not only wild enthusiasm for the space, but also that it’s a comfortable place to study.”
In addition to the grand opening, an exhibition devoted to Seydel’s art and his impact on his students will be on display in the main gallery on the library’s ground floor and on the library’s Magic Board during the month of September. Curated by Audrey Nefores 08F and Ryan Mihaly 08F, “I MAKE ME UP: The Work of Robert Seydel and His Pupils” will showcase Seydel’s collage work alongside the work of about twenty of his former students.
“The focus of “I MAKE ME UP” is the connection between teacher and pupil,” wrote Nefores and Mihaly. “Rather than an artist statement, contributing artists were asked to craft a reflection on how Robert influenced their work. While some reflections are written formally, others are objects or images. Much like Mike Meo, we have approached the curation of this show with the intent to ‘invert the normative condition’ of the gallery.”