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Major new exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington curated by Maxwell School professor Chris Kyle
Major new exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington curated by Maxwell School professor Chris KyleOctober 01, 2008Jill Leonhardtjlleonha@maxwell.syr.edu
“Breaking News: Renaissance Journalism and the Birth of the Newspaper” is a new exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., curated by Maxwell School associate professor of history Chris R. Kyle.
“Breaking News,” which runs through Jan. 31, 2009, traces the development of the newspaper from its origins in manuscript letters in Shakespeare’s England to the introduction of daily newspapers around 1700 and the beginnings of American journalism.
The exhibition investigates the history of how news was made, shared, printed, formatted and discussed during the 17th and early 18th centuries. It also explores the complex relationships between journalists and the English government during this formative period, which gave birth to journalism as we now know it.
The exhibition includes well over 100 books, woodcuts and other printed materials drawn from the Folger collection. The first American newspaper, Boston’s Publick Occurrences, is also on display; that 1690 paper was shut down after just one issue because some of its remarks angered the governor. Early publications of newspapers still in print today, such as the London Gazette, which has been in continuous weekly publication since 1665, and the Tatler are also showcased. Other highlights include examples of political propaganda and sensational “newsbooks” such as “The Ranters Ranting” and “The Cry and Revenge of Blood,” which attracted readers with lurid stories of murder, natural disasters, sexual deviance, physical abnormalities and more.
The exhibition also features a working printing press replicated from inventor Johannes Guttenberg’s original design. “The printing press from the early 16th century was a tool which the government both sought to exploit and control,” Kyle says. “The rise of the newspaper industry led the government to institute stringent regulations on what could be printed, but the battle between press freedom and state control was not all one-sided. The newspaper found its staunchest defender in John Milton, whose work “Areopagitica” is perhaps the most eloquent cry for press freedom ever written.”
Much of the exhibition examines the importance of printing in regard to freedom of press, freedom of speech and the role of the press in politics. Along with the story of the birth of the newspaper from its arrival in England to early stirrings of American journalism, “Breaking News” tells the stories of those who wrote, sold and read the news during this pivotal period.
Kyle is an associate professor of history in the Maxwell School. He has edited two books-“Parliament, Politics and Elections: 1604-1648” (Cambridge University Press, 2001) and “Parliament at Work: Parliamentary Committees, Political Power and Public Access in Early Modern England” (Boydell & Brewer, 2002), with Jason Peacey-and is the author of more than a dozen articles on 16th- and 17th-century English history. Kyle has held fellowships from the Huntington Library (San Marino, Calif.), the Folger Shakespeare Library and Hughes Hall at Cambridge University. He received a Meredith Teaching Award in 2006 and has continued to develop a wide range of courses on British history.
Kyle co-curated this exhibition with Jason Peacey, a lecturer in history at University College London, and Elizabeth Walsh, a special consultant on the exhibition and head of reader services at the Folger.
The exhibition takes place in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Great Hall, 201 E. Capitol Street SE, Washington, D.C. For more information about “Breaking News” exhibition times, call the Folger at (202) 544-7077 or visit http://www.folger.edu/template.cfm?cid=2793.