A Valentine’s Day program at Alden Library will teach a craft and examine gender roles through century-old artwork made by an artisan.

The Subjective Stitch will feature the work of Barnett Hook, a Vinton County man who lived at the turn of the 20th century and spent his life creating art through needlework. Event attendees will get to view Alden’s exclusive collection of Hook’s work and learn about his life. They’ll also discuss their own thoughts and experiences and try their hands at needlework.

Karmen Beecroft, a digital projects librarian, has been working hard and collaborating with others to digitize the Hook collection using newly-purchased equipment. Since she was hired at Ohio University, one of her objectives has been to increase viewership of the school’s digital collections, which is accessible thanks to rare manuscripts only available at OU.

If You Go

What: The Subjective Stitch

When: 1 p.m., Wednesday

Where: Friends of the Library Room, Alden 319, Alden Library

Admission: Free

“While putting things online makes it easier for remote access, we also want to get people in and let them know you don’t just have to look at it on a screen,” Beecroft said, adding that libraries allow people to come in and touch the materials.

Beecroft said one lesson she hopes participants take away from the event is how to think critically about the way history is told, especially when it’s presented through multiple viewpoints and interpretations like the Hook collection.

“He was a man working in a female-dominated profession,” she said. “How he marketed himself makes a lot of reference to that. In his self-mythos, he magically discovered how to do this overnight with nobody’s help, and then was renowned far and wide for being able to do it better than women.”

Feminist themes will be at the heart of much of the event. The activities will be structured through a feminist model, and subjects of the discussions will cover ideas like gender-based marketing, commercialization and the nature of art versus craft and how it relates to gender.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Beecroft said. “You’re not just going to sit and listen to a lecture. You’re going to get to do something.”

Carla Williams, a music and special projects librarian, has been helping Beecroft to identify and archive pieces of Hook’s needlework in the collection. Williams has been an avid needleworker herself since her mother taught her to embroider when she was only 7 years old.

“I do pretty much any and all kinds of handwork that you might think of,” she said.

At the Subjective Stitch event, Williams will lead a discussion on the learning and teaching of arts and crafts. She will also help others try some needlework themselves.

“It can bring something that’s very old … forward, and see if some of the younger generation could be interested in doing this sort of thing, but maybe with a twist that will make it more interesting for them,” she said.

Williams said those involved in planning the event chose Valentine’s Day for the event in part because they thought it would be an especially good day to discuss gender roles.

“It’s women who do needlework, right? And yet this man from 100 years ago was doing needlework more amazing than anything I’ve ever seen,” she said. “What would be a better way of examining Valentine’s Day than looking at something like this.”



Clarification: The article has been updated to clarify how libraries offer access to the materials.

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