Special Collections Exhibits

The Special Collections exhibits offer visitors an opportunity to experience the rich historical, photographic, and literary collections available at UMBC. In addition to the physical display areas in the Library Rotunda and the Special Collections Reading Room, exhibits are increasingly being hosted online.

The Library Gallery serves as one of the principal art galleries in the region. Items from the Special Collections Department, as well as art and artifacts from all over the world, are displayed in challenging and informative exhibitions for the University community and the public.

Reading Room

The exhibit space in the Special Collections Reading Room (rm 104) has developed into a space that highlights student-produced research and exhibits. Special Collections student assistants and interns work directly with faculty to select, arrange, describe, display and promote the exhibits.

List of Reading Room exhibits

  • On display now: From Studio to Home Autonomy in Photography and Film:, curated by Jessica Riley ’21, historical studies, Special Collections Graduate Assistant. Installed Summer 2021.
  • Spring 2016 – Presidents, Past & Present: A Biographical Portrait, March 1 – April 1, 2016. Learn more about the chancellors and presidents that have lead UMBC for the last 50 years and view photographs, documents, and publications from the University Archives. Also on display is the Ralph Coats Roe Award gold medal, awarded to Dr. Hrabowski by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 2015. Curated by Tucker Foltz, Special Collections Graduate Assistant.
  • Fall 2015 – Black History in Baltimore and Beyond, September 28 – November 13, 2015. This show, curated by Special Collections student assistant Audrey Gatewood, is made up of books, photographs, and magazines from Special Collections’ holdings. Split into three parts, it provides a glance into just a few of the building blocks that make up African American history. First, there are representations of the background of Baltimore, its Black community history, the evolution of its neighborhoods and schools. Next, there are items that indicate the hardships African Americans have faced, Jim Crow laws, blockbusting, and police brutality. Finally there is material related to the Civil Rights Movement, ever-evolving struggles for fairness, people power, and activism. African American history is a wealth of complexities. This exhibit provides insight into what are just pieces of a massive narrative of the Black experience in America through literature, alternative press publications, and photographs by Roland Freeman.
  • Fall 2014 – Rhapsodies, Rhymes, and Runes: The Poetry of Special Collections, October – November 26, 2014. Co-curated by Robin Martin, Public History Graduate Candidate and Special Collections Assistant and Jazmin Smith, Art History and Museum Studies major. The works in the show illustrate some of the various collections in the Special Collections including images from the Photography Collections, science fiction poetry books from the Azriel Rosenfeld Science Fiction Research Collection, Beat Generation poetry from the rare book holdings, Maryland poems from the Arnold Collection, nineteenth century poetry from the Merkle Collection, and contemporary poetry books from the Faculty/Staff Collection.
  • Spring 2012 – All Lurid, Unsavory, Gruesome Illustrations Shall Be Eliminated: The Comics Code as seen through the UMBC Comics Collection, March – May 2012. Curated by Special Collections students Steve Ammidown and Theresa Donnelly. “.. a chance to see how self-censorship shaped the way comic books have developed over the past 70 years. Visitors can see pre-Code, Silver Age, and underground titles as well as non-Code magazines and modern graphic novels. Also part of the exhibit is rarely seen original 1970s comic book art from legendary artists such as Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott and John Romita. Recently unearthed from the Special Collections vault, these pieces have rarely been seen in public. Shown with their published counterparts, the works provide a fascinating insight into the comic book production process.”
  • Spring 2011 – Enduring Forest: The Synergy of Nature and People, April and May, 2011. Utilizing photographs from the Photography Collection, the Bafford Book Collection, and the Baltimore Sun Collection, as well as poetry from the Special Collections General Collection, this exhibit explores the complex relationship between humankind and the natural world. From reverence to destruction and back again, the modern impulse to conserve the natural environment is epitomized in our celebration of Arbor Day. Planned in conjunction with the campus-wide Arbor Day celebration, this exhibit was curated by Special Collections/Archives graduate assistants, Homira Pashai and Colleen Walter. An Arbor Day Book Display was exhibited in the Reference department related to this exhibit’s theme.
  • Fall 2009 – Pictorial to Typographical Form, Fall 2009. This exhibit features work by students from Professor Kathryn Bell’s Spring 2009 Graphic Design I class, including: Kelley Kepley, Erica Shin, Maria McAllister, Sarah Fillmore, Brenna Miller, Jessica Gonzalez, David Lee, Nahyung Han, Kim Thompson, Phillip Jacoby, and Kemron Senhouse. Students viewed and selected photographs from the Special Collections Photography Collections and Bafford Photography Book Collection to study the graphic and geometric forms “hidden” in the images. These forms were finally translated into typographic compostions and forms.

Library Rotunda

Located on the first floor of the Library, this central display space is primarily used for the display of short-term Special Collections exhibits or extensions of the larger shows in the Library Gallery. UMBC faculty and departments interested in using the space should review and submit the Library Rotunda Exhibition Guidelines and Proposal Form to Special Collections by email at speccoll@umbc.edu.

List of Library Rotunda exhibits

  • Spring 2023 – Early Photobooks by Women Photographers, March 27 – May 10, 2023. Curated by Lindsey Loeper.
  • Spring 2023 – New Accessions, February – March 17, 2023. Curated by Dr. Beth Saunders and graduate assistant Mark Breeding.
  • Fall 2022 – Portrait Garden, August 22, 2022 – October 14, 2022. Photographs by Lynn Cazabon.
  • 2021-2022 – Illustrating the Occult: Documenting and Imagining the Supernatural, Paranormal, and Otherworldly, December 1, 2021 – June 1, 2022. Curated by Susan Graham.
  • Spring 2020 – Words & Phrases: 40 years of Teaching English as a Second Language at UMBC, March 2020. Curated by Finny Rocca, Nichole Zang Do, and Lindsey Loeper.
  • Fall 2019 – Micromuseum, December 2019. Curated by Elijah Davis and Amelia Voos.
  • Fall 2019 – Native Perspectives in UMBC’s Special Collections, November 2019. Curated by Susan Graham.
  • Fall 2019 – Celebrating Faculty Achievements, October 2019. Curated by Beth Saunders, Katy Sullivan, and Semhar Yohannes.
  • Summer 2019 – Cosmic Nancy Drew, May-July 2019. Curated by Leah Michaels.
  • Spring 2019 – Octavia E. Butler: Inspiration for the Ages, April 2019. Curated by Susan Graham and Rebecca Wireman.
  • Fall 2018 – Archives Month 2018: Slife of Life: the form and function of historical scrapbooks, October 1 – November 2, 2018
  • Fall 2016 – Archives Month 2016: Library Views: Looking back on the development of the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery, 1966-2016, September 9 – October 31, 2016
  • Summer 2016 –Selected Special Collections Acquisitions Supported by the Friends of the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery, June 8 – September 8, 2016
  • Spring 2016 – Presidents, Past & Present: A Biographical Portrait
  • Fall 2015 – Archives Month 2015: A Share Landscape: UMBC & the Baltimore Manual Labor School, October 1 – November 13, 2015
  • Fall 2014 – Archives Month 2014: Celebrating American Archives Month: Tradition, Folklife, & Scholarship, September 2 – October 31, 2014
  • Summer 2013 – Cavanaugh Cameras, May 21 – August 11, 2013. Cameras donated to Special Collections by William B. Cavanaugh (June 2, 1924-January 19, 2013).
  • Fall 2013 – Archives Month 2013: American Society for Microbiology, “Dr. Cornelis B. van Niel”
  • Fall 2012 – Archives Month 2012: Student Voices in Print: A Selection of Student Publications from the UMBC University Archives, October 1 – November 30, 2012
  • Fall 2011 – Archives Month 2011: In the Archives: UMBC at 45
  • Spring 2009 – Images from the Honors College 2008 Trip to France, April 6-May 12, 2009.
  • Spring 2009 – Bicentennial Celebration of Charles Darwin: Selections from the Special Collections, February 12 – April 1, 2009
  • Spring 2008 – Real City, Dream City, a show curated by Art On Purpose and presented by the Language, Literature, and Culture program
  • Fall 2007 – Vanishing Point, Photographs by David Plowden, on the occasion of the book signing by Plowden in the Library Gallery.
  • Spring 2007 – Selections from ‘A Box of Photographs’ by Diane Arbus, April 23 – May 13, 2007. An exhibition in conjunction with Silence, Cunning, Exile, a Theatre Department production directed by Xeres Mehta.
  • Spring 2007 – Illustrious Illustrations: Selected Rare Books from the Special Collections of the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery, June 15 – August 31, 2007.
  • Spring 2007 – The Glory of Ruins, curated by a group of eight students taking part in an Ancient Studies/Honors College internship. This exhibition displays nineteenth and twentieth century photographs depicting classical Athens and Attica, all from the Special Collections of the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery.
  • Fall 2006 – The Evolution of a University, Selections from the University Archives on the Occasion of UMBC’s 40th Anniversary, Special Collections, Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery.
  • Spring 2006 – Speculations on Extraterrestrial Life in the Universe, Selections from the Azriel Rosenfeld Science Fiction Research Collection, Special Collections, Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery.
  • Spring 2005 – Albert Einstein Photographed By Lotte Jacobi, May 5, 2005 – September 6, 2005. An exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of Einstein’s death.
  • Spring 2004 – Baltimore Images from the Era of Brown v. Board of Education, Photographs by Jack Engeman,April 12 – May 10, 2004. The landmark Brown v. the Board of Education, Topeka decision by the United States Supreme Court on May 17, 1954 that declared unconstitutional racial segregation in public education propelled dramatic and historic changes in the Baltimore City schools. Jack Engeman, who had been photographing in the schools for years, was a witness to the changes, and his photographs reveal much about the decision’s impact.
  • Spring 2004 – Alternative Archives, A History of Underground Comics, January 30-March 14, 2004. The exhibition explores the history and effect of underground comics on the mainstream comic world and displays many examples from UMBC’s vast collection of comic books dating to the 1930s. The exhibition explores how comics changed after the Comics Code Authority Stamp was implemented in 1954 to censor comics for inappropriate content. Also explored is the way that underground comics, at each period of their history, have provided a rich arena for social and political discourse. Students at the Maryland Institute, College of Art collaborated with students in UMBC’s Graphic Novel class to research the thousands of comics in UMBC’s special collections and select works for this exhibition.
  • Fall 2003 – UMBC Campus Life: A Tale of Two Histories – 8,000 Years of Prehistory & 37 Years of Archaeology. Displayed are artifacts excavated from the Conservation and Environmental Research Areas of UMBC under the direction of former Assistant Professor of Ancient Studies Karen D. Vitelli in 1971 and 1972. Dr. Vitelli is currently Professor of Anthropology and Professor of Classical Archaeology at Indiana University. The exhibition was curated by Stephen S. Israel, member of the Archeological Society of Maryland, in cooperation with the Department of Ancient Studies and with advice and assistance from Tom Beck, Chief Curator at the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery; Carolyn G. Koehler, Associate Professor of Ancient Studies; Marilyn Y. Goldberg, Associate Professor of Ancient Studies; and Esther Read, Director of the Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology. The artifacts are on loan from the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.
  • Spring 2003 – Atomic Culture: Cold War Civil Defense, co-curated by Joe Tatarewicz and presented on the occasion of a talk by Jane Loader, April 4, 2003.
  • Fall 2002 – The Flag As Symbol – A Remembrance of 9/11, 9/11/02-11/11/02.
  • Fall 2001 – Ray Bradbury: Selected Literary Works from the Holdings of the Azriel Rosenfeld Science Fiction Research Collection, Special Collections, Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery.
  • Spring 2000 – Julia Margaret Cameron, Photographer and Great Aunt to Virginia Woolf, June 8-11, 2000.

Online exhibits

These online exhibits have been created by Special Collections volunteers, student assistants, and staff. The exhibits highlight the holdings of Special Collections and provide more detail and history about the materials and subject matter.

  • Digital Cruikshank: This online exhibition features a wide sampling of work by George Cruikshank (1792-1878), England’s most prolific caricaturist and illustrator. The exhibition was curated by students in Dr. Lindsay DiCuirci’s Fall 2022 English seminar at the UMBC. 
  • Experimentalist: The Art of Robert Fichter: This online exhibit accompanies an exhibition presented at UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery from August 28-December 18, 2019. The exhibition represents the first retrospective of the artist’s career in over thirty years. Created between 1962 and 2006, the works reproduced here are drawn entirely from the Robert W. Fichter Archive at UMBC. The selection highlights the artist’s experimental approach to examining the human condition. Employing shifting moods and mediums as well as wit, humor, and satire, Fichter delivers trenchant critiques of war, nuclear proliferation, and environmental disaster. Firmly rooting his expressive compositions in a strong sense of place-the surreal landscapes of his native Florida-he presents a singular vision of humanity on the brink.

    The exhibition Experimentalist: The Art of Robert Fichter was curated by Tom Beck, Curator Emeritus. The presentation at the Library Gallery was organized by Beth Saunders, Curator, and Head of Special Collections.

    Online exhibit by Grace Ferguson. Texts by Tom Beck and Beth Saunders with Grace Ferguson.
  • The Radical Literature Collection at UMBC: This exhibit was created by 2021 Interdisciplinary CoLab participants Gabe Brunal, Avnee Sharma, and Sarah Nove. It includes original scholarships created by the 2021 CoLab participants.
  • The East Baltimore Documentary Photography Project records at UMBC: This exhibit was created by 2019 and 2022 Interdisciplinary CoLab participants: Ari Cacic, Ian Feldmann, Havish Maka, Pat Michael, Courtney Monaco, T. Sanders (2019); Nia Hopkins, Daniela Torres Romo, and Maria Yiannouris (2022). It includes digital stories, oral histories, and in-depth essays written by the CoLab participants.
  • The Coslet-Sapienza Collection of fanzines at UMBC: This exhibit was created by 2018 Interdisciplinary CoLab participants Marzuq Hakim, Ashley Mitchell, and Rebecca Wireman and goes into detail about our fanzine collection. It includes digital stories and in-depth essays written by the 2018 CoLab participants. Learn more about the CoLab project here.
  • Underwood and Underwood News Photography: This digital history exhibit was created by Jordan Ritchie, UMBC class of 2019, as part of her master’s thesis and is meant to inform and showcase the Underwood and Underwood Photography Company and photographs from UMBC’s Underwood and Underwood collection, which contains thousands of international news and wire service photos.
  • Sharing the Past, Building the Future: UMBC at 50: Learn about UMBC’s first 50 years, including a timeline, the founding, diversity, innovative academics and research, student activism, student publications, student life, athletics, True Grit (mascot), presidents and administration, and campus growth.
  • Science Fiction Pulps & Fanzines: View this online exhibit and learn more about science fiction in general, the origins of sci-fi pulp fiction, the sci-fi community, fanzines, and notable sci-fi authors.
  • Growing Baltimore: Images from the Hughes Company between the World War: Curated by three students from Denise Meringelo’s Spring 2011 HIST 705, Introduction to Public History. The exhibit uses the Hughes Company Glass Negative collection from UMBC’s Special Collections Department and examines the expansion and development in Baltimore after the 1918 annexation.
  • In the Archives: UMBC at 45: A sample of the records, photographs, publications, and pom-poms that document our shared campus history, presented in conjunction with American Archives Month and Homecoming 2011.
  • The Evolution of 20th Century Camera Technology from the William B. Cavanaugh Collection: This exhibit features historic cameras from the William B. Cavanaugh collection. Fascinated by cameras, Cavanaugh collected over 100 vintage cameras and camera accessories, twentieth-century cultural relics. His complete collection represents different advancements in the field of photography and technological developments that made photography easier, more accurate, and more accessible to the general public.
  • The Photography of John G. Bullock: presents an overview of nearly four decades of Bullock’s photography, and highlights some of the major themes that defined his work in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Curated by Special Collections student assistant Sarah Klimek in Spring 2015; adapted and migrated to a new platform in Spring 2021 by Special Collections graduate assistant Jessica Riley.