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Special Collections (2022), an unorthodox audio tour of Cincinnati’s famed Mercantile Library, takes listeners on a contemplative journey through the institution’s collection. Focused through an anthropological lens and presented in the form of a ten-chapter audiobook accessed through a QR code, this piece surveys the human epoch—from the myths of our creation to the realities of our impending demise. Couched within this investigation is an acknowledgment of the most significant mark humanity will leave behind: our collective knowledge. 


Special Collections explores the notion of an ideal standard by which cultural products are measured, valued, and conserved. It examines the objects and ideas we decide to canonize, the injustices that often impact these decisions, and our inventions of preservation that will ultimately lead to our destruction. Utilizing the library as a mirror, we can see ourselves within the fruits of our labor and curiously ask in the manner of Paul Gauguin, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1897-98).

Special Collections (accompanying information card—front and back), Audio Instillation, 42 min. 11 sec., 2022

Special Collections, Chapter 1: In the Beginning (Video substitution for in-person experience), Audio Installation, 2 min. 39 sec., 2022

Special Collections, Interlude: Gee (Video Substitution for In-Person Experience), Audio Installation, 2 min. 39 sec., 2022

To experience more from Special Collections on site at the Mercantile Library or at home visit:

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