Loading Library Hours...

Legacy Exhibitions


In Search of Lost Time (Curated by William Guenthner, Ruthann Mowry, & Marco Valladares Pérez) January 24 – July 22
The related concepts of time, chronology, and history form the lens through which Earth scientists view, uunderstand, and interpret a dynamic planet. Modern geologists operate within the intellectual framework of a 4.55 billion year old planet, but the paradigm of an immensely old Earth was not intuitive. It was only through the development of Earth’s history and chronology, beginning in the 18th century, that the science of geology became fully enriched. The discovery of Earth’s history therefore represents a profound shift in our understanding of the natural world, and the scientific endeavors to establish “geohistory” and “geochronology” led to a realization that “nature has a history of its own” (1 Rudwick, 2005).

1. Martin Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005)


Divine Madness (Curated by Dr. Cait Coker, Siobhan McKissic, Ruthann E. Miller, & Ana D. Rodriguez ) January 24 – May 28

What are the limits of possibility? How far can humans go, physically and intellectually? And what are they prepared to do to get what they want? These are only a few of the questions that Divine Madness attempts to answer. Drawing on texts ancient and modern, the topics examined have numerous intersections geographically, historically, and philosophically. This exhibit is a collaborative exploration of the inner and outer lives of people as reflected in the expansive collections at the RBML. 


The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly: Conservation Treatments & Decision Making Through the Ages (Curated by Quinn Morgan Ferris, Marco Valladares Perez, & Jennifer Hain Teper) September 27 – December 20

While contemporary conservators strive to apply innovative modern conservation treatments for our objects, we see the good, the bad, and the ugly of past repairs through the ages in our collections every day. In this exhibition, we bring together examples–many drawn from our own Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s holdings–to show the dynamic practice of modern book and paper conservation.

Writers & Their Tools: Parchment – Paper – Processor (Curated by Ruthann E. Miller) June 17 – August 30

The tools used by writers to commit their thoughts and ideas into a tangible form have evolved over the course of centuries. From writing on parchment with quills, to paper and pens, and all the way to the processors of the digital world, writing is an integral part of cultural communication. On display in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library are the highlights of this progression, featuring the typewriters of Hugh Hefner and Roger Ebert.

Making Mr. Darcy: Cultural Context for the Regency Gentleman (Curated by Lynne M. Thomas) February 21 – May 24

Our first impressions of the works of Jane Austen are often constructed through modern television and film adaptations of her novels. In adaptations, a “proper” Regency gentleman may be easily created simply by casting a British actor with a posh “received pronunciation” accent and a good costuming department. To be considered a gentleman in actual Regency society, however, was a different matter. Works selected for this exhibition illuminate how gentlemen contemporary to Jane Austen were educated, dressed, occupied themselves in work and leisure, participated in politics, and managed their love lives, providing additional context for Austen’s characterizations of gentlemen, both admirable and troublesome.


Building a Library: The Cavagna Sangiuliani Collection at Illinois (Curated by Chloe Ottenhoff) September 14, 2018 – December 14

This exhibition features treasures and curiosities from the Cavagna Sangiuliani Collection, made newly accessible thanks to a Cataloging Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources.  

Art+Books  June 15 – August 15

Exhibition includes works by Jana Sim, Loujon Press, Bea Nettles, Russel Maret, Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., and The Flying Fish Press. 

Designed, Displayed, & Discarded: Ephemeral Printing in Alton, Illinois, 1835-1855 (Curated by Adam Doskey and Krista Gray) February 15 – May 31

On view for the bicentennial of Illinois statehood, this joint venture between the Rare Book & Manuscript Library and the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections examines the role of print and design in the everyday life of early Illinois. 


Matter in the Margins: Gwendolyn Brooks at 100 (Curated by Anna Chen) September 20 — December 20

This exhibition showcases the literary archives of Gwendolyn E. Brooks (1917–2000), Illinois Poet Laureate and the first black winner of the Pulitzer Prize.  Brooks’ papers include youthful poetry and prose, scrapbooks of pieces she published as a young woman, extensive correspondence with a significant roster of other writers, and manuscript drafts and proofs, especially after she left mainstream commercial publishing to produce her works with black-owned presses. 

A Miscellany of Marvels: New Acquisitions at the RBML
August 14 – September 15 2017
What do horses, board games, and volcanoes have in common? They are all featured in the RBML’s summer exhibition showcasing new and notable acquisitions. This exhibition also serves to introduce RBML’s brand new exhibition space—the Ellen and Nirmal Chatterjee Exhibition Gallery. Our new dedicated exhibition space features state-of-the-art cases, a modern and clean aesthetic, and endless possibilities. Many thanks to the Chatterjees for their generous donation that made this space possible.


H.G. Wells Time Traveler (Curator Simon J. James and Caroline Szylowicz) 21 September—21 December 2016.

No writer is more renowned for his ability to anticipate the future than H. G. Wells. His writing foresaw the aeroplane, the tank, space travel, the atomic bomb and the worldwide web; his fantastic fiction imagined time travel, flights to the moon, alien invasion and human beings with the powers of gods.

Wells’s political writing argued for an end to war through the creation of a World State; at the height of his fame Wells was one of the world’s most significant public intellectuals, and, towards the end of his career, he became increasingly interested in universal human rights.

Erasmus and the New Testament (Curator Willis Goth Regier) 5 May—6 August 2016.

Celebrating the 500th anniversary of Erasmus’ New Testament, this exhibition was curated by the former Director of the University of Illinois Press, Willis Goth Regier, and features the major works of Erasmus’s long career, including the two most important editions of his New Testament, those from 1516 and 1519. Erasmus’ contemporaries called him the best of teachers, the prince of humanists, and the most learned of men. His first edition of the Greek New Testament, published 500 years ago this year, changed Christianity forever. Martin Luther used it for his German translation and William Tyndall used it for his English version. Indeed, the text had an enormous impact on Biblical scholarship in general.

O put me in thy books!: 400 Years of Shakespeare in Fiction (Curator Valerie Hotchkiss) 3 February—25 April 2016.

In this exhibit, we explore the fictional Shakespeare by character type through works that span four hundred years. Shakespeare appears in the works of such authors as Ben Jonson, John Milton, Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, Isaac Asimov, Jorge Luis Borges, and Neil Gaiman, among many others. By exploring Shakespeare as a character, we hope to make him live again in the realm of fiction during this year that commemorates the 400th anniversary of his death.


A Nation in Tears: 150 Years after Lincoln’s Death. (Curators: John Hoffmann, Dennis Sears, and Michelle Yestrepsky) 12 February—4 May 2015.

Pirates of the Press: Case Studies in the Prehistory of Copyright. (Curators: Adam V. Doskey and Lori Humphrey Newcomb) 18 September—18 December 2015.


Fire Burne & Cauldron Bubble: Witchcraft at the Dawn of Modernity. (Curator: David Anthony Morris) 30 May—8 August 2014.

First Global Conflict: Contemporary Views of the Great War, 1914-1919. (Curators: Tony Hynes, Dennis Sears, Caroline Szylowicz) 29 August—19 December 2014.

From Babylon to Baseball: Recent Additions to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Curators: Valerie Hotchkiss, Marten Stromberg, Anna Chen, Caroline Szylowicz, Tad Boehmer, Tony Hynes, Chloe Ottenhoff, Dennis Sears, and Sarah Lindenbaum) 24 January—16 May 2014.


Casino Royale and Beyond: 60 Years of Ian Fleming’s Literary Bond (Curator: Michael L. VanBlaricum) 12 April through 12 July 2013

Life on the Moon: Literary and Scientific Reflections. (Curators: Marten Stromberg and Patrick Fadely) 30 August 2013—13 December 2013. Click here for the “Life on the Moon Exhibition” website.

Marcel Proust: Writing Without End. (Curator: Caroline Szylowicz) 19 July—23 August 2013.

Names Swallowed by the Cold: Hidden Histories of Arctic Exploration. (Curator: Adam Doskey) 25 January—8 April 2013.


Adventures in Poetry: The Modern Poetry Collection at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Curators: Chloe Ottenhoff, Adam Doskey, Rosemary Trippe, and Linda Bial)
In the library’s Marshall Gallery: 2 July—31 July 2012
In the Rare Book & Manuscript Library: 20 July—7 September 2012.

Crystallography—Defining the Shape of Our Modern World. (Curators: Greg Girolami and Vera Mainz) 30 April through 13 July, 2012.

The Wealth of Notions: Economists in Conflict. (Curator: Samuel Bostaph) 14 September—14 December 2012.

Wise Animals: Aesop and His Followers. (Curator: Willis Goth Regier) 20 January—20 April, 2012.


Carl Sandburg and the Twentieth Century American Folk Revival. (Curator: Chatham Ewing) 21 January through 1 April 2011.

From A to Z! An Exhibit About Alphabets, Letters, & Writing (Curator: Marten Stromberg) 8 July through 9 September, 2011.
PDF Catalog for: From A to Z! An Exhibit About Alphabets, Letters, & Writing.

Miracle within a Miracle: Johannes Reuchlin and the Jewish Book Controversy: An Exhibition Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of Reuchlin’s Defense of Jewish Writings. (Curators: Valerie Hotchkiss and David Price) 13 April—15 June 2011. Please click here for a .pdf version of the exhibition’s printed catalog.


Curioser and Curiouser: the Games and Mindgames of Lewis Carroll. (Curators: Elizabeth Massa Hoiem, Kelsey Keyes, Lisa Krekelberg, Tara Lyons, and Terra Walton Joseph) 2 February—12 March, 2010.

Geographies of Risk. (Curators: Mariselle Meléndez, Associate Professor of Colonial Latin American Literatures and Cultures, Eleonora Stoppino, Assistant Professor of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, and Javier Irigoyen García, Assistant Professor of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese) 27 August—26 October, 2010.

Mark Twain: Mysterious Stranger. (Curators: Chatham Ewing, Michael Greenlee, Jennifer Lieberman, and Kerstin Rudolph) 16 April— 29 June 2010.

One in a Million: An Exhibition of Eleven Landmark Acquisitions at The University of Illinois. (Curators: Alvan Bregman, Christopher D. Cook, Valerie Hotchkiss) 2 October — 29 January 2010.


Audubon at Illinois: an exhibition of plates from The Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s copy of Audubon’s Birds of America. (Curator: Jo Kibbee) 30 January—24 May 2009.

Collating Cædmon: Editing Old English Texts and the Evolution of Anglo-Saxon in Print. (Curator: Patrick Olson) 6 March—30 April 2009.

Early Birds: A Collection of Bird Books from Belon to Audubon. (Curator: Alvan Bregman) 30 January—2 March 2009.

In Manibus Litteratorum / In the Hands of the Learned: The Mellon Cataloging Project and Five Centuries of Book Ownership. (Curators: Adam V. Doskey and Rebecca J. Bott) 15 June—14 August 2009.


Love Thy Neighbor: An Exhibition Commemorating the Completion of the Episcopal Chapel of St. John the Divine. (Curator: Christopher D. Cook) 16 November 2007—12 January 2008.

Milton and the Book Arts: An Exhibition of Rare and Fine Editions. (Curator: Alvan Bregman) 6 November—19 December 2008.

Multiple Merwins: Poet, Translator, Environmental Activist. (Curators: Christopher D. Cook, Chatham Ewing, and Dennis J. Sears) 6 October—31 October 2008.


Victorian Entertainments: We Are Amused. (Curators: Walter L. Arnstein, Christina Bashford, Nicholas Temperly) 20 April 2007—20 July 2007. Please click here for a .pdf version of the exhibition’s printed catalog.

Release the Stars: Plato’s Timeaus in the Renaissance (Curators: Barbara Sattler, Bruce Swann, Angela Zelinski-Kinney) 14 September—9 November 2007.


Dante at Illinois: an Exhibition. (Curator: Christopher D. Cook) September—December 2006.


Florentine Printing of the Fifteenth Century: A student exhibition. (Curator: Christopher D. Cook) May—June 2003.


From Alchemy to Chemistry: Five Hundred Years of Rare and Interesting Books. (Curators: Tina Chrzastowski, Vera Mainz, and Gregory Girolami) April 2000.

Number Theory for the Millenium. (Curator: Bruce Reznick) May—August 2000.


Spring Surprises: Popular, Literary and Scientific Pop-Up Books. Selections from the School Collection of Children’s and Young Adult Literature. April—May 1999.

Traveling: A Selection of Travel Literature, Maps, and Atlases. June—July 1999.


Chez La Veuve: Women Printers in Great Britain, 1475-1700. A student exhibition. (Curator: Lynn Fors) August—November 1998.