RBML's Exhibitions & Programs


Our exhibition galleries are open to Columbia affiliates and external visitors. Our Online Exhibitions are always available to all. 

Fanzines: Passion Made Personal poster

Fanzines: Passion Made Personal
Through June 30, 2023 in the Chang Octagon
Comics fanzines operated on several levels: they presented news, reviews, interviews; they celebrated the medium, its creators, its characters, and its publishers; most of all, they created community. This exhibition, drawing on the Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s extensive fanzine collection, explores the what, the why, the who, and the how. Items from the papers of Bill Schelly, John Fantucchio, Paul Levitz, and Hames Ware demonstrate how a relatively small group of people helped create and develop comics fandom.


Original Copies poster

Original Copies: Facsimiles and their Mediations of Authenticity and Ownership
Through July 28, 2023 in the Kempner Gallery 
As exacting copies that reproduce both the contents and the physical presentation of their originals, facsimiles can tell us a great deal about the histories of technology and of taste. This exhibition assembles materials from across Columbia’s distinctive collections – from a Zhao Mausoleum relief rubbing, to Shakespeare’s First Folio, to a contemporary recreation of Captain America #2 -- and includes replicas, restorations, creative forgeries, even a ‘facsimile’ of a book made by aliens. Taken together, this wide range of books and other objects invites us to explore the technologies that make facsimiles possible, the motivations and appetites that drive their production, and the questions they raise about originality and authenticity.

Public Programs

The RBML offers a robust and diverse series of public programs, including lectures, panel discussions, performances and conferences, that highlight collections and particular fields of inquiry. Guests may include living creators (artists, writers, etc.), collectors, and scholars who make use of our collections. The Book History Colloquium aims to provide a broad outlet for the scholarly discussion of book history, print culture, the book arts, and bibliographical research, and (ideally) the promotion of research and publication in these fields. Please note that while our events are free and open to the public they do require registration in advance. 

Upcoming Events

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Online Exhibitions

Corfu Ketubah

Between the Adriatic and the Ionian: The Jews of Corfu

The exhibit features prayer books, communal and legislative documents, and ketubbot. Among the stories featured include an international dispute regarding the acceptability of the Romaniote Jews’ musical rendition of the Shema prayer; varied legislation about the Corfu Jews’ requirement to wear the yellow badge (as had been mandated in Venice); prayers for varied holidays, penance, a property dispute, a synagogue theft; and documents relating Jewish doctors and education in Corfu. The exhibition, featuring materials from Columbia University Libraries at both Columbia (noted with "CUL") and the Jewish Theological Seminary (noted with "JTS"), will bring more attention to this unique and understudied community. 

The Plot Genie

The Literary History of Artificial Intelligence

This exhibition explores the long, shared history of literature and computation through the Columbia Library’s holdings. We present texts that participate in early debates about whether writing was a skill to be honed or a gift to be appreciated and whether the skills of writing could be learned and even made into repeatable algorithms. Is writing like any other craft that can be learned and taught? Following a timeline from circa 1890–1970, this exhibition explores professional manuals, devices, and techniques that promised to make writing easier—and even to automate it. The Literary History of AI showcases examples of algorithmic composition, such as prose and poetry written by machines, alongside literature written with the aid of algorithmic and combinatorial devices. This exhibition broadly tracks two broad stories related to the literary history of AI: production and analysis.

In Service to the New Nation poster

In Service to the New Nation: The Life & Legacy of John Jay
As part of the broader events celebrating the near completion of the seven volumes of The Selected Papers of John Jay publication project based at Columbia University, this exhibit aims to shed light on the different aspects of Jay's personal, familial, and public life and discuss his many civic accomplishments in shaping America's governance, diplomacy, and judiciary. In Service to the New Nation: The Life & Legacy of John Jay draws on the correspondence, public papers, printed items, portraits, and drawings located in the various collections and libraries at Columbia University. The items presented include such varied materials as the transcribed Laws of King’s College, Jay's draft of The Federalist 5, period sheet music of Governor Jay's March, and a chart of New York City's harbor defences. Unless otherwise noted, the materials presented herein are taken from the John Jay Papers, 1668-1862 Collection and Columbia's Rare Book & Manuscript Library. 

Arthur Mitchell

Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer
This exhibition celebrates the extraordinary career and legacy of the New York City Ballet’s first African-American star and the founder and longtime director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. This website, created in tandem with the exhibition Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer, on display at the Wallach Art Gallery from January 12 to March 11, 2018, highlights material from the Arthur Mitchell Collection, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University. It also includes commissioned essays, timelines, links to publicly available sources, and other resources in addition to material from the physical exhibition. Please share this website with friends, students, and colleagues, using it to explore the rich histories behind Arthur Mitchell’s career and the Dance Theatre of Harlem, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary in 2019, and encourage new scholarship about African Americans and ballet.

Complete list of RBML Online Exhibitions.