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'The Institute for Encyclopedic Amalgamation'

New Dittmar Gallery’s exhibit shows how old encyclopedias can be repurposed

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Print encyclopedias have gone the way of the dinosaur in today’s digital world, but to J. Thomas Pallas they are “an endangered species” that need to be saved.

Northwestern University’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery will host Pallas’ “The Institute for Encyclopedic Amalgamation” from Oct. 25 through Dec. 10.” The new interactive exhibition as well as an opening reception taking place from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, are free and open to the public. The reception includes a brief talk by Pallas and a performance by Syndicate 119, a Northwestern student jazz ensemble.

The Dittmar Gallery is located on the first floor of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus.

To devise new uses for encyclopedias, Dittmar visitors will participate in making a new encyclopedic volume by contributing source material culled from the sets in the gallery. They will explore the books on display and use a computer to scan appealing entries from the IEA’s digital archive and add to the publication-in-the-making.

Pallas is editor-in-chief of The Institute for Encyclopedic Amalgamation (IEA), a repository and sanctuary for abandoned encyclopedia sets. The IEA collects and catalogues encyclopedias and turns them into hand-printed and hand-bound books and source material for large prints, collages and installations.  

Exhibition highlights include “Light of Knowledge,” a combination of gum arabic transfer prints and graphite on a found architectural blueprint; “Hands on Learning,” hand-bound lithographs printed on paper with a smooth surface and soft texture; and “The Point of the Matter,” an installation comprised of a series of hand-printed matchbooks in varying dimensions in a clear glass bowl.

Pallas teaches at the Associated Colleges of the Midwest and in the Foundations department at the Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago. He also is the curator for the City Colleges of Chicago and an artist guide and consultant for the Teen Creative Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

For more on the exhibition, contact the Dittmar Gallery at (847) 491-2348 or email Or call Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300.

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