Home » Uncategorized » Lively languages

Lively languages

Much of the renovation at the Thompson library has focused on giving a modern update to the classic elements of the library.

Forty-nine new inlays on the library’s floors take this idea just a little bit further.

One of 49 new inlay tiles greets visitors to the renovated Thompson Library, slated to open in Autumn Quarter.The inlays represent the many languages found or related to the library's collection. Photo by Kenny Greer.KENNY GREER/THE LANTERNOne of 49 new inlay tiles greets visitors to the renovated Thompson Library, slated to open in Autumn Quarter.The inlays represent the many languages found or related to the library’s collection.
Each cast-metal bronze plaque on the floor features a modern or ancient alphabet or other collection of communication symbols produced in relief. For example, the musical notation for the song “Carmen Ohio” is featured on one plaque.

Library leaders decided that the terrazzo floors “needed something to make them more interesting,” said Wesley Boomgaarden, preservation officer of Ohio State University Libraries.

The languages represented on the floor plaques, which vary in size, are either found in or pertinent to the library’s collection, said Pam McClung, the graphic artist who designed the tiles.

Predrag Matejic, an associate professor in Slavic and East European languages and literatures, had the idea of putting in all of the alphabets that represent the library collections, Boomgaarden said.

Familiar alphabets such as Latin, Braille, American Sign Language, Chinese and Arabic can be found among the plaques, as well as some more unusual symbols. “Not every language has an alphabet,” Boomgaarden said. “Some are pictographs, some are scripts.”

One plaque depicts Laban, a notation describing movement that is commonly used by dancers. Another depicts Tengwar, a language devised by J.R.R. Tolkien and used in his “Lord of the Rings” books.

The musical notation for the Djembe, a West African drum, can be found on another plaque. Symbols used by the Olmec people of Mexico, who may have been the first civilization in the Western Hemisphere to develop a writing system, can also be found on a plaque. The first plaque on the floor inside the main entrance of the library, which opens Autumn Quarter this year, shows only a series of pictograms.

“I did research at our library using our books,” McClung said. “They’re from all around the world, ancient pictograms and cave writing. I thought, ‘What better to start off with than the very first writings?’ “

McClung created the designs for the plaques and the library enlisted some OSU architecture students to help format the designs for production, Boomgaarden said.

“It was a big technical challenge. You can use fonts in the computer, but some things don’t have a font,” McClung said. “The Rongo Rongo [language plaque] that I did … it’s from Easter Island. It’s never been translated.”


Dan McKeever can be reached at mckeever.16@osu.edu.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.