Meg Piorko, PhD, recently joined Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement (DCDE) as Distinctive Collections Librarian. Falvey Library’s rare collections are organized into three categories—Special Collections, University Archives, and the Digital Library. “I am responsible for cataloging new acquisitions and materials currently in the Library’s collections and adding them to the Digital Library.”
Originally from northern Delaware, Piorko earned a BA in Art History and Studio Art from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, a MA in Art History from Georgia State University, and a PhD in History from Georgia State University. Before joining the Falvey Library staff she was the Curatorial Fellow for the Othmer Library Special Collections at the Science History Institute. “They have a huge alchemy collection of rare materials,” Piorko reflects on her post-doctorial fellowship at the Science History Institute. “I spent 80 percent of my time researching and 20 percent of my time learning library skills from James R. Voelkel, PhD, Curator of Rare Books. I acquired skills that were not taught in my PhD curriculum; like acquisitions, how to accession new materials in the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) and all of the library databases.”
Combining her librarianship and academic background, Piorko is focused on digitizing the materiality of a text. “Theoretically, I come from the standpoint of material bibliography. I mostly work on early hand-pressed texts and every copy is unique. When we replicate something it is never the same. Even on a copy machine, each individual material culture object is different from the other one. If you’ve ever seen artists copy the same print over and over…the print changes every time. So do texts when they are copied and when multiple copies are produced (even in the same edition). I’m interested in copy specific evidence of the production of a material culture object (text) and how it was used by different historical actors. For example, people writing in the margins of their text, or chopping them up and putting them with other texts and rebinding them. How knowledge travels through textual media is what I’m interested in and I hope to bring that to my current position when I’m digitizing. Ensuring I’m also capturing the materiality and the copy specific evidence within these objects.”
The broad collections at Falvey Library and the opportunity to stay near the Philadelphia area drew Piorko to Villanova University. “Philadelphia has such a rich intellectual and cultural history. The city has incredible libraries with all kind of objects to study and make available to individuals that want to know about the cultural heritage. Villanova University is an outstanding holding institution for that. I’m really excited about the collections at Falvey Library. They are really broad and the nature of donations that come to Villanova are not subject specific and seem to be driven by relationships rather than subject. Which results in all kinds of fascinating objects that span different cultures and different time periods.”
Piorko is excited to collaborate with the Villanova community. “I am looking forward to bringing special collections into the classroom and public exhibits; encouraging hands-on (to whatever extent is safe for the materials) interactions with these objects. They should not just sit in the library. These objects are living. They are not just printed and the knowledge is stagnant. People continually contribute knowledge to these objects.” Building relationships and communicating the value of these collections to the Villanova community is essential for Piorko. “Falvey’s collections can be another vehicle of knowledge. I want to connect with the community and let them know about the really incredible things that we have in the collections. That’s what drew me here, the opportunity to help connect the humanity of these objects to to what is being learned in the classroom.”
In her free time, Piorko volunteers with PAWS animal rescue in Philadelphia. She enjoys playing board games and card games and going to the moves to watch horror films. Her reading recommendation for Falvey patrons: Out There by Kate Folk. “I loved this book. I like to read futuristic sci-fi that is also social commentary.”
Piorko’s desk is located in Access Services on Falvey’s first floor (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). For more on Villanova University’s distinctive collections materials, please visit this webpage. Distinctive collections materials can be viewed in the Rare Book Room (Wednesday’s 9:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m. and Thursday’s 2 p.m.–4 p.m.) as well as other hours by appointment. Faculty interested in incorporating Falvey’s collections in the classroom can contact Piorko to discuss options for collaboration.
Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library.