University of Notre Dame


Hesburgh Libraries

Rare Books & Special Collections

Physical Exhibits in Special Collections

Rare Books and Special Collections regularly presents exhibits of materials from its holdings in our Exhibit Room (102 Hesburgh Library, at the west end of the 1st floor concourse) and on our Web site.

All exhibits are free and open to the public during our regular hours.

Currently on Display

Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture

August 21 - December 15, 2017

Graphic for the exhibit.

Primo Levi (1919-1987) was the author of fiction, poetry, essays, memoirs and translations and is best known for his first work, Se questo è un uomo, an account of his detention at Auschwitz in 1944/1945. Before he was a writer Primo Levi was a chemist, and throughout his life the two identities intertwined in fascinating and mutually enriching ways, in a constant exploration of possible links between what Levi called "the world of words and the world of things." Levi's writings reflect his deep engagement with various forms of both scientific and humanistic knowledge, as well as with Jewish culture and wisdom. Governing Levi's work as a whole are a profound love of storytelling and an equally profound desire to communicate in friendship. Levi is rightly considered one of the most important authors of the twentieth century.

This exhibit traces the progression and reception of Levi's writings in first editions from the Primo Levi Collection of the Hesburgh Libraries' Department of Rare Books & Special Collections. The Primo Levi Collection, developed in conjunction with Italian Studies at Notre Dame, is one of the most important of its kind outside of Italy. It includes all first editions of Levi's works published within his lifetime as well as first editions of notable translations and adaptations of Levi's writings that document his importance outside of Italy.

Suggestions for further reading (PDF)

This exhibit is curated by Tracy Bergstrom.

Related Events

Guided Tours:

Public tours of the exhibit are offered Tuesdays at noon and Wednesdays at 3pm. Tours are also available for classes or other groups, including K-12 audiences, by request.

If you are planning to bring a group to Special Collections or would like to schedule a special tour, please email rarebook @ or call 574-631-0290.

Exhibit Opening:

Tuesday September 5 at 4pm in Rare Books & Special Collections, Hesburgh Library

Please join us for an opening of the exhibit on September 5 at 4pm. The event will feature brief remarks by Tracy Bergstrom (Curator, Italian Imprints and Dante Collection), Vittorio Montemaggi (Lecturer, Religion and the Arts, King's College London), and Valentina Geri (PhD candidate, Italian), followed by a light reception and viewing of the exhibit.

Co-sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame and Hesburgh Libraries.

Spotlight Exhibit

Detail photograph of display.

The Art of Botanical Illustration: Philip Miller’s Gardeners Dictionary

September 2017

Philip Miller, one of 18th century England’s most celebrated horticulturalists, produced the acclaimed Gardeners Dictionary in eight editions. This display features the illustrated volumes accompanying the 7th edition (1755-1760). These books are part of a collection bequeathed to Notre Dame by the prominent botanist Edward Lee Greene.

This exhibit is curated by Marsha Stevenson, Visual Arts Librarian.


"Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory"
Detail photograph of display.
Friendship Albums of Antebellum America

June - September 2017

Among the characteristic manuscript forms of antebellum America are albums filled with poetry, prose, drawings, and other content created for the book's owner by family and acquaintances. Such friendship albums, as they are called, have a long history, but they were especially prevalent in the Romantic era, with its new ideology of sentimental friendship. In the United States friendship albums begin to appear in number in the 1820s, and while contributors were often male, the albums themselves were usually maintained by young women.

The manuscripts on display in this spotlight exhibit are selected from Special Collections' manuscripts of North America holdings.

The exhibit is curated by George Rugg, Curator, Special Collections.


For information about previous spotlight exhibits, please refer to the History of Spotlight Exhibits page.

Upcoming Exhibits

Spring 2018

18th Century Peruvian serials

Suggest an Exhibit

Many of the exhibits presented by the Department of Special Collections are produced in collaboration with members of the Notre Dame teaching and research faculty and are scheduled to coincide with significant academic conferences at the University. If you have a suggestion for a future exhibit and/or would like to assist in producing one, please contact Special Collections at 631-0290 or by e-mail.