New MTSU Walker Library exhibit provides ‘different way’ of assembling Special Collections

Sep 27, 2023 at 01:37 pm by WGNS News

Susan Martin, Special Collections librarian at MTSU

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — From Civil War memoirs and pop-up books to World’s Fair memorabilia and anatomy books with movable parts, variety is the underlying theme of the newest Special Collections exhibit at Middle Tennessee State University’s James E. Walker Library.

“Making Connections: Exploring Hidden Collections in Special Collections” features a conglomeration of glass-encased items on display weekdays through the end of the semester, Dec. 14.


“The approach to the show was to take these different themes and see how they played out across different collections,” said Susan Hanson, Special Collections curator. “This gives us a way to step outside the box and look at our collections in a different way.”

Special Collections is the rare book facility for Walker Library and the mission is to acquire, preserve and provide access to valuable, unique and fragile materials. There are dozens of major collections, many of them donated or on loan from entities and individuals.

“In our new exhibit, we explore all the smaller collections within our bigger collections,” said Susan Martin, Special Collections librarian.

What you’ll see - Although Special Collections doesn’t focus on music, the current exhibit pulls from across genres to create a new collection that features items such as miniature hymnals, a prohibition song book and a popup of the historic Ryman Auditorium.

“We have historical context with miniature hymnals and the role they played in religious life in the early 19th century. But then you have an artist book that takes off on (Victorian-era performers) Gilbert and Sullivan,” Hanson said.

From the 1,000-piece Warden Memorial Equine Collection, the librarians pulled items related to farriers, a highly skilled — and essential — profession dedicated to caring for horse hooves.

The War, Print and Memory microcollection features a series of memoirs from Civil War soldiers as well as bullets, a wallet and Jefferson Davis postage stamp.

There are 11 microcollections within the exhibit, each one of them comprised of books as well as artifacts of interest. Those include:

  1. Architecture pop-ups
  2. Musical snippets
  3. War, print and memory
  4. World’s Fairs and Expositions
  5. Caring for Horses, featuring items related to farriers
  6. Brew Your Own
  7. Government Documents
  8. Philatelic Collection
  9. Everyman His Own Physician
  10. Small Wonders
  11. Printing by Hand

Special Collections is located on the fourth floor of Walker Library and each semester the department creates a new exhibition. Hours are open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

From 3:30-5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, Special Collections will host an open house, with a spotlight on the new exhibit.

Off-campus visitors viewing the exhibit should obtain a special one-day permit from MTSU’s Office of Parking and Transportation at Free parking is available in the Rutherford Boulevard parking lots, with free Raider Xpress shuttle service running periodically to the interior of campus.

Article by Nancy DeGennaro

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