Scholars Select exhibit for Green Library's centennial celebrates community of scholars

January 7, 2019
title poster for Scholars Select exhibit

Stanford’s Main Library, known today as the Green Library Bing Wing, is one-hundred years old this year. Scholars Select: Special Collections in Action, an exhibit of books, manuscripts, and objects chosen by faculty who make frequent use of the collections will be on display in the Bing Wing January 24 — April 14, 2019. It is the first in a series of events planned as part of a yearlong “Green Library Beyond 100” celebration. The exhibit opening reception will be held on Thursday, January 24, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm in Green Library's Munger Rotunda.

The hundred-year milestone belongs to the building, designed by architects Bakewell and Brown, which opened for use as Stanford’s Main Library in July 1919. But the idea for the exhibition came out of considering the ways in which the library is much more than a building. It is an expansive idea manifest in stone, ink, and paper; it is collections, a remarkable resource that has grown from an initial three thousand volumes in 1891 to nearly three hundred thousand in 1921, to some twelve million assets today; and it is a dynamic community of scholars—undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, librarians, and independent researchers—who compose its heart.

For the exhibit, library curators invited faculty from a range of disciplines to choose one item for display and write about its significance to their work. The invitation was framed as a desert-island exercise: If you could choose just one item to take with you to study on a desert island, or to teach with on a mission to Mars with your students, what would it be? Why is it important? What questions does it raise? How has it figured in your academic work?

The items chosen by thirty-six selectors are notable for their variety. Along with blockbuster treasures such as Shakespeare’s second folio and Abraham Ortelius’s atlas of the world, the exhibit includes a medieval manuscript prayer book that once belonged to a queen; a piano-roll recorded by Claude Debussy in 1913; letters penned by Benjamin Franklin, Richard Wagner, and Ah-Wing, a longtime employee of Jane and Leland Stanford; Clelia Mosher's Victorian-era study of female sexuality; the 1959 edition of The Negro Travelers' Green Book; and the preliminary 1968 issue of the iconic Whole Earth Catalog.

Selectors’ statements, displayed adjacent to the objects, relate stories about the power of teaching and the joys and surprises of research. For example, bringing to the classroom a five-hundred-year-old book that students are “flabbergasted” to encounter; discovering a document long lost or believed to be non-existent; finding a critical piece of correspondence that solves a historical puzzle or brings new issues to light; identifying the seeds of today’s digital culture in late twentieth-century counterculture movements.

The eighteen-case installation invites visitors to stroll around, sample, and discover. It aims to delight, and to open visitors’ imaginations to the possibilities for teaching, learning, and research using rare and original sources.

Note: Exhibit cases in the Peterson Gallery and Munger Rotunda are illuminated daily 

from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to call 650-723-0931 or visit to confirm hours.

The exhibition is free and open to the public; first-time visitors and those without Stanford ID must register using a government-issued ID at either of the entrances to Green Library before entering the building.