Wall of literature to

Nichol Nelson

It will be a wall of words as tall as six people standing end-to-end, and as wide as the length of three school buses.
Bigger than most whales, the wall will contain information on subjects from theater to asteroids; trees to tonsils.
The enormous wall, comprised of thousands of books written by or about University alumni, is the next step in the construction of the Gateway Center’s Heritage Gallery.
In an effort to create the huge wall of literature, formulas and dissertations, officials at the University Alumni Association have begun a drive to collect 5,000 books for the visual monument.
Margaret Carlson, director of the alumni association, stressed the emotional impact of the soon-to-be-constructed wall.
“We hope people will be moved, literally moved,” she said.
The material contained in the stacks of books will represent the intellectual output of the University, Carlson said.
But Andrea Hinding, professor and curator of the University library system, said the 5,000 books are just a fraction of the total written material produced by University alumni.
“So far, no one has been brave enough to try and figure what part of the total output (the wall) is,” she said.
Vincent Ciulla, the wall’s designer, said the first eight feet of the wall will be real books with visible spines. Because of weight concerns, the remaining 27 feet will be comprised of artificial books made of fiberglass.
“As they go further away from you, they’re just too far away to recognize,” Ciulla said.
Carlson said the wall was designed to create an emotional experience for those who pass by it. The enormous output of written knowledge is intended to be so symbolic it wouldn’t need words, she added.
Because the books will not be readable after they are attached to the wall, officials are warning donators not to contribute one-of-a-kind or rare volumes.
Tom Garrison, a spokesman for the alumni association, said officials discussed the dead-end nature of the donation with the Gateway Center’s advisory board and “after a small ripple,” decided to go ahead with the project.
Hinding agreed with Garrison:
“In one sense it’s a sacrifice; in another, it’s changing its use.”
To gain a wide range of volumes, officials are collecting literature from all four University campuses. While contributors can donate at any time, June 4 will be the main collection date for the Twin Cities campus.
Books must be hard-bound, have legible type on the spine and be 11-by-14 inches or smaller to be eligible to be added to the wall.