Recent Exhibits

Audubon's Magnificent ObsessionJohn James Audubon's "Magnificent Obsession"

September 6th - November 30th


This exhibition features high quality facsimile prints from Abbeville Press and Oppenheimer Inc. of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, as well as prints from the original Havell edition owned by Union College.

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Ellen's FavoritesTreasures & New Acquisitions: "Favorites"

January 21st - May 2014


This exhibit features works hand selected by Schaffer's previous head of the Special Collections department, Ellen Fladger, who retired in January of 2014.

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Leaves of GrassLiterature in English 1713 - 1913

October 8th - December 18th 2013


This exhibit features rare editions from the Schaffer Library collections of two centuries of literary works from England, Scotland, Ireland and the United States, including Union’s first editions of “Pride and Prejudice” and Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”

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John Bigelow's top hatJohn Bigelow Showcase

August - September 2013


Schaffer Library’s Remembered First Citizen exhibit honored John Bigelow (Union College Class of 1835). Part of a larger project at Union College celebrating the accomplishments one of its most distinguished alumni, the exhibit took its name in tribute – but also in answer – to Margaret Clapp’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Bigelow, Forgotten First Citizen (1947).  “First Citizen of New York” was just one of the honorary titles by which Bigelow was known during his lifetime.  Author, abolitionist, newspaper editor, minister to France during the U.S, Civil War, co-founder of the New York Public Library, and life-long public servant, Bigelow played a significant role in the political and intellectual life of the nation throughout most of his 94 years.  The exhibit initially opened on the centennial of Bigelow’s death in December 1911 and then was reinstalled in the summer of 2013.  It examined highlights of his interests, activities, and connections using original objects from Schaffer Library’s extensive John Bigelow collections and correspondence file, supplemented by other materials and facsimiles from the College archives and the library’s rare book and general collections.  Released in conjunction with the exhibit was the library’s Correspondence of John Bigelow site at

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Treasures & New AcquisitionsWilliam Henry Seward

February - March 2013

This exhibition showcases the wide variety of material held in Schaffer Library's Special Collections. It includes samples of the treasures collected throughout the many decades of Union's history - among them, plates from John James Audubon's Birds of North America , purchased by the College from the artist himself in 1814 - as well as rare works and historic material acquired as recently as December 2012. Befitting the broad scope of Union's educational programs and unique cultural resources, the items on display represent areas ranging from mathematics to art to biology to American History. View gallery...

Charles DickensCharles Dickens

February - March 2010

The “Dickens in America” exhibit opened in Schaffer Library on February 9, 2010.  It commemorated Charles Dickens’ two mid-nineteenth century tours of the United States, both of which included stops in nearby Albany.  The exhibit featured first editions of Dickens’ fiction and non-fiction writings on the United States as well as archival materials from the papers of John Bigelow (Union College Class of 1835), who became personally acquainted with Dickens during his “public readings” tour of the U.S. in 1867/68.  Also featured in the exhibition:  the College’s recent acquisition of an illustrated first edition of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843) along with subsequent editions of this famous work, a condensed version of which Dickens included among his public readings in Albany in March 1868.


The exhibit opened with belated birthday cake for the “Inimitable” Dickens (who was born on February 7) provided by the students of Dickens House and concluded in early April with a staged reading of A Christmas Carol on April 12 in the Nott Memorial.  The reading was directed by Patricia Culbert  of the Department of Theater and Dance and featured performances by students, faculty members, and administrative staff. View gallery...

Charles DarwinCharles Darwin

April - May 2009

The Darwin @ Union exhibit in 2009 celebrated the conjunction of three events: the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth in 1809, the 150th anniversary of the first publication of his On the Origin of Species in 1859, and the gift to Union College of a first and sixth edition of On the Origin of Species as well as the first volume of Darwin’s The Descent of Man (1871), all donated to the College by Aaron J. Feingold, Union College Class of 1972. Dr. Feingold’s gifts joined his earlier presentation to the College of the first edition of Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). The exhibit examined the development of ideas about evolution since the 18th century, Darwin’s own theories, his relationship to his mentors, to Alfred Russel Wallace, and to the work of John James Audubon (whose elephant folio edition of The Birds of America is also held at Union), and Darwin’s reception in both scientific works and in the popular imagination. On opening day, foods from the Darwin family cookbook were served at campus dining halls as well as at an invitation-only dinner for distinguished guests, students, and faculty. The evening closed with a lecture on “Charles Darwin and Human Evolution” given by Mark Walker, John Bigelow Professor of History at Union College. View gallery...