New gallery and exhibition spotlight library treasures—and the discoveries they spark

  • text image reads: Hanke Exhibition Gallery Points of Contact, Points of View: Asking Questions in Yale Library Special Collections
April 6, 2022

“Points of Contact, Points of View: Asking Questions in Yale Library Special Collections” will be on view March 14—August 14, 2022, in the Hanke Exhibition Gallery on the ground floor of Sterling Memorial Library. The exhibition includes related audio-visual collection materials and images on view outside the Gilmore Music Library.  View a Curator Conversation.

About the Exhibition

The exhibition features more than 60 unique documents, books, objects, and images from Yale Library special collections—arranged and displayed so that visitors can experience for themselves how primary sources are used to inspire inquiry, learning, and the creation of new knowledge. 

Selected with advice from dozens of library staff, the objects are as varied as a 17th century Arabic manuscript about the Nile River; a Korean atlas of the Chosŏn Dynasty; the original music and manuscript of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”; a sampler stitched by Kezia Stiles, daughter of Ezra Stiles; and some of Noah Webster’s handwritten notes for dictionary entries. 

Instead of a conventional narrative, the exhibition offers visitors simple questions to spark their personal curiosity: “Who made this? For what purpose was it intended? Whose point of view is represented and whose is left out?” The goal is for the objects, individually and in conversation with each other, to inspire visitors to find connections, interpretations, and further questions.

In some exhibit cases, objects from different eras and places are juxtaposed under broad themes: Protesting, Justice, Self-expression, and Knowing.  The combinations invite viewers to make their own connections and develop their own fresh perspectives on human experience across time and culture. 

For example,the Self-Expression case provokes reflection by placing a portrait of Josett Monette, a Native American law student, created by photographer Will Wilson, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, near three tintypes portraits of African-American women whose names are no longer known. Nearby items include James Weldon Johnson’s manuscript of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing;” the music manuscript by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson; and a metal souvenir version of “The Harp,” a monumental sculpture created by Augusta Savage, inspired by the anthem and exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. 

Outside the Music Library,  clips of audio-visual collection materials are paired with related images, including a recording of the a capella group, Shades of Yale, singing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing;”. Here, the curators offer new questions for interrogating audio-visual formats, including:  “Whose voices are recorded? Whose are not? How can we understand and evaluate such silences?”

View a PDF of the exhibition text and object labels. 

Curators and Production Credits

The exhibition was curated by Nancy Kuhl, curator of poetry in the Yale Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke; Bill Landis, associate director for public services at Manuscripts and Archives; and Jae Rossman, director of the Department of Area Studies and Humanities Research Support, in close collaboration with Megan Czekaj, library exhibition technician; Sarah Davis, library exhibition technician; and Kerri Sancomb, exhibition program manager, in Preservation and Conservation Services. 

About the Hanke Gallery

The Hanke Exhibition Gallery was designed and built for optimal display of unique, fragile, and rare primary-source materials from Yale’s diverse collections. A mix of flat table cases and vertical wall cases accommodates a wide range of materials, from three-dimensional objects to large manuscripts, photographs, and rare books.

The gallery’s location in the Sterling Library nave, one of Yale’s most iconic buildings, underscores the centrality of research at Yale, and the library’s role in making primary sources accessible to students, faculty, and other researchers.

Apicella+Bunton Architects designed the exhibition space with state-of-the-art lighting, climate control, and security. The gallery’s construction was made possible by the vision and generosity of Lynn Hanke, a member of the University Library Council, and her husband, Robert Hanke ’60.

Access to the Exhibition

As of May 2, 2022, public spaces within Sterling Memorial Library (including the nave, the Hanke Gallery and Gilmore Music Library) and the Beinecke Library exhibition gallery have re-opened to the public during daytime hours. All visitors must be vaccinated and boosted when eligible. See Yale Library COVID-19 updates for details.

—By Patricia Carey