Libraries Exhibition Shows Depth of Special Collections and Archives

Posted: September 6, 2013 at 5:01 am, Last Updated: September 10, 2013 at 6:50 am

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By Mark Schwartz, University Libraries


Playbill from the Empire Theater (New York City) for three plays by J.M. Barre (creator of Peter Pan), 1917. Courtesy Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University Libraries

A new exhibition in the University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives (SC&A) challenges any assumption that special collections are only for historians. “Mason’s Special Collections and Archives are for all researchers, scholars and enthusiasts,” says Misha Griffith, Oral History Program graduate research assistant in SC&A. “The Multidisciplinary exhibition provides examples of research possibilities for all disciplines.”

Yvonne Carignan, head of SC&A, says the exhibit will help spread the word about the broad range of artifacts housed in special collections. “We are proud of Misha Griffith for developing the Multidisciplinary exhibition,” Cargnan says, “because it is a great vehicle for getting our message out to the entire Mason community. We really do serve all disciplines in SC&A and want them all using our collections.”

Although the exhibition is the brainchild of Griffith, her excitement for the project energized other SC&A faculty and staff to suggest ways some of their favorite items from the collections could be seen in a new light. Processing specialist Greta Kuriger Suiter, for instance, suggested looking at antiquarian theatrical playbills in terms of graphic art; research services coordinator Christine Cheng plowed through the Rosemary Poole cookbook collection to find recipes representing the history of home remedies; and digital collections archivist Bob Vay selected a stunning 1953 aerial photograph of Fairfax Circle used by Texaco to determine business location strategies.

“SC&A materials support teaching and scholarly research at Mason and beyond,” says John Zenelis, university librarian. “The collections are built on existing strengths, respond to changing academic needs and develop distinctive areas that have little coverage elsewhere.”

The exhibition divides the disciplines up into eight smaller presentations: Graphic Design; Performing Arts; Modern and Classic Language; Natural and Physical Sciences; Conflict Resolution, Public Policy and Political Science; Language Education, Literature and Anthropology; Travel and Hospitality; and Geography, Urban Planning and Transportation. The materials on display include rare and antiquarian books, hand-drawn and published maps, prints and posters, photographs, and audiovisual items.

The expansive Multidisciplinary exhibition, located on the second floor of both Wing A and C of the Fenwick Library on the Fairfax Campus, is open to the community until Oct. 1.

The Mason community is invited to an open house for the exhibition on Wednesday, Sept. 11, from 3 to 4:30 p.m., outside of Special Collections on the second floor of Wing C. For more information, contact Yvonne Carignan at

Write to Robin Herron at

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