The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections has organized three historical exhibits on campus and one at the Tompkins County Library featuring a detailed history of Cornell’s presidents.
Collectively entitled “Legacy of Leadership: Cornell’s Eleven Presidents,” the exhibits were erected at Kroch, Olin and Uris Libraries shortly after President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77’s inauguration and are scheduled to remain on display through the end of the semester. All exhibits are located in unrestricted public areas and are free of charge.
The exhibit at Uris Library, “The Legacy of Leadership,” consists of “ten exhibition cases — one for each of the past presidents,” said Susette Newberry of Rare and Manuscript Collections, who helped to install the exhibits. Each case includes visual and written information that details the achievements of each president and the notable events of each presidency from Andrew Dickson White to Hunter R. Rawlings III.
“President Lehman and Hunter Rawlings kind of share a case,” said Elaine Engst, curator of the exhibits.
In addition to information on Rawlings’ term, the case will contain “a description [of] the goals of the [current] presidency and [Lehman’s] biographical information,” Newberry added.
In the Uris exhibit, “most of the materials in the exhibit are digital facsimile,” Engst said.
The remaining on-campus exhibits focus more on Cornell’s presidential inaugurations and are divided between Olin Library and Kroch Library. The portion at Olin features numerous images of each Cornell president as well as four display cases comprised of pictures of memorabilia from the presidential inaugurations including speeches, programs, tickets, menus and University symbols, such as the charter and University mace.
The exhibition in Kroch extends the Olin exhibit and includes some original items such as a beaded dress worn during the inauguration of President Livingston Farrand in 1921 by Edit Marks Wilson, wife of law professor Lyman P. Wilson.
The downtown exhibit at the public library details the first presidential inauguration. This is in part because “the first presidential inauguration took place at the downtown public library [and was] paid for by Ezra Cornell,” Newberry said. Originally, the library was called the Cornell Public Library.
Each of the exhibits is “pretty self-explanatory,” Engst said, “at least [they] are certainly intended to be.” In addition to providing historical information about each president, they also “show how the University has evolved,” Engst said. For example, “One of the things that I discovered,” said Engst, “was that each inauguration was in fact very different. … Some had processions, some did not, and they took place at different venues and different issues were addressed.”
The exhibits are the second of their kind. “We did an exhibit in 1995 for President Rawlings. The previous presidential inauguration dates back to 1977,” Engst said. Also, the Uris exhibit is the first new exhibit set up since 1996.
“There was a permanent exhibit in Uris since 1996 and we just took it down,” said Engst.
Much of the information and most of the images and items on display were obtained from the Cornell archives housed in Kroch Library by the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections. The division routinely organizes about three exhibits a year in Kroch Library and sporadic smaller exhibits in Olin. Exhibits in Uris are rare because “security is an issue in Uris,” Engst said.
Much of the information presented at the exhibits is expected to be available soon at the library website.
Archived article by David Andrade