Coconut fiber, aluminum foam, and self-cleaning textile—popular circulating materials at Loeb Design Library.
May 13, 2014—Visitors to the Materials Collection at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s Frances Loeb Library will never be admonished to look without touching. In this tactile paradise, fingers—and imagination—are encouraged to roam free.
Tucked in a long, narrow room off the stacks, the collection consists of 600-plus physical material samples, often with multiple pieces per product. Bins, boxes and bags fill shelves and drawers with objects of every texture, color, size and shape.
Created and cultivated to support research, teaching and learning, the collection is available to help students and faculty re-envision possibilities in the constructed environment.
“You have these preconceived ideas of what concrete is,” said Johanna Kasubowski, Design Resources Librarian. “We have samples of concrete as you’ve never thought of it—foamed concrete, flexible concrete. It really shatters the way you think about a building material.”
Started as a faculty research project in 2004, the collection was absorbed into the Library in 2011. Today, librarians Alix Reiskind and Johanna Kasubowski work closely with Jane Hutton, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Materials Collection faculty liaison, to shape the collection growth, oversee operational considerations, and are in the midst of developing a new database with the Rhode Island School of Design’s Fleet Library Material Resource Center. A database facilitates discovery, and a specially designed space is dedicated to its use in teaching and learning.
“The space retrofit transformed what services the library can offer within the collection,” Kasubowski opined. “It has allowed us to activate the collection through installations, work with faculty, and host classes.”