The Bentley Rare Book Museum, hosted within the Kennesaw State University's Department of Museums, Archives and Rare Books, is Georgia’s first rare book museum and the state’s third largest museum-grade rare book collection. We invite you to explore our free exhibitions, join us for public programs, or schedule a research visit with our archivists and curators.

historic textbooks

Current Exhibition

Historic textbooks provide windows into humanity by demonstrating how knowledge passes from one generation to the next. While the main text of an instructional book reveals societal beliefs and values about learning, the handwritten marginal notes and doodles scribbled throughout the book are just as important because they show how students communicate with one another over time and react to (or even dismiss) the knowledge imparted on them.

The Bentley Rare Book Museum’s exhibition The Books That Taught Us uses a collection of rare and historic textbooks printed in the Western world between the eighteenth century and the twentieth century to explore the layered history of instructional texts in the English-speaking world. Using a combination of panels, textual artifacts, and interactive stations, The Books That Taught Us analyzes the full life of textbooks – from production to attrition – and invites critical conversations about the long-lasting relationship between textbooks and the people who use them. The exhibition is on view at the Bentley Rare Book Museum from October 2023 until October 2024.


Past Exhibitions

  • For centuries, women have utilized and innovated the printed word to convey their unique experiences and to advance the literary development of their societies. In Formation: Women’s Voices in Print, Genre, and Form celebrates the role of women in print by surveying the Bentley Rare Book Museum’s rich holdings of historic books and manuscripts produced in the English-speaking world. Through informative panels, engaging interactives, and a diverse selection of books, prints, and artistic works, In Formation amplifies the creative expressions of women through the lens of the printed word.

  • For thirty-five years, the Bentley Rare Book Museum (BRBM) has collected books and the stories behind them. Along the way, the BRBM has accrued its own set of stories that now contribute to the history of the books in our collection. Collecting Stories: 35 Years of the Bentley Rare Book Museum, addresses the “how," “why,” and “what” of book collecting, paying homage to the journey of acquiring books that is often overlooked or forgotten. This exhibition also celebrates the BRBM’s unwavering commitment to community. As the sole rare book museum in the state of Georgia, the BRBM embraces its responsibility to provide diverse patrons with tangible and memorable experiences with rare books.

    Patrons can now experience Collecting Stories: 35 Years of the Bentley Rare Book Museum virtually!

  • This exhibition explores the cultural and literary tension of the 1920s through a series of modules in the Bentley Rare Book Museum. The modules demonstrate a wide array of literary and cultural trends that took place during the 1920s, including the Fugitive Movement, the Harlem Renaissance, modernism, wordless novels, and psuedo-science. Modules are accompanied by contextual panels, images, and artifacts of the time period.

    Patrons can now experience The 1920s: Modernism at a Crossroads virtually!

  • Discovering Bronzes is an exploration of art, science, and culture surrounding a collection of ancient bronzes on loan from the Buffalo Museum of Science (BMS), set in the unique environment of the Bentley Rare Book Museum. This collection provides visitors with a glimpse into the world of over 40 rarely-seen bronze statues and artifacts dating back to the second millennium BCE. These bronzes are placed in conversation with select works from the Bentley Rare Book Museum. 
  • This hands-on exhibition of medieval manuscripts explores the book-making process and provides the opportunity to interact with reproduction manuscripts and tools of the era. Explore collection highlights below, or visit us to interact with the manuscripts in person.
  • This exhibition used Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's The Physiology of Taste: Or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy as a starting point from which to explore the history of the cookbook. It also drew upon Salvador Dali's Les Dîners de Gala cookbook, which uses a very different approach to discuss the pleasures of the table. By organizing both under the themes found in The Physiology of Taste, this exhibition walked visitors through the history of food writing and its relationship to our changing cultural understanding of food and cooking.

  • Featuring rare children’s books from the Bentley Rare Book Museum, Play by Design: The World of Children's Books invited visitors to explore illustration styles and techniques, intriguing formats, and the interplay of text and images on the printed page.

    From the Enlightenment to today, the children’s book has evolved dramatically. Initially, books were meant to be instructive tools used to impart moral lessons. As time progressed, children’s books were refashioned to combine both learning and amusement. The manipulation of the size, materials, illustrations, layout, and typography of books have worked to create unique worlds for their readers and helped shape individual experiences with various books. The interplay of physical elements highlighted in children’s books makes this medium especially relevant to today’s world in which electronic interactivity informs our daily lives.

    Books have many purposes: they teach, entertain, broaden our horizons, and introduce us to new ideas. In no genre is the interplay of various literary elements more evident than in children’s literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Today’s digital world is providing even more opportunities for readers to engage in traditional elements of children’s books (typography, story, and illustration), while introducing new realms of interactivity. Print books may be converted to electronic books to be read on a computer screen, and authors and publishers are producing new books written specifically for the digital format, including games, music, and other features. In this exhibit, we see authors, illustrators, and publishers continually innovating to enhance readers’ interactions with books. 


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Faculty are welcome to schedule an instruction session with the curator of the Bentley Rare Book Museum. The curator will work with you to determine the most appropriate venue and materials with which to instruct your students. Use our ServiceNow portal to request instruction services (NetID and password may be required for sign-in).
  • Instruction typically covers:

    • Methods of searching for rare materials
    • The concept of the book as a physical object
    • Interesting aspects of early printed and modern books pertinent to the field of study
    • The incorporation of rare materials into student research
    • The use of collection materials to illustrate the history of readership

    Please contact the curator to discuss specific learning objectives and course topics

  • The Bentley Rare Book Museum is a small learning space. No more than twenty-five students can be accommodated at once. If your class is larger than twenty-five, there are several options available:

    • Classes of between twenty-five and thirty-five may use a Library classroom with permission of the library staff
    • Students may be split into multiple groups that visit the Museum during consecutive class sessions or consecutive increments of a single class session
    • The curator may visit large groups in their designated classroom space, utilizing teaching collections and digital materials to reach learning objectives
  • We welcome the opportunity to work with faculty on actively engaging students with our materials. Please contact the curator with project concepts.
  • The collections of the Bentley Rare Book Museum are a resource for all members of the KSU and broader communities. Fill out the appointment form or email to discuss your research with the curator.
  • The Bentley Rare Book Museum is free & open to the public Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; no reservations required. To schedule an appointment to conduct research with materials in the collection, fill out the appointment form, including information on the purpose of your visit and how many people will be included.
  • The Department of Museums, Archives & Rare Books hosts multiple exhibitions around campus. Bentley Rare Book Museum exhibits are displayed both downstairs in the museum space on the ground floor and in the Athenaeum Gallery, located on the second floor of the Sturgis Library. Check our Exhibitions page for more details.

    In addition, the Museum of History and Holocaust Education has regular hours during which anyone may visit.

  • The collections of the Bentley Rare Book Museum are a resource for all members of the KSU and broader communities. Fill out the appointment form or email to discuss your research with the curator.
  • The Bentley Rare Book Museum is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Research visits are scheduled by appointment only. Fill out the appointment form or contact the curator to discuss your visit.
  • The collections of the Bentley Rare Book Museum do not circulate; however, depending on the condition of the materials, a limited number of reproductions may be made for research purposes. Contact the curator to discuss your options.

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