January 1, 2018
Happy Birthday, Frankenstein!

When we celebrate bicentennials, we go all in. Leah Nahmias, director of programs and community engagement, takes a look at what’s coming to life in 2018.

January 1 marks the official 200th birthday of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. This remarkable book, first published anonymously on January 1, 1818, has reverberated through culture ever since. Here’s a look ahead at some of the ways we’ll be celebrating in 2018, as part of One State / One Story:

  • Starting on Friday, January 19, we’re initiating a week-by-week, chapter-by-chapter read of the book on our blog. We’ll post a new chapter every “Frankenstein Friday,” along with a question to get you thinking and talking. Follow along on the blog and social media and share your insights and questions with the hashtag #itsalive.
  • In February, we’re welcoming renowned gaming expert Anastasia Salter to lead a game design workshop, “Creating (and Playing) Monsters.” You’ll have the chance to remix Shelley’s story as you learn how to build a “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style online game. Spots are limited, so sign up soon!
  • Catch some Frankenstein-inspired art a few times this year, including during our Quantum Leap-inspired First Friday at the Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis on February 2. A group of Indianapolis-based artists met to read and discuss Frankenstein, to inspire them as they create original works for display in February. Some original Franken-art will also be featured in our Quantum Leap-themed issue of PATTERN, coming later this spring.
  • In March, we’re hosting our first-ever “Weekend Retreat,” an in-depth and fun weekend focused on all things FrankensteinJoin other book lovers for Frankenstein-inspired meals, stimulating talks by Frankenstein experts and discussions with other curious Hoosiers. Teachers and librarians can earn CEU/LEU credit, as well.
  • You can listen to a Frankenstein-themed episode of the podcast Examining Ethics anytime. The episode, created as part of One State / One Story, asks the question: Is it okay for scientists to work in isolation?
  • Speaking of scientists, in May, we’ll turn over our monthly Books, Booze & Brains book club over to Frankenstein. Dr. Robert Pascuzzi, a neurologist at the IU School of Medicine, will join us to talk about how the book relates to theories of the mind in its exploration of the fundamental question, “Who am I?”
  • We’ll be working with our friends at the Indiana State Museums to help science museum and informal science educators design Frankenstein-themed activities, using some of the ideas and guidelines provided by the National Science Foundation-funded Frankenstein Bicentennial Project
  • Next fall we’ll host the first-ever Indiana Sci-Fi & Horror Writers Festival, exploring the two genres that trace their origins to Frankenstein. This teen-focused event also celebrates the fact that Shelley was a teenager when she wrote the novel. The date will be announced in early 2018, so stay tuned!

Throughout the year, libraries, schools, colleges and universities will be coordinating their own Frankenstein programs as part of One State / One Story. I’m excited to share a few of the events I’m most looking forward to:

  • Two special exhibits, one at IU’s Lilly Library in Bloomington and one at Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library in South Bend, will feature first-editions of Frankenstein. Only 500 copies were printed in the first run, so to have two (that we know of!) in Indiana, both on display next year, is an incredible opportunity you don’t want to miss! The Hesburgh collection also includes the first illustrated version from 1831 and the first movie-tie in version from 1931, while the Lilly edition is complemented by other rare books from the history of science and the history of women in science.
  • Musical theater professors at Ball State University will be reviving an original musical they created based on Frankenstein. Stay tuned for when and where you can catch the show!
  • Lake County Public Library’s Merriville Branch, one of 62 Community Read grantees, will be hosting a “Synthetic Humans” series, using Frankenstein as the jumping off point to learn and discuss advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and biomedical engineering.
  • A variety of new college courses will be developed, many of them open to the public. Two examples: Trine will offer the course Science Fiction: Frankenstein and the Mad Scientists in Literature while IUPUI will offer Machines and the Age of Inventionwith a special focus on the history of science and medical ethics, as well as the many pop-culture iterations of the story over time.
  • Ten Indiana communities have been selected to host Frankenfests in 2018, each featuring a read-a-thon of the book and a variety of hands-on activities inspired by Frankenstein. There will be festivals across the state, from Whiting and Angola down to Cannelton.

Stay on top of all things Frankenstein by subscribing to our monthly FrankenNews (and read back issues here).

And finally, our activities will be connected to other celebrations and initiatives happening worldwide. We’re excited to be advising and sharing ideas with the folks behind Frankenreads, an initiative designed by the Keats-Shelley Association of America. Their big goal is to get libraries and book lovers around the world to host Frankenstein read-a-thons next Halloween—and you can count on several Indiana organizations joining in the fun! You may also enjoy playing this alternate reality game developed by our friends at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. And stay tuned, some Franken-games may yet make an appearance at next year’s Gen Con!

To me, Frankenstein is as fresh, surprising and relevant today as it ever was. Since we first started talking about doing a statewide read of the book, I’ve met dozens of people and had hundreds of conversations with others who love this story. Each time I reread a passage or talk about the book with a fellow book lover, I gain new insights and am struck again by what a brilliantly strange, heartbreaking, delightful and smart story it is. I can’t wait to read, think and talk with you in 2018!

One State / One Story: Frankenstein is made possible by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Posted In: Quantum Leap, Frankenstein

One response to “Happy Birthday, Frankenstein!”

  1. […] of the book’s bicentennial, the fine folks at Indiana Humanities went all out to create special programming that uses the text to answer questions about how we decipher what’s right and wrong, how we […]

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