From neuroscience and blood transfusions to hypnotism and phonograph recordings, Stoker’s Dracula is as much a chronicle of scientific, medical, and technological advances as it is the tale of the monster that threatens it all. Courtesy of The Rosenbach.
In the 19th century, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker created two of history’s most memorable monsters with Frankenstein and Dracula. Two centuries later, the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia will shed new light on these seminal Gothic works with Frankenstein & Dracula: Gothic Monsters, Modern Science, a dynamic exhibition on view October 13, 2017 through February 11, 2018.
Featuring the only US appearance of Shelley’s original manuscript for Frankenstein, on loan from Oxford’s Bodleian Library, alongside the Rosenbach's collection of Stoker’s notes, and scientific and medical documents from the 19th century to the present, Frankenstein & Dracula investigates the intersection of scientific literature, ethics, and social anxieties, past and present.
“The monster, or creature, as many prefer to call him, resonates from generation to generation because he ultimately reminds us of our own humanity,” says curator Judy Guston. Similarly, the core questions presented by Frankenstein remain relevant to this day. “What does it mean to create (life)? What is our responsibility for what we create? These questions, as well as those that stem from them, [such as] what does it mean to be a parent, a scientist, to behave ethically?, are at the core of the novel. But there is so much more that we find in the novel that has spurred creative responses over the years,” Guston explains.
Interactive kiosks, created by Bluecadet, will invite visitors to slip into the role of a scientist tasked with defeating one of three modern monsters by creating new technology or modifying a living organism and responding to difficult ethical scenarios. The storylines of each of the interactive challenges reflect the events and themes of Frankenstein and Dracula. For example, a visitor may be asked to combat a mosquito-borne illness (screenshots shown below), but the possible remedies may have unintended harmful effects on the local population. As visitors make their decisions, the results of the experiments will be projected onto the wall in front of the kiosk.
In another gallery, visitors will encounter interactive activities promoting scientific exploration and emerging technologies, designed by partners of the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project—an international collaboration of museums, science centers, and community maker spaces including the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the Rosenbach, the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis, and the Science Museum of Minnesota.