RBML's Exhibitions & Programs


Our exhibition galleries are open to Columbia affiliates and external visitors with confirmed reading room appointments. Our Online Exhibitions are always available to all. 

Year of Water Revisited poster

The Year of Water Revisited: through July 23, 2022 in the Chang Octagon.

This exhibit features artists books relating to the earth's most precious resource: water. Items range from New York City Rainfall 1987 by Sandy Gellis, a portfolio of prints which document a year’s rainfall, to this year’s My Mighty Journey, which traces 12,000 years of a waterfall’s existence, with illustrations created with natural materials found by the river and wood engraving by Gaylord Schanilec.


Social Climates poster

Social Climates: Power and the Environment in the Archives: through September 30, 2022 in Kempner Gallery. This exhibit draws on a wide array of RBML collections and materials to explore the interconnections between culture, history, politics, and the natural world. From  ancient papyrus documents to the records of an 18th century cotton manufacturer, from New Deal photography to contemporary illustrations by renowned artist Molly Crabapple, from early modern treatises on witchcraft to sociological surveys documenting the rise of suburbia, Social Climates offers a critical reexamination of the RBML's archival holdings in order to reveal the connections and disjunctures that have shaped human social relationships to the natural world. 

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 Virtual Events

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Online Exhibitions

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.