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

“Preserving the Steadfastness of Your Faith”: Catholics in the Early American Republic

January 16-August 11, 2017

Graphic for the exhibit.

This exhibition displays examples of American Catholicism expressed through (mostly) printed texts from 1783 through the early 1840s. They include the earliest Catholic bibles published by Mathew Carey, and editions of Thomas à Kempis' The Imitation of Christ used and produced in the United States; polemical pamphlets with sexual and political subtexts that flew back and forth across the Atlantic; no-holds-barred dueling sectarian newspapers; books and pamphlets created in reaction to mob violence against the Ursuline convent school near Boston; and official reports that mapped the Church’s growth and growing pains.

This exhibit is curated by Rachel Bohlmann and Jean McManus.

Related Events

Guided Tours:

The exhibition’s curators will give guided tours of the show every Thursday at 12:30 pm, February through March, excluding March 16 (February 2, 9, 16, 23, March 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30). Tours will last up to an hour.

Group and class tours may also be arranged. Please contact Rachel Bohlmann at rbohlman @ or (574) 631-1575 for scheduling.


Catherine O’Donnell, "Saint Elizabeth Seton: A Reading Life"
Wednesday, March 22, 4 pm — Special Collections (102 Hesburgh Library)

Historian and former Cushwa Center Fellow Catherine O’Donnell will give a public talk in which she explores Elizabeth Ann Seton’s spiritual journey as it intersected with Catholic history during the early American Republic. Seton converted to Catholicism as an adult and was canonized in 1975—the first native born American to be so.

Kyle Roberts, "21st Century Digital Approaches to Rethinking 19th Century Catholic Print"
Thursday, June 1, 2 pm — Special Collections (102 Hesburgh Library)

Although scholars have long focused on nineteenth-century Protestants as people of the printed word, Catholics also availed themselves of print. Their published works remind us of American Catholics’ transnational identities, in which they balanced allegiances to the state, homeland, and the global Catholic Church. This talk explores the ways in which new digital humanities projects, such as the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project, have allowed us to recover the central importance of print to American Catholics.

Spotlight Exhibit

Detail photograph of display.

J. P. Homann's "Buffalo Map," ca. 1720

June 2017

On display this month is a map of North America by the important German cartographer J. P. Homann, emphasizing French claims in the Mississippi River Valley in the early eighteenth century. The map is one of several hundred items making up the Edward and Sheila Scanlan Collection of Maps of the Great Lakes Region, donated by the Scanlans to the Hesburgh Libraries in 2003-04.

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


"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

Fall 2017

Primo Levi

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.