Past Exhibits 2010

Printer-friendly versionSend by email


Radical Woman in a Classic Town: Frances Willard of Evanston

January 18 - April 16, 2010 (Extended)

Social reformer Frances Willard (1839-1898) was known world-wide for her charismatic speaking and for her leadership of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the largest woman's organization of its time. But Willard always maintained a bond with Evanston, her hometown from 1858 until her death. She also had a strong connection to Northwestern University, where she was the first Dean of Women and a member of the Board of Trustees.

Using historic photographs, documents, and artifacts from the Northwestern University Archives, along with items on loan from the Frances Willard House Museum in Evanston, this exhibit illustrates stages in Willard's life from her student days at the North Western Female College to her career as an orator, a writer, and a leader of women, whose motto-"Do Everything"-reflected her advocacy not just of temperance but of women's rights, social justice, and world peace. The exhibit puts Willard in the context of the "Classic Town" (as she called Evanston) that helped shape her reformist vision. Read more in the press release.

The Willard material has been converted into a virtual exhibit. The contents of each themed display case have been digitized as a separate online "chapter," including an image of each photograph, document, or artifact, along with the full captions. For ease of access, the virtual "chapters" are in PDF format, and each contains links to the previous and next chapters. A list of resources forms the final chapter. The exhibit was curated by Janet Olson, and the virtual exhibit was created by Yvonne Spura. Visit the online exhibit.

Hoaxes and Heists: Art Theft

January-March 2010

This exhibit highlights a selection of books in the Art Collection on the topic of art theft and its aftermath--from looting to repatriation, and various investigations of historical hoaxes and heists.

Evocative Landscape

April-June 2010

A selection of books from the Art Collection highlights late 19th- and early 20th-century artists who painted landscapes. This exhibit features European and Canadian artists working in several styles including Expressionism, Art Nouveau, and Symbolism.

The Two Lives of Hildegard von Bingen

April 26, 2010 - August 27, 2010

She was pledged to the Church by her parents at the age of eight. She spent most of her life, up to the age of 40, with a handful of other nuns in a small, cell-like enclosure attached to a Benedictine monastery. From time to time, she had dazzling visions of divine revelation about good and evil, man's relationship to the cosmos, and God's plan for humanity, but she kept them mostly to herself—until finally, in a vision she could not ignore, God told her to do something totally extraordinary for a woman in twelfth-century Europe: to write these revelations down.

As a new exhibit at Northwestern University Library shows, Hildegard von Bingen led a life that was considered remarkable in her own time—and even more remarkable when she was rediscovered in our era. The Once and Future Saint: Two Lives of Hildegard von Bingen, running from April 26 to August 27 in the Main Library at 1970 Campus Drive in Evanston, chronicles both her incarnations, as a prophet, composer, healer, and reformer who became world-renowned in the twelfth century, and as she was resurrected in the twentieth as an icon to feminists, New Age gurus, the international community of scholars, and musicians—even topping the Billboard charts with a crossover classical/pop music record in 1994.

Exhibit curator Nina Barrett credits Northwestern faculty member Barbara Newman as the inspiration and "patron saint" of the exhibit. "These days there's a rich, fascinating, international body of literature about Hildegard and other women mystics of her time," Barrett says. "But none of that existed in the late 1970s, when Barbara Newman first began working on Hildegard, and her research was absolutely foundational for much of what has been published since then." Newman holds appointments in English, Religion, and Classics. Her books include Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard's Theology of the Feminine; the anthology Voice of the Living Light: Hildegard of Bingen and Her World; and Hildegard of Bingen: Symphonia, the definitive critical edition and translation of Hildegard's musical texts.

An audio companion to the exhibit, which can be borrowed at the library's circulation desk, includes recorded commentary by Barbara Newman, as well as samples of Hildegard's music and writings. Newman will personally lead a guided tour of the exhibit (open to the public) on Tuesday, May 18 at 5 p.m.

In conjunction with the exhibit, on Thursday, May 20, at 7 p.m., Block Cinema at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, will host the Chicago premiere of "Vision: Scenes from the Life of Hildegard of Bingen" (in German with English subtitles), the 2009 film by prominent German feminist director Margarethe von Trotta. Not yet released commercially in the U.S., "Vision" was the official German entry in last year's Toronto International Film Festival and has been screened in only a few U.S. venues, including mostly recently at MoMA in New York. Barbara Newman will lead a discussion of the film immediately afterwards. The screening is sponsored jointly by Block Cinema, Northwestern University Library, the Program in Medieval Studies, and the Department of German.

For more information about the screening of "Vision: Scenes from the Life of Hildegard of Bingen," check the Block Cinema website, or call 847-491-4000.

The exhibit in the Northwestern University Library is free and open to the public Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon. For more information on the exhibit, call 847-491-7641 or email


Click here to download the Audio Companion

Track 1: Introduction
Track 2: The medieval monk Guibert of Gembloux describes Jutta and Hildegard’s enclosure ceremony
Track 3: Barbara Newman discusses the enclosure of Jutta and Hildegard
Track 4: Hildegard recalls her response to the call to write
Track 5: Hildegard biographer Theodoric’s account of how Pope Eugene endorsed her writings
Track 6: Barbara Newman talks about Hildegard's transformation into a celebrity
Track 7: Barbara Newman talks about whether a diagnosis of migraine can explain Hildegard’s visions Voice
Track 8: Hildegard’s advice to the Abbess Hazzecha
Track 9: Hildegard’s description of conception—or possibly of the female orgasm
Track 10: Sample from A Feather on the Breath of God: "O viridissima virga"
Track 11: Sample from Voice of the Blood: "O Ecclesia"
Track 12: Sample from Ordo Virtutum: The Soul’s Journey
Track 13: Sample from Sacred Women: Kassia, "Augustus"
Track 14: Barbara Newman explains why the ban on singing in her abbey was devastating to Hildegard
Track 15: The story of how the Riesencodex was returned to Wiesbaden after the war
Track 16: Translation of the Middle High German text from the Nuremberg Chronicle
Track 17: Barbara Newman talks about her early work on Hildegard
Track 18: Sample from Vision
Track 19: Sample from Electric Ordo Virtutum
Track 20: Barbara Newman talks about Hildegard as a modern icon.

"Global Health: Access and Information"

September 7 through October 22, 2010

The Library wants to help you join the campus conversation on this year's One Book, One Northwestern selection, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. This exhibit takes you beyond Tracy Kidder's fascinating look at a doctor who's dedicated his life to serving some of the world's poorest populations.  We're featuring a selection of Dr. Farmer's own books; previous books by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Kidder; and items that highlight the diversity of the Northwestern University Library research collections, including

    • The papers of Dr. Quentin Young, a Northwestern Medical School Alumnus and national leader on public health policy and social justice issues
    • Rare materials dating back to the eighteenth century documenting efforts to alleviate poverty and disease among the global poor
    • Books on global health initiatives in Africa, and
    • Books, reports and journals describing emergency transportation and evacuation in the wake of natural disasters



From the Heroic to the Depraved: Mainstream and Underground Comic Books at Northwestern University Library

September 28, 2010 – April 15, 2011
Comic books are not just for kids anymore. Actually, they never really were just for kids. The telling of stories through the combination of drawings and written words has a long and illustrious history of reaching, entertaining, and influencing audiences of all ages. Comic books were one of the most effective and popular mass mediums of the 20th century.
In this exhibit, Manuscript Librarians Benn Joseph and Jason Nargis present an overview of the history and scope of the comicbook archive in the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections. The library holds extensive runs of titles mostly from the "Silver Age" (approximately 1950-1970) of mainstream comicsas well as the so-called "Underground Comix" of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The 'c' in comics was replaced by an 'x' todifferentiate these works from mainstream titles, and also to possibly hint at the 'x-rated' nature of their content.
This collection has a unique status at the McCormick Library as being the only archive initiated by a donation from an undergraduate. When religion major Juan Cole offered his 1100 comic books to curator Russell Maylone in 1972, he could not have known what snowball effect his gift would have. Within a year four other donors had come forward, and superstar comics artist, author, and publisher Stan Lee was speaking at the dedication ceremony. While many students would browse the collection on Saturday mornings as a break from their studies, the library saw the comics as a legitimate research source.
The exhibit features comics from the Pre-Golden, Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern eras, as well as the Underground. Also featured are a selection of Big Little Books, dime novels, woodcuts, and engravings that chronicle the beginning of comic books as they are known today.
Exhibit co-curators Benn Joseph and Jason Nargis, who will give a talk about the exhibit and the collection at the Evanston Public Library on October 14 at 7 p.m. note that unlike the collections typically in private hands, the Library's has always been envisioned and maintained as a research collection—notable for its incredible depth and scope rather than for particular issues kept in pristine condition. "It's meant to be used," Nargis says. "There's an incredible amount of historical material here about race relations, gender relations, the military, views of communism—all kinds of things that could interest a scholar of pop culture."
Established by then-Northwestern undergraduate Juan Cole, who gave his personal collection of 1,100 comic books to the McCormick Library of Special Collections in 1973, the collection was dedicated in a ceremony on campus by artist, author, and publisher Stan Lee, the co-creator of Spiderman, the Hulk, the X-Men, and many other characters.
The exhibit runs now through April 15 on the third floor of Deering Library, with access through the Main Library entrance at 1970 Campus Drive. It's open to the public during the Library's regular public hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 8:30 a.m. to noon. Check the Library's website for occasional special closings. This exhibit contains some sexually explicit language and graphics and is not intended for children. Parental discretion strongly advised.


Aftrica Embracing Obama

November 15, 2010-March 25, 2011

David Easterbrook began gathering the Obama-related souvenirs, crafts and other products that began popping up in the streets and marketplaces of sub-Saharan Africa in 2007 -- long before most Americans thought the young senator from Illinois had a shot at the presidency. Starting Nov. 15, a Northwestern University Library exhibition drawn from a collection of more than 500 objects from 31 countries documents the enthusiasm, pride and hope with which Africa has embraced the Obama.

"From its commemorative cloths and comic books to its musical tributes and magical masks, the 'Africa Embracing Obama' exhibit illustrates the extraordinary cultural output and grassroots creativity that Obama has inspired," says Easterbrook, curator of Northwestern's world-renowned Herskovits Library of African Studies.
Visiting Africa in the summer of 2007, Easterbrook noticed a distinct change when he told cabdrivers that he lived in Chicago. "No longer did they bring up Michael Jordan," Easterbrook says. "Everybody, everywhere was talking about Barack Obama."
"You couldn't miss the Obama industry that was proliferating across the continent," says Easterbrook, who envisioned an important and unusual historical collection. "The use of the Obama image on products there isn't just about making money. It's also about a message of hope that Obama's life story bestows on many Africans."
As curator of the world's largest collection for the study of Africa, Easterbrook put out the word to scholars and others in or visiting Africa to send him posters, artwork, music, books and ephemera inspired by Obama. Materials poured into the Herskovits Library. "Never before had so many people so eagerly collected for the library," Easterbrook says.
"Africa Embracing Obama" includes the best, most interesting and "quirkiest" of this profusion of items. Among recent arrivals are Obama bubblegum and lollipops from Kenya and Obama cookies from Ghana. The first part of the exhibit focuses on publications and items that trace Obama's ties to Africa.
The exhibit on Northwestern's Evanston campus includes publications, beadwork, jewelry, textiles, lapel pins, key rings, fans, greeting cards, hats, T-shirts, posters and even a line of beer. CDs and DVDs of music, dances and performances created in tribute to the president, widely viewed as Africa's native son, are also are featured.
A Luo-language book written by Obama's Kenyan father and acquired by the Herskovits Library 50 years ago "demonstrates a continuity of community activism between the elder Obama and his son," Easterbrook says. The rare book by the senior Obama promoted literacy and good farming practices. It is believed to be one of only two remaining copies in the world.
Collecting more than text has been a mission of the Herkovits Library from its inception in 1954. Posters, textiles, artworks, pamphlets and the like help contextualize African society, says Easterbrook. As a result, scholars in the Program of African Studies understand that when they go to Africa, they also collect for the library.
"Africa Embracing Obama" will be displayed on the first floor of Northwestern University Library, 1970 Campus Drive, and (in the same building) in the Herskovits Library on the fifth floor of University Library' East Tower.  The exhibit is free and open to the public daily from 8:30 am - 10 pm through March 24, with exceptions during December. December hours are Mon. - Fri. 8:30 am - 5 pm; Sa. 10 am - 2 pm; closed Sundays, 12/24 - 12/27 and 12/30 - 1/2/11. For further information, call (847) 467-5918.