How to Find Inspiration in Unexpected Places
I grew up in Covington, Kentucky, a town where, during Prohibition, people came to get their booze, get their women, and gamble. It was still somewhat seedy when I was a child in the 1950s, but mostly it was just poor. My father was a bartender and my mother a housewife, and when I was 4 and 5 years old, one of the few treats we could afford was a trip to White Castle. I loved playing with the boxes the hamburgers came in, which were shaped like miniature castles, with little turrets, and said WHITE CASTLE in gothic script. Flash forward a few decades, and I'm working every day with the kind of art that features turreted castles—I curate medieval and Renaissance manuscripts.
Years ago at a dinner at the Morgan, an East Coast patron asked me how a boy from Kentucky got interested in illuminated manuscripts. Instantly, the White Castle box popped into my head. If you'd told me when I was 6, "Someday you'll work in a museum surrounded by fantastic art from the Middle Ages," I'd have said it was as likely I'd work on Mars. Life's inspiration can come from anywhere. Even a piece of trash.
—Roger Wieck, curator at the Morgan Library & Museum