Here is a link to an interesting post (link below) by Marguerite Happe on “Project Dust Bunny”, a research project by the Folger Shakespeare Library to collect and analyse fragments of DNA and other articles that collect in the spine of old books.
While at first it sounds like an excellent idea, she makes some very good points about what could be a slippery slope. While it sounds like a great idea to analyse these fragments, there is a question about whether the article is ‘part’ of the book. For example, if a famous author decided to bookmark a diary with a lock of hair, should the hair be counted as ‘part’ of that historical artifact? How about insects, leaf pressings or other nature samples?
For Project Dust Bunny, the American Libraries Magazine comments that the researchers are deciding how much dust, etc to take out, or whether to leave it until the scientific analysis is advanced enough.
Which leaves another question. If I bought a book at an auction which was found to be owned by Shakespeare himself, would I ‘own’ any of his skin and DNA within the creases? To analyse it? To publish medical or family history data from the DNA that could be embarrassing to his descendants?
It all has too many shades of Henrietta Lacks, and in a way I am glad I will never have enough money to afford a purchase that would necessitate that type of ethical brain teaser!
When I was in Special Collections today doing research for a Hitchcock project, I ran into Wendel Cox, the World’s Best Reference Librarian. As we were chatting (and they were working on exhi…