Current Exhibitions

Current Exhibition tab   Past Exhibition tab Online Exhibition Tab Other Exhibitions at the University Tab

Exhibitions on display in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections can be viewed during its regular hours . Displays in the Great Hall can be viewed whenever Rush Rhees Library is open. Directions to Rush Rhees Library can be found here.


   Exhibition: Lewis Henry Morgan at 200:
   A Critical Appreciation   




2018 is the bicentennial of the birth of Lewis Henry Morgan (d. 1881), a Rochester attorney and founding figure in the field of American anthropology. Morgan was an internationally famous scientist who served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His work was cited by Darwin, whose sons visited Morgan in Rochester. Morgan remains well known in anthropology for his studies of Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) social and political organization, but his evolutionary approach to the history of human societies, a direct influence on Marx and Engels, has fallen into disfavor.

Morgan was a prominent citizen of Rochester, and a successful businessman who served in the New York State Assembly and Senate. He bequeathed not only his library and papers to the University of Rochester, but also a sizable estate, which he earmarked for the creation of a women’s college. Nevertheless, Morgan is hardly as well remembered locally as his contemporaries Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

This exhibit is part of a University of Rochester Humanities Project that aims to offer a critical appreciation of Morgan’s various legacies. Components of the project include: partnerships with community organizations; a speaker and film series; a research colloquium; public exhibits; and an innovative website offering digital resources for students, scholars and the public at large (

Exhibits dealing with Morgan’s legacies are planned for fall 2018 at the Rochester Museum & Science Center, the Rochester Public Library (Office of the City Historian), and the University of Rochester Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation.

This exhibit was curated by students of Anthropology 285/485 in fall 2017, is on view in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections on the second floor of Rush Rhees Library during department hours.


     Exhibition: Rochester’s Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass’s World:
     Understanding the Man and His Legacy through Rare Books, Special Collections & Preservation   



In recognition of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass, River Campus Libraries’ Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation (RBSCP) has the honor to share some of our rich holdings relating to this important 19th century American activist, publisher, author, and statesman. The exhibition showcases many aspects of Douglass’s life and legacy as reflected though archival material including letters, published materials, maps, photographs, newspapers, and ephemera.

Frederick Douglass one of the most important figures in American history, and he considered Rochester his home town, living in the city from 1848 until 1872, when he moved to Washington D.C. Upon his death in 1895, Douglass was returned to Rochester, and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery. How did Rochester as a city foster such progressive and radical thinking and action? Though life was very different in Rochester in the mid-19th century, what about our city helps to sustain these progressive ideals into the 21st century?

RBSCP serves as a collection of record for Frederick Douglass materials. Other collections of Douglass materials exist at the Library of Congress, the National Park Service, and New York Public Library. The foundation for our Douglass materials come from, most notably, the papers of Isaac and Amy Post, 19th century radical activists and close friends of Frederick Douglass.  We continue to building on our Douglass holdings, in part with the support of endowment funds and through the generosity of the Friends of the University of Rochester Libraries. 

This exhibit is part of the year-long celebration of Frederick Douglass in the city of Rochester, of which the River Campus Libraries is a partner.

It is on view February 14 - October 6, 2018. in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections on the 2nd floor of Rush Rhees Library during department hours.


     Exhibition: Over Here, Over There
     Student-Soldiers at the University, 1850-1980

Wilson Commons Flags

2018 marks the centennial of the end of the first World War. Almost 900 University students, alumni, alumnae, faculty, and staff participated, marching in the footsteps of those who served in the Civil War and Spanish-American War.

Later generations would follow, in times of war and as a chosen career– in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Some earned their degrees before their military service; others returned to join the faculty and staff, or to pick up their studies after discharge.

A third group combined education and military training: 2017 is also the 75th anniversary of the V-12 program to establish an accelerated training program for naval officers, followed soon after the war by the NROTC program which continues to this day and has just graduated its 70th class.

The exhibition is on view through August 30, 2018 in the Great Hall on the 2nd floor of Rush Rhees Library during  library hours.


     Exhibition: A Stunning Discovery
     A New Trove of Isabella Beecher Hooker Papers



This exhibit offers a glimpse into our recent acquisition of Isabella Beecher Hooker papers. Hooker, a pioneering advocate for women’s rights, was a close associate and friend of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, among others. This significant addition to our Isabella Beecher Hooker and John Hooker Papers was recently found in a barn in Connecticut and was shared with the world via the New York Times and other media such as the Rochester Review earlier in 2017. These never before seen materials will offer new insights into a critical period in the history of the Women’s Suffrage movement in the United States, and will serve as an important resource for scholars, students, and educators.

The exhibition is on view through December 23, 2017 in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections on the 2nd floor of Rush Rhees Library during department hours.

     Exhibition: Finding Inspiration in Our Special Collections   


In the past year, three playwrights have conducted research in the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation (RBSCP), including Mat Smart for his recent hit, The Agitators. Playwrights often seek out the archives to gain a better understanding of the past, and scholars of design, photography, graphic art, and gender studies can also learn a great deal from exploring the history and culture of theater.

The items in this exhibit are taken from our extensive collection of theater materials, which includes a significant collection of twentieth-century British plays, thousands of playbills, photographs, drawings, letters, and posters, as well as a world-class collection relating to the work of Gilbert and Sullivan.

The exhibition is on view through June 1, 2018 in the Friedlander Lobby on the 1st floor of Rush Rhees Library during  library hours.