News

The Westport Library Announces Launch of a Digital “River of Names”

May 17, 2019

Digital mural brings the “River of Names” tile donor wall
to the 21st-century

 

Westport, CT –The Westport Library announces the unveiling of the digital “River of Names,” an innovative feature of the transformed Library. The interactive “River of Names” will feature the storied tile donor wall that was originally located on the Library’s lower level prior to the renovation project. This innovative digital presentation and website will showcase Westport’s history, as well as past, current and future generations of Library supporters. The transformed “River of Names” will now provide viewers with a multifaceted content experience enabled by an interactive website linking the historic depictions in the mural to additional information about Westport’s rich history. The 43” touch-screen digital mural will be on view and accessible to all on the upper level of the Library.

“We are at an exciting time in our history,” said Iain Bruce, President of the Westport Library Board of Trustees. “While we are physically updating and improving our physical space, we are also reassessing ways in which we can make our collections and materials more accessible and engaging for all of our patrons. Taking this opportunity to present the “River of Names” in this way addresses the challenge we faced with finding an appropriate location for the wall itself in the renovated Library. This new digital mural also offers maximum accessibility, interactivity and continuity for our community today, and for generations to come.” 

When construction began on the Library’s Transformation Project in September 2017, the Library embarked on a comprehensive plan for the numerous installations, original artwork and other objects in the Library collection during the nearly two-year renovation project. One of the first phases of the plan was the removal and storage of the more than 150 works of art that had been on display throughout the Library’s public spaces, reading and program rooms and staff offices. The objects werereappraised, cleaned, photographed, packed and then transported by art handlers to a professional fine art storage location. Other pieces like the famed 1935 W.P.A. mural “Pageant of Juvenile Literature” by Westport artist Robert Lambdin, found homes at other public spaces in town like Staples High School and Town Hall.

To ensure the proper protection of all the pieces in the Library’s art collection, and to manage the considerable costs, volunteers from the Westport Arts Advisory Committee, the Westport Public Art Collection Committee, the Artists Collective of Westport, and interns from Staples High School and Norwalk High School worked together under the leadership of consultant Kathleen Motes Bennewitz, who also serves as the art curator for the town of Westport.

Among the items moved was the “River of Names” tile donor wall on the Riverwalk Level. The Westport Library originally commissioned the creation of the tile wall to acknowledge donors to a capital campaign in 1997-98. The tile wall included the names and messages of past library donors and historic pictorial scenes from more than 350 years of Westport’s history. The plan for the transformed Library presented logistical challenges with keeping the 26’ long x 6’ high “River of Names” in its original location. The Westport Library Board of Trustees made the decision that the physical tile wall would not be reinstalled in the building at this time and would remain in storage. The Library worked with Westport artist Miggs Burroughs to professionally photograph and document each tile of the wall before the installation was professionally taken down and placed in storage under the care of a company specializing in such work.

“When we commissioned the tile wall for the Library, the goal, conceived by Betty Lou Cummings, with Dorothy Curran joining her as co-chair of the campaign, and designed and executed by ceramicist Marion Grebow, was to tell the story of Westport’s history through images of significant events and the names of all the contributors,” said Ann Sheffer, a donor as well as chair of the River of Names Task Force Committee. “Now, in 2019, I am thrilled that all this will be available to many more generations of Westporters through digitization, which will have the ability to link to other artistic and historic perspectives on our Town’s history, in a truly 21st-century demonstration of the role of libraries in preserving our heritage while charting our future.”

“Having this virtual exhibition available will now allow more people, teachers and students, not only in our community but also across the state, nation and even the globe, to have access to the ‘River of Names’ mural and gain an understanding of Westport’s and The Library’s rich history,” said Kathleen Bennewitz. “I can see students leveraging this as a resource in their own research. They will be able to explore, with just a few clicks of the mouse or a simple keyword search, a wide array of information — descriptions, narratives, maps, photos, and ultimately, audio and videos clips. I can see many more people, and younger generations, having access to the ‘River of Names’.“

 

The digital “River of Names” was developed by Square Squared, a Westport company, under the direction of Michael Bud. Square Squared’s services range from print and digital design to audio and video production; the firm is known for dynamic and individualized creative solutions.

For more on the specific elements of the Transformation Project, please visit wltransformationproject.org