Art in the Stacks

The Special Collections Research Center is known for being the University of Chicago Library’s repository for rare books, manuscripts, and the University Archives. However, within those three categories there is a wide range of materials. This exhibition highlights one of the lesser-known segments of our collections–artistic works from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  Art in the Stacks includes selections of original paintings, drawings, and sculptures, in addition to artists’ books, portfolios and posters. How these materials came to Special Collections are just as varied as their formats:  donations, purchases, and transfers from the circulating general collection have all enhanced our holdings in artistic (or art) works.

The art in our collection includes items commonly found in special collections libraries, namely artists’ books. These include fine press editions, artists’ multiples and handcrafted pieces that celebrate the traditions of bookmaking and letterpress.  

What may come as a surprise to visitors is the other types of artwork that is in our stacks. Examples of original drawings are found in individual’s personal papers, such as the pen-and-ink drawings by Harold Haydon and the working sketches by sculptor Marie Zoe Greene-Mercier. In larger archival collections, Leonard Baskin’s illustrations for a translation of Homer’s Iliad are held in the University of Chicago Press Records, and Ruth Vollmer’s Trenchant Sphere (1967) is part the Benton Foundation Records.

Some of the items displayed, such as the fine press editions artists’ books, are known and used by faculty and students for classes and research. Other works go relatively unnoticed or completely unseen.  Art in the Stacks provides an opportunity to share this unexpected aspect of our holdings in The Special Collections Research Center.

Exhibit Publications & Documents

Exhibit Text

Exhibit Checklist