An Overview

A Celebration of Print

A week of activities honoring Benjamin Franklin’s birthday

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Event Description

Benjamin Franklin never visited New Mexico, but his memory will grace a week’s worth of events commemorating his contributions to music and the printed word, along with his diplomacy in Spain, a contributing factor to victory in the American Revolution.

The events kick off the Saturday following what would have been Franklin’s 307th birthday (Jan. 17, 1706) and continue through the following week. All of the events are free with admission. Children 16 and under are free every day; Sundays are free to NM residents. The schedule:

Saturday, Jan. 19, 10am—4pm: The Palace Press, a working exhibition of our printed past and present, will work with Boy Scouts from around New Mexico in a hands-on workshop for a merit badge in the Graphic Arts. Besides printing, participants will tour the Print Shop, visit the museum and make old-fashioned printer’s hats. Sessions are at 10am-noon and 1:30-3:30pm. Space is limited and reservations are required. Contact Melanie LaBorwit at Melanie.laborwit@state.nm.us or 505-476-5044.

(Watch Palace Press Director Tom Leech show how to fold a printer’s hat HERE.)

Sunday, Jan. 20, 2pm: “An Afternoon with Ben Franklin: Words and Music.” Dr. Thomas Chávez, former director of the Palace of the Governors and a scholar of Spanish colonial history, speaks on his forthcoming book from the Palace Press, Dr. Franklin and Spain. Dr. Celia López-Chávez, a Latin American scholar at the University of New Mexico, speaks on the records about Franklin and his musical invention, the glass armonica, that are held in the Spanish Archives.

As a special treat, Musician Mayling Garcia of Corrales will give a performance on the armonica, an instrument that creates music similar to what one achieves when swirling their finger around the lip of a crystal wineglass. Both Mozart and Beethoven wrote music for it, and it enjoyed wide popularity, although some performers complained that its tones caused emotional anguish. (Lead poisoning from the glass has been one hypothesis of an armonica-related ailment.) Practice playing a virtual version by clicking HERE.)

Tuesday, Jan. 21, and Thursday, Jan. 23: Local school groups can work on a project in the Palace Press. (Quick, teachers: Reservations are still available. Call Tom Leech at 505-476-5096.)

Wednesday, Jan. 22: Typographic design students from the Institute of American Indian Arts will work on a hands-on letterpress project from 10am-noon. An afternoon session for school groups is available; contact Tom Leech.

Born Jan. 17, 1706, the son of a Boston candlemaker, Benjamin Franklin became a true Renaissance man—a founder of the United States, writer, printer, inventor, businessman, musician, scientist, humorist, diplomat, and international celebrity. While minister to France, Franklin enlisted the financial aid of the Spanish government to aid the Americans during the Revolutionary War.

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