Library Special Collections on the Road


Photograph by Alexander Gardner,
Washington, D.C., February 5, 1865. 
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library

    The University of Delaware Library Special Collections Department occasionally lends items from its collections for temporary exhibition as part of its effort to support scholarship and learning.  Loan requests are closely scrutinized and evaluated on the basis of a number of important criteria, including the physical condition of the item(s); facilities and program of the borrowing institution; appropriate qualifications of its curatorial staff; and anticipated need of the item(s) for University of Delaware research, teaching and exhibition purposes.  During the past two years University of Delaware Library loaned books or manuscripts for several important exhibitions.

    In October 2007, curators from the Old Capitol Museum at the University of Iowa asked to borrow original manuscripts from the Donald Justice papers, which are housed in the Special Collections of the University of Delaware Library, for its exhibition “A Community of Writers: Creative Writing at the University of Iowa.”  The University of Iowa’s program in creative writing was one of the first of its kind and certainly the most celebrated.  Donald Justice (1925-2004) was one of the program’s most distinguished graduates and, while he was at Iowa, studied with Robert Lowell, Karl Shapiro, Paul Engle, and John Berryman in the Iowa Poetry Workshop.  Justice went on to win numerous awards for his poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1979.  “A Community of Writers” was on view from October 12, 2007 through October 12, 2008 and featured several of Donald Justice’s heavily-revised manuscript worksheets from the Donald Justice papers.

    On occasion, the University of Delaware Museums borrow items from Special Collections for display in exhibitions.  In the fall of 2008, the Mechanical Hall Gallery exhibition “Discursive Acts: African American Art at UD and Beyond” (November 1, 2008 through December 7, 2008) featured artwork from the University of Delaware Paul Jones Collection as well as work loaned by a host of other institutions.  Special Collections contributed a remarkable fine-press edition of the Harlem Renaissance author Jean Toomer’s important novel Cane (San Francisco: Arion Press, 2000).  This limited edition from one of the most important twentieth-century American fine presses was illustrated with the woodcuts of Martin Puryear, who is one of the first African American artists to receive international recognition.

    Former University of Delaware Library staff member, Bryan L. W. Draper, who is currently collections conservator at the R. Lee Hornbake Library of the University of Maryland, contacted Special Collections staff in early 2008 to request the loan of two books for “The Well-Dressed Book,” an exhibition on display from February 4, 2008 through June 30, 2008.  The exhibition, which was held in conjunction with a scholarly symposium, examined perspectives in nineteenth-century American publishers’ cloth bindings from 1830-1920.  The University of Delaware Library loaned two volumes with exceptional original cloth bindings, both written by the British archaeologist Sir Henry Austen Layard (1817-1894), Discoveries Among the Ruins of Ninevah and Babylon (1853) and Ninevah and Its Remains (1849).  The two books were displayed with two others that had been commercially rebound as a means of contrasting them with the University of Delaware copies to demonstrate the importance of original bindings to the artifactual integrity of the books.

    In 2009, materials from Special Collections were featured in two major exhibitions at other institutions.  In April 2009, the exhibition “Galileo, the Medici, and the Age of Astronomy” opened at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  The exhibition, which celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of Galileo’s astronomical discoveries, was on view through September 7, 2009 and attracted thousands of visitors.  “Galileo, the Medici, and the Age of Astronomy” featured rare books, manuscripts, papers, artwork, and scientific instruments, including one of only two remaining telescopes formerly owned by Galileo.  The University of Delaware Library’s contribution to the exhibition was a rare early edition of Galileo’s treatise “La operazione dell compass geometric, et militare…” (Padua, 1640) in which he provides a detailed analysis of the operation of a geometrical and military compass.

    As part of the statewide celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809), the University of Delaware Library’s exhibition “Abraham Lincoln: A Bicentennial Celebration,” on view in the Special Collections Gallery from January 27, 2009 through June 5, 2009, travelled to Dover where it was displayed at the Delaware Public Archives from June 11, 2009 through September 19, 2009.  The exhibition opened with a special preview gala on June 9, 2009, attended by members of the Delaware General Assembly, Governor Jack Markell and other state officials, members of the Delaware Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the Lincoln Club of Delaware, and other invited guests.  The University of Delaware Library was represented at the official opening by Susan Brynteson, vice provost and May Morris director of libraries.

    Loaning materials from its collections for exhibition is an important outreach activity for the University of Delaware Library.  In addition to demonstrating support for and commitment to scholarship and learning, exhibition loans also help promote the reputation of the University of Delaware Library as an important center for primary research in a variety of disciplines.

About the Special Collections Department
    Holdings of the Special Collections Department of the University of Delaware Library include books, manuscripts, maps, prints, photographs, broadsides, periodicals, pamphlets, ephemera, and realia from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century. The collections complement the Library's general collections with particular strengths in the subject areas of the arts; English, Irish, and American literature; history and Delawareana; horticulture; and history of science and technology.  The University of Delaware Archives is separately administered and comprises university records and history of the institution.

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