Picturing Words: The Power of Book Illustration

November 21, 2008 – May 3, 2010

National Museum of American History
1300 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC

1st Floor, West Wing, SI Libraries Gallery

See on Map Floor Plan

Through 40 rare books from the Smithsonian Institution's libraries, as well as objects from the museum's Graphic Arts Division, this exhibition explores the power of pictures and book illustrations by answering the following questions:

  • Why are pictures so powerful? Pictures influence, inform, and inspire us in many ways. They attract us, offering a feast for the eye as well as food for the mind. They explain complicated ideas at a glance and even teach those who cannot read.
  • Why do books include pictures? Pictures reach audiences more directly than text alone. They add beauty, color, and life to the printed page. They communicate the author's tone and approach to the subject, and enhance our understanding and enjoyment of the text. They engage us, prompt our imagination, and appeal to readers and non-readers alike.

Video (runs continuously)