On Thursday, Doheny Memorial Library was transformed for Wonderland Unbound, a multimedia event to showcase works from the USC Libraries’ Cassady Lewis Carroll Collection. Wonderland Unbound is an evening filled with music, food, actors in costume and interactive multimedia events such as visual presentations and scavenger hunts — all central to the theme of Lewis Carroll’s imaginative works.
Wonderland Unbound was sponsored by Visions & Voices to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the USC Libraries Wonderland Award, a multidisciplinary competition in which students create new, scholarly and creative works inspired by the ever-growing Cassady Lewis Carroll Collection.
Tyson Gaskill, executive director of communications and events at USC Libraries, stated that George and Linda Cassady not only donated the collection to USC, but started the award as well.
“They didn’t want the collection to just sit here,” Gaskill said. “They specifically wanted the students to be able to interact with the collection and keep it relevant, keep it fresh.”
Linda Cassady, one of the founders of the collection, said that Wonderland Unbound seemed like a natural fit for the university because Carroll disliked being an adult and was always interested in self-discovery and creativity.
“It’s fun seeing how the rest of the student body responds to Carroll,” Cassady said. “I like the students watching it and participating with it, especially for those who didn’t know much about Carroll’s works before.”
Corona Yu, a freshman majoring in biochemistry, said that she was glad to be taking advantage of USC’s artistic events and enjoyed the free food, animation, actors and decoration.
“It all comes together to seem really like a Wonderland,” Yu said.
Abby Saunders, curator of the Cassady Lewis Carroll Collection, explained that unlike many other universities, USC opens up its special collections to the public.
“We encourage especially students and faculty to come and enjoy [the special collections]. It’s really open,” Saunders said.
Wonderland Unbound shared Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Hunting of the Snark and other rare materials from the collection by incorporating all aspects of Lewis Carroll’s genius in unique ways, such as digital animation and massive light projections of Carroll’s famous characters that covered the walls of Doheny. The projection mapping of the library building was done in partnership with 7StarSun.
“7StarSun spent a lot of time with us looking at the collection and coming up with creative ideas that we then tried to massage and focus into the right direction,” Gaskill said.
Tim Stanton, project manager for USC Libraries, explained how he worked those involved with the animations to best exemplify Carroll, who worked not only in literature, but in photography, games and math.
“What we told people was to think of everything Lewis Carroll created, not just Alice,” Stanton said. “To focus on his math, his lesser-known stories, the totality of his work.”
Gaskill discussed how it was to implement new technology and medium in creating Wonderland Unbound as a large-scale multimedia event.
“We’re working way outside of our comfort zone. We have not done something like this before,” Gaskill said.
The façade of the library was transformed through large projections of Carroll’s stories, such as Alice’s adventures and the battle of the Jabberwocky. The event started with 7StarSun’s original productions then shared student productions from USC’s Cinematic Arts graduate students.
Bethany Balchunas, a freshman majoring in archaeology, said that she enjoyed the light projections, which were imaginative and mind-opening.
“I like that the event included student productions. It feels more ‘ours,’” Balchunas said.
Throughout the night, visitors were able to interact with actors in costume, who helped with the augmented reality scavenger games.
“They’re clear, white-looking books with Carrollian phrases,” Stanton said. “You then take a tablet with an app running on it and you roll it over the book to see a feature come up, like a rabbit going down the hole.”
In between the different animations, people were also given the chance to choose which light projections would be shown on the building.
“I think the star of the show will be the tablet,” Stanton said. “There with a tablet, you’re able to manipulate the imagery shown on the building like video jockeys.”
Planning for the event started two years ago to both commemorate the 10th anniversary and celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice ‘s Adventures in Wonderland.
“This is almost like a kick-off event for the anniversary,” Gaskill said.