It’s not often you see a letter by George Washington, a limited edition Barbie doll and Groucho Marx’s autograph as part of the same exhibit. But that’s exactly what’s on display as Northwestern University opens its library archives to the public.
“Because we’re a library and not a museum, many of our most treasured materials are stored away where people can’t see them,” said University Library staffer Nina Barret, who created the exhibit, in a press release. “This is a way to showcase what makes the library such a rich, exciting intellectual resource.”
Few of the pieces have come through the same channels. The letter by George Washington is part of a complete collection of presidential and vice presidential signatures (through Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew) donated to Northwestern’s archives by a Chicago financier.
The Barbie doll–decked out in a Northwestern Wildcats cheerleader outfit–was part of a line of college cheerleader Barbies put out by Mattel. The one on display was bought by a Northwestern library staffer for her daughter, and then donated to the archives.
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See Also: Exhibit Slideshow
Items from University Archives put a spotlight on Bergen Evans, the beloved English professor whose biggest fan was Groucho Marx, and on Charlton Heston, the movie star and Northwestern alumnus who is perhaps best remembered as bearded and robed in “The Ten Commandments” and shirtless in “Planet of the Apes.”
From the specialized Transportation Library comes a selection of airline menus dating back to the 1950s and evoking a world in which air travelers could expect caviar, highballs and cigarettes as part of a comfortable onboard experience.
From Northwestern’s Music Library — internationally recognized for its commitment to classical music of the 20th century — comes an original manuscript by composer György Ligeti. Ligeti composed the eerie, primordial sounds that accompany the appearance of the monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”