Most people visit the Swiss Alps to ski or hike, maybe to launder money. British photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews went to find Frankenstein. Mathews, a fan, brought along her old copy to read, letting the text guide her journey through the landscape. "My eyes scanned the barren white lands for Frankenstein's creature, crossing the glacier at'super-human speed'," she writes in the introduction to her new photo book, In Search of Frankenstein - Mary Shelley's Nightmare. "I imagined catching a darting figure in my peripheral vision or coming across a makeshift cabin that had sheltered the fugitive for the night."
In 1818, the first copy of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published. Two hundred years later, it's still our go-to monster story, even if the cultural images we associate with it owe more to Boris Karloff's portrayal of the monster than Mary Shelley's original novel. Only a handful of books maintain relevance beyond a decade, let alone 200 years – yet Frankenstein endures to this day and still offers instant shorthand for cultural touchstones. Even the name Frankenstein conjures up images of a frightening hotchpotch concoction that isn't natural and shouldn't exist: Frankenfoods, Frankenbabies, and even Frankenalgorithms. That latter of these is important.
Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature is a new traveling exhibition that encourages audiences to examine the intent of Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein, and to discuss Shelley's and their own views about personal and societal responsibility as it relates to science and other areas of life. Frankenstein will visit 80 libraries across the country between October 2002 and December 2005. In addition to the exhibition, participating libraries will host interpretive and educational programs that help audiences examine Mary Shelley's novel and how it uses scientific experimentation as metaphor to comment on cultural values, especially the importance of exercising responsibility toward individuals and the community in all areas of human activity, including science. Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature was developed by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) in collaboration with the ALA Public Programs Office. It has been made possible by major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Washington, D.C., and the National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Md.