A Collector’s Collection:The Rosenbach Museum & Library
I will do my best to try and relay some essence of this excitement through the selective paraphrase of my conversation with Michael Barsanti that follows. As usual, MB will stand for Michael Barsanti; AT, for this author.
AT: Can I ask you to introduce yourself and tell me a bit about your background and title at The Rosenbach Museum & Library?
MB: Sure. I have a Ph.D. in English, with an emphasis on twentieth century British authors. I started at the Rosenbach as a researcher, while I was working on my doctorate. Eventually I came on staff. Most recently my title was Associate Curator. I just got promoted to be Director of Special Projects, whatever that means.
AT: Can we start this conversation with a description of the mission or goals of The Rosenbach Museum & Library?
MB: Certainly. The Museum [Editor’s Note: as we will refer to it --- capitalized as a proper noun, as it is part of the name of the institution -- from hereon in for brevity’s sake] has basically three simultaneous missions or goals. First, it is a house museum. Through furniture, armchairs, tables, fine arts, decorative arts, and antiques, we portray the world in which the Rosenbachs lived as well as the material that Philip bought and sold. Second, it is a research library. And third, it is a museum with a changing schedule of exhibitions for which we create brochures. We have won the Leab Award [a prestigious award given for the best exhibition catalogues in a specific year by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Society division of the American Library Association] three times.
Right now, visitors walk in the door to 2008 DeLancey Place. But once our renovation is completed, Museum visitors will be ushered directly into 2010 [the adjoining building], where there will be a new orientation gallery that will feature an exhibition – perhaps a videotape -- about the Rosenbach brothers as collectors. For us, the Rosenbachs are important not as examples of wealth or taste but because these people were collectors. We aim to get people thinking about collecting as a creative act from the start of their visit here. The house is important because it functioned as a showcase for them as dealers. We’d also like to get visitors thinking from the start of their tour about their own collections, or potential collections.