Browse Exhibits (5 total)

Behind the Scenes

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The hurried scratching of pencil on paper as a code-breaker races against time…
The nervous pacing of an actress…
Sibilant whispers of advice into the ears of the powerful…
The crumpled publisher’s rejection letter, together with an annotatedand crossed out draft…

These are the invisible sights and unheard sounds of the moments before the big moments … before the counter-attack is launched, the play performed, an execution ordered, a new bestseller published.

Catalogers are always behind the scenes, where they delight in finding previously lost or hidden secrets and making them available to the public.  Join the catalogers of the Kislak Center to learn about their favorite behind-the-scenes moments found between the covers of rare books and deep in the folders of archival collections.

On October 17, 2017,  visitors lingered over our selections at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. In case you were not able to make it in person, please enjoy virtually!

By the Book: Making--And Breaking!--The Rules

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Ah, rules! Where would we be without them? According to some, we would be savages at the dinner table, we couldn’t shoe a horse, and Penn students would be dueling willy-nilly! As a result, rules have flourished: governments issued them, activists challenged them, and inquisitors enforced them. And literary critic Burton Rascoe (at the wild and fun party pictured below) had so little faith in his own ability to follow the rules of society that he purchased pre-printed apologies to send following events!

As part of Philly Archives Month, the catalogers of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts selected some of their favorite medieval to modern role models and scape-graces who inhabit the Kislak Center’s collections.  The event, held on October 25, 2016, and this exhibit represent only a minuscule sample of the characters, heroic and dastardly, who color the pages of our history.

Defying Convention: Audacious Women in the Kislak Collections


Women have always challenged the world’s expectations of them and the Kislak Center’s Special Collections Processing Center has the proof. Meet the adventurous, globetrotting women who have explored continents, settled in new lands, and made history. From the 15th century to the present, our collections show women as scientists, activists, teachers, explorers, writers, patriots, and healers whose efforts to change the world have inspired countless generations of women.

The Special Collections Processing Center reveals written and visual accounts of extraordinary, independent women who were determined to forge their own paths. On October 16, 2018, catalogers welcomed visitors for a one evening show-and-tell during Archives Month to see our rare books and manuscripts chronicling the exploits, adventures and mishaps of these extraordinary women.

From Antarctica to Zimbabwe: Around the World with Archives, Books and Codices


In the words of Emily Dickinson, “There is no Frigate like a Book / To take us Lands away.” But why stop at books?  Add atlases, letters, travel diaries, photo albums, sketchbooks, souvenirs, posters, ocean liner menus, and the armchair travel possibilities are endless.  Take a voyage through the far-flung geographical corners of our collections; the catalogers of the Kislak Center will be your guides!

Each year, October is Archives Month Philly during which institutions around the region celebrate all things "special" collections!  The Special Collections Processing Center at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts puts on a cataloger-curated show for one evening with just a few of our favorite things.

"From Antarctica to Zimbabwe: Around the Word with Archives, Books and Codices" took place on October 23, 2019.

The Paper Menagerie: an Abecedarium Bestiary

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On October 15, 2015, the staff of the Special Collections Processing Center saddled up for a bibliographic safari in the Kislak Center. Feathered friends, ferocious beasts, and even a cute cat or two leaped, slithered, and flew off the pages of our favorite books, manuscripts, and archival materials.

Here, images of animals discovered in some of our newest acquisitions are displayed in this Abecedarium bestiary, including items from the collection of Dial Books art director Atha Tehon, and the Caroline F. Schimmel Fiction Collection of Women in the American Wilderness, as well as materials from the Kislak Center’s archives, medieval manuscripts and incunabula. You will see St. Jerome’s lion, Agnes Repplier’s cat, and vultures from Penn’s sophomore class cremation ceremony in 1878. You’ll discover the winged Cocodrillo and even see a 16th-century horse wearing pattens!

This extravaganza was part of the 2015 Archives Month Philly.