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Past Exhibitions in Sterling Memorial Library: Memorabila Room

Previous Years


Twelve Portraits: Studies of Women at Yale, by Tanya Marcus

March 2 - June 26, 2020 | Curated by: Tanya Marcuse '90 MFA and George Miles, Curator, Western American Collection, Beinecke Library

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The portraits featured in this exhibit are drawn from a larger series of photographs by Tanya Marcuse (MFA ’90). The project was commissioned by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in honor of the university-wide 50 Women at Yale 150 celebration, which aims “to showcase the depth of women’s contributions to Yale and to the world, to celebrate women at the university, and to inspire thoughtful conversation about the future of women at Yale and in the larger society.”

In this unique installation in the Sterling Library Memorabilia Room, the photographs are presented together with contact sheets and other traces of Marcuse's creative process. Exhibit text and images work together to illuminate Marcuse's process as well as the interpretive nature of the portrait.

Of the Yale University Library project, Marcuse writes: "In my photographs, I harness many of the conventions and expressive powers of formal painted portraits to honor female subjects in commemoration of the 50th/150th anniversary of co-education at Yale. All of the women in the photographs are affiliated with Yale, whether as students, faculty, staff, or administrators, and though Yale women live all over the world, all these portraits were all taken in New Haven.

"That all of these women are affiliated with Yale is at once the purpose of the project and at the same time secondary: a portrait is, first and foremost, about an individual. The photograph is not the person, but a description and interpretation of the encounter between the person in the photograph and the photographer behind the camera. The quiet event of the photograph, however fixed and formal, is still a fragmentary glimpse. The encounter can include both trust and doubt, comfort and discomfort. These tensions are what make a portrait feel psychologically alive, what allows the photograph to explore and describe the complex interiority of the person. I intend this attention and the description of these individuals to be honorific and commemorative."

Marcuse is a critically acclaimed photographer whose work is held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the George Eastman Museum, and other collections. An extensive collection of Marcuse’s work and papers resides at the Beinecke Rare Books Library and the Yale University Art Gallery. She’s a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, and a MacDowell fellowship. Marcuse’s books include Undergarments and Armor (Nazraeli Press, 2005), Wax Bodies, (Nazraeli Press, 2012) and Fruitless | Fallen | Woven (Radius Press, 2019). She teaches photography at Bard College.


From East to West: History of the Chinese Collection at Yale 1849–2019

October 28, 2019 - February 21, 2020  | Curated by: Michael Meng, Librarian for Chinese Studies, Yale University Library. 

Yale University Library has been collecting Chinese-language materials for 170 years. Six titles of Chinese classical texts were deposited at Yale in August 1849, making the College Library the first academic library in the United States to collect Chinese-language books. Samuel Wells Williams, the inaugural Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at Yale, was largely responsible for the earliest acquisitions for the Library. Yung Wing, the first Chinese citizen to graduate from a major American college, was the most important contributor to the founding of Yale’s Chinese Collection. He intended for the Chinese Collection to promote the study of China, and consequently to enhance mutual understanding and cultural exchange between Chinese and Americans.

Many Yale faculty members have contributed greatly to the development of the Chinese Collection. Professors Samuel Wells Williams and Frederick Wells Williams donated their joint personal library. Professor George Alexander Kennedy purchased books for the Library when he traveled to China. Professors Arthur Frederick Wright and Mary Clabaugh Wright contributed to the rapid growth of the collection during the 1960s and 1970s. Most importantly, since its founding in 1961, the Council on East Asian Studies has played a critical role in supporting this world–renowned treasure trove of Chinese resources.
With the generous support of alumni, faculty, and the Council, the Chinese Collection at Yale has expanded to one of the finest and largest collections of its kind outside China. This exhibit records the history of the books and contributors to the collection over the past 170 years. Valuable items from the East Asia Library, Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Haas Family Arts Library showcase the efforts and achievements made collaboratively by students, faculty, and librarians at Yale.


When the Walls Came Tumbling Down: Coeducation in Yale College

July 22 - October 18 | Curated by University Archivist Michael Lotstein and Yale School of Art student Carly Sheehan ’20. This exhibit has been organized in collaboration with the the 50 Women at Yale 150 celebration.

This exhibit highlights the academic, logistical, and social challenges faced by the first women undergraduates at Yale. In September 1969, the first undergraduate women arrived at Yale College—230 women matriculated in the Class of 1973, 151 transfer students joined the Class of 1972, and 194 transfer students joined the Class of 1971. The coeducation of Yale College was the culminating event in the century- long journey of women students at Yale. It began in 1869 with the admission of Alice and Susan Silliman, daughters of chemistry professor Benjamin Silliman, Jr. ’37, into the newly established School of the Fine Arts.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of coeducation in Yale College, the display includes photographs, memorabilia, university records, and the students’ own words from their replies to questionnaires and surveys, and from written accounts of their experiences.

Exhibit at Sterling Library explores history of coeducation at Yale

Pass it on: Preserving our Collective and Personal Cultural Heritage

April 15 - July 15, 2019 | Curated by: Christine McCarthy, Director of the Yale Library Center for Preservation and Conservation Services with contributions from Preservation Department Staff

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The Heritage Health Index, a landmark study conducted by Heritage Preservation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2004, indicated that there were over 48 million objects and artifacts held in public trust by over 30,000 institutions in the United States. By the survey’s best estimates, collectively these institutions are stewards of 270 million rare books and scrapbooks, 152 million photographs, 4.7 million works of art, and 189 million natural science specimens. Many of these collections were considered, at the time of the survey, to be “at risk and [to] require immediate attention and care.”

The Yale University Library’s share includes 15 million bound volumes and close to 2 million photographs. Sound recordings and moving images add thousands of unique documentary and other content to that total. Digital files and their dependent software raise the stakes exponentially for cultural heritage preservation, presenting new challenges. Caring for a collection of the size, breadth, and depth of the Yale Library may seem an impossible task, and yet it is the daily mission of the dedicated and talented staff of the Library’s Center for Preservation and Conservation. 

The exhibit showcases the artistic, surgical, scientific, and technological solutions executed by preservation specialists and conservation experts who accept the mission to preserve and conserve. Each look inside the Center’s laboratories and workrooms is paired with at-home strategies to inspire visitors to make it their mission to preserve their treasures or those of their families or communities.

Opening reception and lecture, Preserving Your Personal Treasures, by curator Christine McCarthy. Thursday, April 25, 3 - 5:30.

Additional Resources:

Preservation and Conservation at Yale University Library: Home Page

Find resources on how to preserve your treasures here

Selling Smoke: Tobacco Advertising and Anti-Smoking Campaigns

October 29, 2018- February 22, 2019 | Curator: Melissa Grafe, Ph.D, with contributions from Medical Historical Library staff and students

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For well over a century, the tobacco industry has been selling smoke in America and abroad: marketing the very idea of smoking with the slick and calculated use of celebrity testimonials, promises of health benefits, memorable slogans, promotional sweepstakes, and more. Selling Smoke exhibits a wide array of tobacco advertising alongside anti-smoking campaign materials, drawn from the William Van Duyn collection of magazine advertisements, ephemera, articles, and pamphlets related to tobacco and cigarette-smoking. Additional anti-smoking posters from the Medical Historical Library’s collections represent national and international efforts to eliminate smoking worldwide.

Originally displayed in the Medical Library in 2014, the updated Selling Smoke exhibition explores the complicated history of tobacco advertising and anti-smoking campaigns.


Celebrating Yale History in Manuscripts and Archives

June 25, 2018 - October 19, 2018 | Curator: Manuscripts and Archives staff members

The Manuscripts and Archives Department in the Yale University Library is a treasure trove of resources documenting the history of Yale, from the 1701 minutes of a meeting of seven of the ten founding ministers of the Collegiate School (renamed Yale College in 1718), to images, email files, and other born-digital material created within the past year by the University’s offices and groups. This exhibit showcases items from the University Archives, Yale publications, and manuscript collections, organized around the themes of Places and Programs, Yale People, and Student Life. It explores people such as Ebenezer Baldwin (B.A. 1763), a Yalie who died serving in the Revolutionary War; Elizabeth Deering Hanscom (Ph.D. 1894), the first woman to graduate from Yale with a Ph.D.; Benjamin Spock (B.A. 1925), the famous “baby doctor” whose 1946 book on child care is one of the most popular best-sellers of all time; Polly Stone Buck, wife of Branford College’s second master and Yale provost Norman S. Buck, who corresponded with Yalies serving in World War II; and Joseph Andrew Johnson III (M.S. 1961, Ph.D. 1965), the second African American (after Edward Bouchet in 1876) to receive a doctorate in Physics from Yale. It also features the Yale president’s house at 43 Hillhouse Avenue, the buildings that have housed the Yale Divinity School through its long history, and fraternal organizations at Yale. The collection materials on exhibit are just the tip of the iceberg of primary sources available throughout the Yale University Library for exploring the people, places, and events that have contributed to over 300 years of Yale history.

An American and Nothing Else: The Great War and the Battle for National Belonging

An American and Nothing Else publicity imageFebruary 12- June 1, 2018 | Curator: Anna Duensing, PhD candidate in History and African American Studies 

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When the United States entered World War I, the call of mass mobilization permeated every aspect of American life. Americans answered this call—for service and sacrifice, money and time, life and loyalty—with deep ambivalence; an ambivalence reflecting the divisive and singular nature of the conflict, but reflecting too the conflicting interests of emerging populations in a rapidly changing nation.

The war raised new issues and exacerbated old ones already cleaving the country, adding strain to the question of national ideals and national identity—of what it meant to be an American. Military and civilian campaigns alike relied on oppressive and exclusionary tactics to uphold these urgent patriotic projects. As President Woodrow Wilson vowed to make the world safe for democracy, home-front battles for basic rights and liberties belied the integrity of that pledge.

An American and Nothing Else: The Great War and the Battle for National Belonging explores this moment of paradox at its centennial, as reflected in speeches, pamphlets, photographs, posters, popular songs, and other examples of propaganda and protest from the period. “100% Americanism” marginalized innumerable civilians and soldiers, even while soliciting their uncritical support. Their manifold response of dedication and dissent cast criticism on American hypocrisy and energized debates about belonging and inclusion. This intense period of cohesion and tension fundamentally shaped American society in the century that followed.


An American Orientalist: the Life and Legacy of Edward E. Salisbury (1814-1901)

Am American Orientalist promotional imageSeptember 6, 2016 - February 6, 2017 Curator: Roberta L. Dougherty, Librarian for Middle East Studies at Yale University Library 

In 1841 the Yale Corporation appointed alumnus Edward Elbridge Salisbury (class of 1832) as professor of Arabic and Sanskrit languages and literature, the first such position in the Americas. This exhibit marks the 175th anniversary of his appointment and explores his scholarly development, his career at Yale and after, his benefactions (including two endowed chairs), and the growth of Yale collections of Islamic manuscripts after Salisbury’s death in 1901. A discerning collector, Salisbury built up his library of Arabic and Sanskrit materials from auctions of the libraries of prominent European Orientalists and through personal contacts with American missionaries in Middle Eastern countries. He donated this “Oriental library”—one hundred manuscripts and hundreds of rare early printed European books in Arabic, Persian, and Sanskrit—to Yale in 1870, making it the largest American library for the study of these languages in its day. 

In succeeding decades Yale librarians have continued to build the manuscript and printed book collection related to these areas of study, with the purchase of the Hartford Seminary’s Arabic manuscript collection in 2005 making Yale’s the third-largest collection of Islamic manuscripts in the United States. Salisbury was among the earliest members of the American Oriental Society (founded 1842), and energetically supported both the organization and its journal. His most famous student, William Dwight Whitney, became a prominent linguist and would succeed Salisbury as professor of Sanskrit. After resigning his professorship in 1856, Salisbury continued to contribute to Yale through his involvement in both the Library Committee and the advisory board of the School of Fine Art. Materials on view come principally from Yale libraries (Manuscripts and Archives, the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, and the general collections). Additional items come from the Yale University Art Gallery and the Near East School of Theology (Beirut). Many objects are on display for the first time.


Moving Earth: ‘Capability’ Brown, Humphry Repton and the Creation of the English Landscape

Moving earth promotional image

March 7 - June 3, 2016 Curated by Beth Morris, Yale Center for British Art, Assistant Librarian

As one of England’s greatest aesthetic achievements, the English landscape garden has become a well-known and defining characteristic of the country. With large sweeping expanses of lush green fields, groupings of trees, winding paths, and serpentine-shaped rivers and lakes, the English landscape appears as an ideal form of nature; it is, however, an expertly crafted construct. Countless hours of moving and reconstructing vast volumes of earth, water, trees and shrubbery demonstrate what can be achieved when combined with careful planning, design and an eye towards nature. Moving Earth explores the creation of the English Landscape through the advent of landscape gardening and the pioneering work of Capability Brown and Humphry Repton.

This exhibition opens with examples of early English formal gardens comprised of geometrical patterns, topiaries, and planted parterres and examines the return to nature as seen through literary criticisms and notions from Addison and Pope. The focus of Moving Earth is on the prolific landscape gardener, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, and his successor Humphry Repton. To fully consider the development of landscape in Georgian England the exhibition highlights architects, such as William Kent and Sir John Vanbrugh, as well the ‘Picturesque’ controversy and criticisms from Richard Payne Knight, Uvedale Price, and William Gilpin, that surrounded this emerging field.

Presented prominently throughout this exhibition are materials from the Yale Center for British Art, including the Reference Library and Archives, and reproductions from the Rare Books and Manuscripts, Prints and Drawings, and Paintings Collections. Moving Earth showcases the extent and range of materials available for research, and the depth and scope to which these concepts, ideas, and topics can be fully examined. This exhibition features an abundance of both primary and secondary resources available at the Center that provides the foundational basis for research into British art, culture and society.


Out of the Desert: Resilience and Memory in Japanese American Internment

Out of the Desert promotional imageNovember 2, 2015 - February 26, 2016 | Curated by Courtney Sato, PhD candidate in American Studies, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

​Drawing from Sterling Library’s Manuscripts and Archives and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Collection of Western Americana, this exhibition highlights Yale’s extensive collection of materials related to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Rich in internee correspondence, artwork, and literature, this exhibit underscores the importance of everyday creative production and alternative narratives of internment.





Celebrating Yale History in Manuscripts & Archives

Celebrating Yale History in Manuscripts and Archives promotional imageFebruary 6 - October 16th, 2015 | Curated by Bill Landis, Head of Public Services, Manuscripts and Archives

​The Manuscripts and Archives Department in the Yale University Library is a treasure trove of resources documenting the history of Yale, from the 1701 minutes of a meeting of seven of the ten founding ministers of the Collegiate School (renamed Yale College in 1718), to images, email files, and other born-digital material created within the past year by the University’s offices and groups. This exhibit showcases items from the University Archives, Yale publications, and manuscript collections, organized around the themes of Student Life, Places and Programs, Yale and the World, and Yale Events. This represents just a drop in the bucket of collection materials in Manuscripts and Archives and throughout the libraries that provide primary sources for exploring the people, places, and events that have contributed to over 300 years of Yale University history.


Paul Rand: Pioneer by Design

Cover of The Architectural Forum magazine

October 27, 2014 - January 30, 2015 | Curated by Molly Dotson, Special Collections Librarian, Arts Library; Jae Rossman, Assistant Director for Special Collections, Arts Library; Holly Hatheway; Assistant Director for Collections, Research & Access Services, Arts Library

2014 marks the centennial of the birth of legendary graphic designer Paul Rand (August 15, 1914-November 26, 1996). Rand transformed conventions of visual communication for American businesses and consumer culture. His corpus spans editorial and book design, advertising, packaging, and corporate identity, including iconic logos for IBM, UPS, Westinghouse, and many others. This exhibition explores Rand’s prolific career through a selection of objects drawn primarily from the Paul Rand Papers (AOB 126), which are now held by the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library.




Bulldog and Panther: The 1970 May Day Rally and Yale

Bulldog and Panther promotional imageFebruary 10- May 16, 2014 | Curator: Bill Landis, Head of Public Services, Manuscripts and Archives & Sarah Schmidt, Head of Printed Acquisitions, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library 

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1969 and 1970 were politically tumultuous years in the United States and indeed around the world. Unrest in U.S. urban areas and on college and university campuses focused on racial and gender inequalities, the ongoing U.S. war in Vietnam, and demands by students for more responsive and inclusive campus decision making. On 19 May 1969 Black Panther Party (BPP) member Alex Rackley was kidnapped and killed in New Haven by other BPP members who believed he was an FBI informant. In a time of intense FBI counter-intelligence focus on neutralizing the BPP’s influence in U.S. cities, the broad swath of indictments for the murder seemed an overreach to many. The defendants were referred to as the New Haven Nine, an allusion to the famous Chicago Seven, and included Bobby Seale, national BPPChairman, who had spoken at Yale the day of the murder. Seale was extradited to Connecticut on the approval of California Governor Ronald Reagan, and the trial was set to begin in May 1970. A large protest rally was organized on the New Haven Green, scheduled for 1-3 May 1970. This exhibit explores the events leading up to the New Haven May Day rally, and its impact on Yale, the New Haven community, and beyond.


From Peru to Paree: A Cole Porter Jubilee

October 18, 2013 - January 31, 2014 | Curators: Yale Music Library staff

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Cole Porter’s graduation from Yale in 1913, the Yale Music Library are offering an exhibition of his life and work. Among Yale’s most notable musical alumni, Porter (1891-1964) is recognized as one the greatest composers for Broadway and Hollywood during the golden years. Only two – Porter and Irving Berlin – wrote their own lyrics.

And what beguiling music, such incomparable lyrics! Porter songs enlivened top Broadway musicals from the 1930s through the 1950s, but also survived many now-forgotten shows to enter the American songbook and to be sung by crooners, pop singers, and jazz artists, as well as rock stars, cowboys, and opera divas. Generations have included Porter’s songs in the soundtracks of their lives – enduring standards such as “Night and Day,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Begin the Beguine,” and “You’re the Top!”

Drawing on the Gilmore Music Library’s extensive Cole Porter Collection, the exhibit presents photographs, letters, scrapbooks, and music manuscripts to illustrate the life and work of this remarkable man. A touch screen computer table offers film clips and recordings of Porter’s stylish and sophisticated songs. The exhibit will be on display in the Memorabilia Room of Sterling Memorial Library from October 19 through January 31, 2014. It is free and open to the public.


Celebrating Yale History in Manuscripts & Archives

July 31 - October 10, 2013 | Curated by Manuscripts and Archives staff

The Manuscripts and Archives Department in the Yale University Library is a treasure trove of resources documenting the history of Yale, from the 1701 minutes of a meeting of seven of the ten founding ministers of the Collegiate School that was renamed Yale College in 1718, to images, email files, and other born-digital material created within the past year by the University’s offices and groups. This exhibit showcases items from the University Archives, Yale publications, and manuscript collections, organized around the themes of Student Life, Places and Programs, Yale and the World, Yale People, and Yale Events. This represents just a drop in the bucket of collection materials in Manuscripts and Archives and throughout the libraries that provide primary sources for exploring the people, places, and events that have contributed to over 300 years of Yale University history.


Aviators, Authors, and Environmentalists: Exploring the Lindbergh Papers and Photographs in Manuscripts & Archives

February 4 - May 17, 2013 | Curated by Manuscripts and Archives staff

The manuscript materials and photographs in Manuscripts & Archives documenting Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh and their families comprise a rich resource for the study of a wide array of topics relating to the United States and the rest of the world from the 1920s to the 1970s. This exhibit celebrates the formal opening of the Lindbergh collections to researchers and spans a wide array of materials. These include pioneering contributions to aviation and commercial passenger airline service; activities that contributed to the success of the United States' efforts during World War II; far-sighted engagement with and support of early wildlife and land conservation efforts worldwide; and careers as celebrated and widely read authors. The exhibit explores the importance of the Lindberghs' endeavors and highlights the expected and unexpected gems that research in archival collections can uncover.