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Hidden Treasures of Northwestern University Library

Exhibit highlights some of the library’s rare and quirky holdings

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February 15, 2012 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- An original sketch by James Joyce, a spyglass used by 19th century Alaskan explorers Robert Kennicott and Henry M. Bannister and a selection of unusually large batons once wielded by world-renowned conductor Fritz Reiner are but a few of the rare and quirky treasures on display through March 15 at Northwestern University Library.

The exhibit is on view just inside the entrance to Northwestern University Library, 1970 Campus Drive on the Evanston campus. It is free and open to the public 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Visitors to the library with a valid Wildcard ID can see the exhibit during all open library hours (visit http://www.library.northwestern.edu/about/hours-and-locations).

“Because we’re a library and not a museum, many of our most treasured materials are stored away where people can’t see them,” said University Library staffer Nina Barrett, who created the exhibit. “This is a way to showcase what makes the library such a rich, exciting intellectual resource.”

Long-forgotten Kaskaskia, for example, appears as Illinois’ capital on a map created by master cartographer John Melish. Dated 1818, it is the first map of the proposed boundaries for the state of Illinois. 

Items from University Archives put a spotlight on Bergen Evans, the beloved English professor whose biggest fan was Groucho Marx, and on Charlton Heston, the movie star and Northwestern alumnus who is perhaps best remembered as bearded and robed in “The Ten Commandments” and shirtless in “Planet of the Apes.”

From the specialized Transportation Library comes a selection of airline menus dating back to the 1950s and evoking a world in which air travelers could expect caviar, highballs and cigarettes as part of a comfortable onboard experience. 

From Northwestern’s Music Library -- internationally recognized for its commitment to classical music of the 20th century -- comes an original manuscript by composer György Ligeti. Ligeti composed the eerie, primordial sounds that accompany the appearance of the monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” 

For more information, contact Clare Roccaforte, c-roccaforte@northwestern.edu or (847) 467-5918.

Topics: Campus Life, University News