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Kennesaw State University’s Department of Museums, Archives, and Rare Books has announced the Bentley Rare Book Museum, to open on April 22, 2017. The museum will be an evolution of the university’s Bentley Rare Book Gallery, which was established in 1986 as a result of a partnership between senior curator Robert B. Williams and Fred D. Bentley Sr., who donated a large number of 19th- and early 20th-century first editions as the gallery’s foundational collection. This new iteration is aimed to reach out to communities through increased programming, free admission, and rotating exhibitions.

Tamara Livingston, Ph.D., image courtesy Kennesaw State University.

Tamara Livingston, Ph.D. Image courtesy of Kennesaw State University.

Tamara Livingston, Ph.D., will be the executive director of Museums, Archives and Rare Books; with Robert Williams as senior curator of the Bentley Rare Book Museum. “Our goals for the Bentley Rare Book Museum focus on opening access and spreading ownership of the collections through dialogic-driven and multi-access programming,” says Livingston. “We’re working to expand interactions and opportunities for engagement so people of all backgrounds experience how they are a vital part of these rare book collections. The history of the book is fun and inspiring, and also empowering; these are themes, I believe, that we can explore with our communities much more effectively as a museum than a gallery.” Assisting Williams will be Julia Skinner, Ph.D., and JoyEllen Freeman, who will work as the curator of the Bentley Rare Book Museum and outreach and special collections archivist, respectively.

“The broad scope of the Bentley collection is the history of the book in the English-speaking world, which unlike many rare book collections, has been built so the works are interconnected, thereby creating a collection with cohesion and several narrative connections,” says Skinner. “Through our transition to the Bentley Rare Book Museum, we’re expanding our special collections to include perspectives traditionally underrepresented within rare books holdings, including African-American, Cherokee, and immigrant experiences.”

When it opens, the Bentley Rare Book Museum will boast a collection of approximately 10,000 pieces. The collection’s special focus encompasses culinary history, authors and historical works from the state of Georgia, Cherokee language materials, fine press books, early printed books and medieval manuscript leaves, including fragments of liturgical books and works by Peter Abelard and Peter Lombard. Highlights range from Sumerian clay tablets, dating from 2000 BCE, early editions of Geoffrey Chaucer’s works, William Morris’ Earthly Paradise and Sire Degrevaunt, as well as artifacts from the Apollo 14 and Apollo 16 space missions.

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