(Project Managers) Shawmut Design and Construction
Jonathan Alger, Partner-in-Charge
Ann Beha Architects
The Newark Public Library’s permanent exhibition “The Philip Roth Personal Library,” had to capture the notable American novelist’s lifelong engagement with reading, writing, and Newark. Donated to the Library after his death, Roth’s collection consists of approximately 7,000 volumes used by the author to inform his own groundbreaking fiction.
The exhibition design and graphics bring to life Roth’s signature book jacket designs during his key years of influence in a visible and vibrant way. The exhibition brand identity echoes the typeface of those classic covers. The room’s design was developed after spending time inside Roth’s home assessing the collection. The visits inspired the notion of turning part of the gallery into a room within a room (and a library within a library) made entirely of books. Many books bear Roth’s handwritten comments, notes and markings. The immersive book room functions as a reading room, where researchers will be able to consult Roth’s books and manuscript collections by appointment. Custom casework displays the author’s literary awards, an autograph book from elementary school, and correspondence from other authors, as well as typewriters, baseball caps, posters, and academic gowns. Multiple digital surfaces focus on the handwritten notes found by researchers, hidden amongst collection objects. Other digital elements are kept to a minimum, to make the project easier to maintain for Newark Public Library staff. The library also safeguards Roth’s famous standing writing desk, Eames reading chair, and other furniture from his writing studio in Connecticut, including three typewriters bequeathed to NPL.
The collection is among the very few personal libraries of major American writers preserved in their entirety for public view. Both the collection and the exhibits provide a window into the writer’s intellect, imagination, and legacy.