The traveling exhibit, “Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible,” opened yesterday in EMU’s Hartzler Library. “Manifold Greatness” chronicles the history of the 1611 King James Bible, sharing everything from the tumultuous political climate surrounding its origin, to its influence and lasting impact in American popular culture.
The 14 staggered panels in the library are representations of a larger exhibit that celebrated the King James Bible’s 400-year-old history in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. during the fall of 2011. This traveling exhibit has visited libraries all over the United States for almost a year and a half, from Columbia University’s library in New York City to the library of University of Mississippi. EMU is one of 40 hosting libraries, and the only library to host in Virginia.
Stephanie Bush, EMU’s Instructional Services Librarian, wrote the multi-page grant applying to bring the exhibit to EMU all the way back in April 2011. Bush expressed that it was an honor to be chosen as a hosting library for the exhibit, and also stressed the impact the exhibit will have in the EMU community. Thanks to the visiting exhibit, EMU, along with the Massanutten Regional Library, will welcome scholars and professors from James Madison University (JMU) and the University of Virginia (UVA). This involvement with the outer regional community is what Bush is “most pleased with,” for it has created a relationship with Massanutten Regional Library and inspired “interesting dialogue with faculty from JMU and UVA.”
The “interesting dialogue” that Bush refers to are the four events that coincide with the panels in the library. The opening event is a reception and lecture by EMU’s Language & Literature Professor Kevin Seidel, who will analyze the myths surrounding the King James Bible and how those myths influence our reading of the Bible today. He investigates how its legacy has shaped our “expectations of what role the Bible has in our lives.” Seidel’s lecture will examine “why the scriptures are hard to read after the King James Bible.”
Valerie Cooper, Professor of Religious Studies at UVA, will speak about Maria Stewart, an African-American abolitionist. The lecture looks into Stewart’s use of the King James Bible in her speeches at a time in history when the King James Bible was largely understood to support and justify slavery.
Lois Bowman, a Librarian in EMU’s Historical Library, will dialogue with Michael Galgano, Head of the History Department at JMU, on the role of the King James Bible in family traditions.
Finally, Kate Burke, Drama Professor at UVA, will conduct an interactive workshop on reading the King James Bible. Burke has history visiting churches and working towards improving the way we read scripture at the pulpit, viewing the act as something akin to a spiritual practice.
Michael Medley, Professor in EMU’s Language and Literature Department, voiced his excitement for the display, adding that the exhibit is a “great compliment to Stephanie Bush.” Medley, who looked at the language of the King James Bible in his linguistics class last year, understands the construction of the King James Bible to be a “watershed moment in the history of English Language.” According to Medley, The King James Bible was the first Bible translation to be widely publicly available for English speakers, and would have been only one or two of the books they owned. Coincidently, the King James Bible, because of its everyday importance, influenced everyday conversational language. Sayings such as “by the skin of my teeth,” have their origins in the King James Bible.
Medley is not alone in his regard of “Manifold Greatness.” Mary Sprunger, EMU History Professor, is requiring all of her students in Renaissance and Reformation to go to the opening of the exhibit and Seidel’s Lecture. Peter Dula, Professor in EMU’s Bible and Religion department, encouraged students to see the display.
Bush received news that Hartzler Library was chosen to host the traveling exhibit in August 2011. And after a year in a half of organization and planning, “Manifold Greatness” has taken residency here on campus. Understandably, Bush voiced her relief in finally having the exhibit here at EMU and ready for curious eyes.
-Konrad Swartz, Staff Writer