Lutnick Library is home to countless resources from across several centuries, histories, fields of study, and media. In the spring and summer of 2020, Lauryn White ‘21, Dylan Dixon ‘22, Seabrook Jeffcoat ‘22, Kathleen Scully ‘22, Anita Zhu ‘22, Rhea Chandran ‘23, Ella Culton ‘23, Dylan Kupetsky ‘23, and Lily Sweeney ‘23 spent weeks exploring its Quaker & Special Collections until they found some materials that were both interesting and relevant to today’s world. The students then organized and curated those materials into this semester’s new Out of the Stacks! exhibit, on view in Lutnick Library’s Rebecca and Rick White Gallery through Nov. 30.
The materials are displayed in glass cases for preservation and organized by subject. Sweeney contributed materials covering Indigenous-Quaker relations. White found interest in books about “Publick Universal Friend”, a non-binary Quaker from the 18th and 19th century. Jeffcoat’s materials focused on Quakerism and prison reform. Dixon highlighted Quaker & Special Collections’ resources about radical religious traditions during the English Civil War. Scully and Zhu explored materials together as Scattergood Research and Writing interns.
“Along with [Zhu], I chose several documents concerning the use of electric shock treatment in mental institutions, specifically Friends Hospital [a Quaker mental institution that opened in 1813],” said Scully, a history major and health studies minor. “Archival records concerning historical treatments for mental illness are highly relevant to my coursework and academic interests.
Culton found her materials shuffling through the library’s extensive collection of educational comics. The collection covers an array of themes—U.S. imperialism, propaganda, commercial advertising, and more. She found a selection of comics related to her environmental studies coursework that could be in dialog with current discussions about environmental crisis.
“I was drawn in particular to the books [that] talked about environmental issues, often from the perspective of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s,” she said. “As an environmental studies major and biology minor, I was curious about perceptions of environmentalism earlier on in U.S. history, especially in how they would have been portrayed to children. Children’s comics are particularly valuable resources because they often get straight to the point—you know exactly what the author wants to let you know. Using characters like Mickey and Goofy to talk about the oil embargo, I think, adds a lot of depth to how we understand that period in the late ‘70s.”
Out of the Stacks! is a response to the conversations the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked about increasing accessibility to resources and student engagement with the library’s archives.
“Much of the research done by student interns typically stays within a fairly small circle of other interns, supervisors, and perhaps a few other interested parties,” said Scully. “Creating an exhibit open to the whole campus allows greater access to that research, and helps bring important events and phenomena from within the College’s history and beyond it to a broader audience than usual.”
Sarah Horowitz, curator of rare books & manuscripts and head of Quaker & Special Collections, applauds the student curators for their work curating the exhibit and choosing engaging materials that complimented each other.
“It’s always exciting to me to see how students decide to interpret materials in the collections, because they often end up in a very different place than I might have guessed,” she said. “One of the things I really like about the exhibit is how the physical proximity of the materials allows viewers to draw connections among the work of the student curators. I continue to be impressed with the work that students produced during the past spring and summer.”
The curators are hopeful that their contributions to the exhibit will attract people to the library’s archives and encourage students to look for resources that fit their academic and extracurricular interests. According to Coulton, Special Collections may be home to old items, but they are replete with modern-day interest. “I want to draw particular attention to our College archives and strike materials—these are rife with interesting and important information about Haverford’s response to systemic racism on campus throughout the years,” said Culton. “Many of the conversations we are having today on campus have parallels in the past, so I highly encourage people to take a look!”
Horowitz hopes Out of the Stacks! will inspire more students to consider pursuing curation opportunities with the library. “I hope that students will reach out about exhibits they would like to curate and apply for curatorship internships when they see them,” said Horowitz. “Information on exhibit spaces and proposing exhibits can be found at www.haverford.edu/library/news-events/exhibits.”