The Newberry has had a prominent place in promoting the Arts and Letters in Chicago as well as collecting and preserving their history. The story begins in the earliest years on Walton Street with concerts, lectures, exhibits, and poetry readings. Our Chicago collections concentrate specifically on the creative arts, but artistic materials turn up pretty much everywhere across the collections. Literature, music and dance, and the book arts are particularly well represented.

Literature is a logical field for any library, but the Newberry’s collecting of literary manuscripts really started in the 1940s, when Librarian Stanley Pargellis created residential fellowships for writers and began to collect their papers. In this section and elsewhere in the exhibit you can find material from the personal files of many American and British authors.

Music has been a serious collecting field for the Newberry since the acquisition in 1890 of the music library of Italian Count Pio Resse. It remains so today largely thanks to the generosity of musicologist Howard Mayer Brown, whose collection came to the Newberry in 1992 with an endowment to extend it. Dance, on the other hand, is a fairly recent collecting field, dating mostly since the 1980s and attributable in large part to the efforts of Ann Barzel.

The largest number of original art objects in this exhibit come from two important endowed collections. The Edward E. Ayer Collection documents the American Indian experience. The John M. Wing Foundation, a collection on the history of printing and design, includes fine bindings, gorgeous printing, calligraphy in printed and manuscript form, and artists’ books.