View of the large floral illustrations on the walls of the Peter C. Meinig 1961 Memorial Reading Room in Olin Library

Flower Power: In Olin Library, a Study Space with Botanical Flair

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Reading room showcases art by a Cornell staffer—and honors late Board of Trustees chair Peter Meinig ’61, BME ’62

By Joe Wilensky

In a study room on the third floor of Olin Library, a purplish flowering clematis vine appears to snake up one wall, while oversized tiger lilies and columbines blossom on another. In one corner, behind a comfy chair, tubular reddish-orange “falling star” crocosmia blooms add a vibrant splash of color.

The dramatic paintings, derived from works by a local botanical illustrator and former library staffer, were installed during the recent renovation of the room, 305 Olin.

Already a popular study spot—boasting large windows with picturesque views of Uris Library and the Arts Quad—it’s now even more of a draw.

View of the large floral illustrations on the walls of the Peter C. Meinig 1961 Memorial Reading Room in Olin Library

During Reunion 2022, the space was dedicated as the Peter C. Meinig 1961 Memorial Reading Room, in honor of the former Board of Trustees chairman who died in 2017.

Fundraising to support the renovation was led by two of Meinig’s classmates, Dick Tatlow ’61, BCE ’62 (who himself passed away in September 2022), and Marshall Frank ’61, BChemE ’62.

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In addition to new seating and desks accommodating about 20 people, the room now features oversized reproductions of 16 watercolors by milly acharya, who lived and worked in Ithaca as an illustrator, educator, and writer for 30 years, including seven as a cataloguer in Olin.

The artist who created the original watercolors spent seven years as a cataloguer in Olin.

Acharya (who didn’t capitalize her name) died in 2019; her many honors include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Botanical Artists.

Since the original watercolors reproduced in Olin only measured about 16 inches high, they had to be photographed, enlarged onto massive decals, and mounted on the walls.

Carla DeMello, a visual communications specialist for the University Library, spearheaded that process—aiming, she says, “to give the effect of being in a giant garden.”

View into the Peter C. Meinig 1961 Memorial Reading Room in Olin Library

Depicting plants and flowers—from thistle and pomegranate to chili peppers, ornamental grasses, even a sprouting garlic plant—they stretch floor to ceiling on various walls, and brighten the columns between windows.

“Milly’s illustrations are exquisitely detailed,” DeMello observes. “Working with them gave me a rare opportunity to become intimately immersed in her technique and skill.”

All photos by Jason Koski/Cornell University.

Published October 7, 2022


Comments

  1. Allison Hopkins Sheffield, Class of 1956

    Impressively beautiful…hope I am able to see these walls in person some day!

  2. Karen Parfitt

    Why isn’t millie acharya’s name in the first paragraph? Why do we need to read several paragraphs into the article to find out who produced these beautiful paintings? And why is Peter Meinig mentioned just below the title, and in the article before the artist is mentioned?

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