Down the Rabbit Hole at the Morgan Museum and Library

(Originally posted: October 7, 2015)

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I am mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”- Alice in Wonderland.

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MORGAN MUSEUM AND LIBRARY, NEW YORK, NY- Last Sunday I traveled to the Morgan Museum and Library to see Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland the exhibit with Gilberto and Alondra. Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite classics and I was curious to see Lewis Carroll’s process on writing the book.

It’s a small exhibit with yellow painted walls and blue text. Various illustrations from John Tenniel were framed. Carroll’s drafts were in display cases. Carroll’s own photographs of Alice Liddlle, who inspired him to write the story, are also framed for viewing. Each display explained either the author’s writing process or Tenniel’s. I loved seeing the original manuscript and the first published edition of Alice in Wonderland side by side.

Carroll got inspiration for the characters in Wonderland based on his scientific findings and photography. The Dodo was based off of research he did on the now extinct bird. The duchess, Queen of Hearts, Dormouse, Mad Hatter, March Hare, White Rabbit, Knave, Pig, Lizard, Gryphon, Mock Turtle, and Cheshire Cat were all imaginative inspirations.

The Cheshire Cat is my favorite character within the story. Back in the 1800’s the definition of a Cheshire grin was “to smile mischievously from ear to ear.” That definition has now changed since Alice was published and is now more of a reference. Still, the scene where Alice meets the Cheshire Cat gives a lot of “logical nonsense” to think about.

There were other artifacts from Carroll within the exhibit such as his camera, playwright journal, personal diary, and microscope. Various scenes from the book are replicated on the walls. Not everything was open for photography, but I got what I could. Gil soaked up as much knowledge as he could reading all the information available. Alondra meanwhile read a small version of the classic in a little sitting area at the gallery.

After Wonderland, we explored the Morgan library. It’s wall to wall full of rare books. I felt like Belle when she first saw the Beast’s library in Beauty and the Beast. I was in awe. I read some of the titles on the spines of the books. Most were in French or Latin. There were music manuscripts in display cases, vanity chairs, and a fireplace. The architecture was just amazing and it had the right amount of lighting. His study was as big as my apartment and had another hidden library inside a closet. The book nerd in me squealed with joy.

At the end of the day I bought some cool postcards as a souvenir . I wish I was able to take more pictures but it is really strict there. Still, this was a great experience for my first visit at the Morgan. 150 Years in Wonderland ends October 11, 2015.

Photos: Rosa Elena Burgos.

Last Updated: July 21, 2019