Past Exhibitions

October 5 to February 9

How William Became Shakespeare: Four Hundred Years of the First Folio

How William Became Shakespeare: Four Hundred Years of the First Folio

This year commemorates the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio, which was the first gathered collection of Shakespeare’s comedies, histories, and tragedies. It was published in 1623, seven years after his death. Without the First Folio, 18 plays, including As You Like It, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and The Tempest, might have been lost to readers forever.

This exhibition, co-curated by Special Collections Librarian Cecily Dyer and Shannon Kelley, Ph.D., director of Women, Gender, and Sexuality and associate professor of English, College of Arts and Sciences, Fairfield University, will feature a selection of the Shakespearean collection, donated to the library’s Special Collections in 1974, including its partial First Folio. The exhibition will examine what Shakespeare has meant to readers and scholars over time.

June 22 to September 23, 2023

The Book Beautiful: Selections from the Private Press Movement

The Private Press Movement was an offshoot of the Arts and Crafts Movement and flourished around the turn of the 19th century. Led by William Morris, its adherents rejected modern, mechanized book production in favor of exquisitely crafted texts and bindings produced using traditional techniques. The Book Beautiful: Selections from the Private Press Movement explores this rich period in book design, highlighting fine examples from Pequot Library’s Special Collections.


Feb. 18 to May 6, 2023

Alphabets, Bedtime Stories, and Cautionary Tales: Children's Books and the Shaping of American Identity

The 18th and 19th centuries witnessed the emergence in England and America of new attitudes toward children and education at the same time that America was casting off its royal authority. The result was a booming market of print materials that, for the first time, contained text and illustrations geared toward a young audience. This exhibition draws from Pequot Library’s extraordinary Children’s Historical Collection to explore how children’s books published in the years following American independence reflect the changing political, economic, and social climate of the young nation.

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This exhibition programming was supported by the Connecticut Humanities.

June 23, 2022 - February 25, 2023

The Lure of the Garden: The Enduring Desire to Work and Shape the Land

Gardening is a universal activity that unites people around the world. Whether for pleasure or practicality, humanity’s relationship with the soil has sustained since we quite literally planted roots as a species over 6,000 years ago. The Lure of the Garden invites visitors to explore the enduring desire to shape and cultivate the land, from the propagation of the “three sisters” — corn, beans, and squash — by Native Americans, to garden clubs, war-era Victory Gardens, and community and pollinator gardens.

With materials dating back to the 1500s, the Monroes and the Wakemans, founders of the library, sought to curate a collection that would be democratic — of use to all classes of society from the financier to the farmer. Pequot Library’s Special Collections reflect the changing tastes, styles, and purposes of gardens, as well as their enduring lure. The resulting collections contain everything from practical advice on laying out gardens, raising poultry, and keeping bees to propagating vegetables and keeping the accounts of the farm. Materials from the archives, including diaries and day books from local farmers, document the varieties of plants and fruit trees planted, as well as local produce like the Southport Globe Onions and potatoes that were shipped from our humble port to New York City.

February 17 - May 9, 2022

[Her]story: Women's Roles Through History

Dating from the 1700s forward, holdings from Pequot’s Special Collections reveal the evolution of roles women have held and hold. The selected items will uncover the impressive accomplishments made by women and show connections to Pequot Library over time, featuring local and national figures such as Mary Hull Wakeman, Mabel Osgood Wright, and Amelia Earhart. Join Pequot Library for a walk through [her]story from Colonial America, the Gilded Age, Women’s Suffrage, World War employment, and to modern professional life. Looking at a girl’s life then and now will tell a story of fluid educational and social norms. Follow visionary women through text and visual representations to witness their strength and resilience, as they move from atop a pedestal to protest, lead, and love.

This exhibition was made possible in part through the Constance C. Baker Rare Book Fund and additional support from the Jennifer Crosby Cargill Art Fund.

View the virtual exhibition.

October 7, 2021 - February 5, 2022

Magic, Mayhem, & Maturity: The Growth of Youth Fantasy Literature

Drawing on materials from the Children’s Historical Collection and the modern circulating collection, this exhibition examines the emergence and evolution of youth fantasy literature. Oftentimes, stories from this genre use magic as a metaphor for the turbulent transition from childhood to adulthood. Spanning fairy tales to 19th century works like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz to more modern stories like Harry PotterChildren of Blood and Bone and The Gilded Ones, this exhibition further explores how these stories have evolved to tackle this transition in a more frank manner and, significantly, to embrace all voices.

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This exhibition and its related programming are supported by the Connecticut Humanities.

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February 4 - May 2, 2021

John James Audubon's Birds of America: A Return to Pequot Library

In 1858, John James Audubon’s youngest son, John Woodhouse Audubon, decided to re-issue his father’s masterwork. Julius Bien of New York, working with the latest techniques in chromolithography, was contracted as the lithographer, and thus the resulting volume is referred to as “The Bien Edition.”

Audubon carried his portfolio, weighing about 100 lbs., with him as he tried to find subscribers for his work. Like his father, John Woodhouse Audubon attempted to underwrite the production with subscriber contributions. The onset of the Civil War ended the Bien edition and the high costs of the production left the Audubon family with considerable debt. An estimated 75-100 copies were made, though in 1976 only 49 bound volumes of the Bien Edition were catalogued worldwide. Among the related selections on display will be Mabel Osgood Wright’s A Year with the Birds: A guide to the naming of 100 birds commonly seen in Connecticut, published in 1905. Audubon’s ornithological studies from the past shine a light on recurring ecological concerns.

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This exhibit was created in collaboration with Fairfield University Art Museum and their exhibition Birds of the Northeast: Gulls to Great Auks, and was made possible in part through the Constance C. Baker Rare Book Fund.

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October 8, 2020 - January 15, 2021

Crossing the Border: The Challenging Truths of Human Migration

Explore the collected works of Migration Now!, a portfolio of 37 silkscreen and letterpress prints illustrating the power art has to engage people in informed conversation about immigration. Co-organized by Favianna Rodriguez and Roger Peet, work in the collection takes on the impacts that policy, policing, fear mongering, and false narratives have had on immigrant populations. Local history materials from Pequot Library’s Special Collections, including maps and manuscripts, will be on view to highlight the effects of borders and migration in our own local history, specifically as it pertains to the impacts of colonization of indigenous lands, the consequences of which are still prevalent today.

During the exhibition, Pequot Library hosted an artist talk with Roger Peet, who created some of the work in Migration Now! The recording of that event can be viewed here.

Explore the Gallery Guide for this Exhibition

February 20 – September 27, 2020

Riot, Sedition, Insurrection: Media and the Road to the American Revolution

In the years preceding the American Revolution, printing presses in the thirteen colonies churned out a wave of seditious literature. A swirl of pamphlets, posters, newspapers, and other print media, not often grounded in fact, fomented a climate of rebellion against the British crown.

This exhibition featured the pamphlets that memorialized and politicized key events in the early years of the American Revolution, from the Stamp Act to the Boston Massacre to the Battle of Bunker Hill. By looking at the same works that circulated in the streets, coffeehouses, and homes of Revolutionary-era Americans, we experienced the media environment that shifted public opinion from loyalty to rebellion.

Many of Pequot Library’s treasures of early Americana were on view, including several items from our collection on long-term deposit at The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University and our 1776 edition of Thomas Paine’s incendiary essay Common Sense.

Enjoy George Miles’ (Curator, Western Americana at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University) gallery talk from the exhibition opening.

Explore the Educator Guide for this Exhibition

November 7, 2019 – February 9, 2020

Cover to Cover: How People Bind Their Books

This exhibition explored all types of books, from miniature books to enormous folios, gold-stamped publishers’ binding to stab-stitched paper wrappers, treasured bibles to ephemeral almanacs, 19th-century marbled papers to 15th-century stamped leather, and more. It examined the ‘guts’ of historic bindings to see how they were constructed, from the bookbinder’s craft to the print and manuscript waste hiding inside.

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September 6 – October 6, 2019

Coastal Expressions | Joyce Grasso

Coastal Expressions featured the abstract seascapes of Joyce Grasso, the Best in Show winner of Pequot Library’s 2018 Art Show Wet Paint: Art Fresh from the Studio. Grasso describes her acrylic on canvas paintings as creating a “feeling of place” with “bold colors, multiple laters and varied textures.” This exhibition also highlighted Grasso’s mixed media collages with hand-painted acrylic papers on cradleboard.

June 20 – August 24, 2019

Summer by the Sea: Sloop Logs and Ledgers

This exhibition featured 19th-century sloop logs and ledgers from Pequot Library’s Special Collections illustrating Southport’s rich maritime legacy. Filled with notable Fairfield family names, these volumes captured the daily details of harbor life and emphasized the preeminent role of the Southport Harbor on the New England coast. Works on display included the Library’s collections of historic photography, tracking Southport’s evolution from a working harbor and shipping grounds to a quaint village and sailor’s paradise.

Watch Director Stephanie Coakley & Dr. Jamie Cumby at the Opening Reception


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February 7 – May 2, 2019

Illumination to Illustration: Art of the Book

Whether meticulously crafted by hand on vellum or artfully produced using an early printing press, books have been utilized by artists and authors as a visual art form for centuries. This exhibition featured items from Pequot Library’s Special Collections including a medieval illuminated antiphonal (musical liturgy); The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, printed by the Kelmscott Press in 1896; and a 1946 pop-up edition of The Jolly Jump-Ups: A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. Viewers were invited to discover the artistry found in a selection of books from illuminated manuscripts to illustrated novels dating from the 15th century to today.

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November 1, 2018 – January 27, 2019

Egyptomania: The Western Fascination with Egypt

Viewers were invited to discover how Egypt has captivated the Western imagination from the 19th century until today. From Napoleon’s conquest of Africa to the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the 1920s, Egyptomania swept America and Europe and came to symbolize the exotic, romantic, and mysterious. This exhibition featured materials from Pequot Library’s Special Collections, including late 19th-century photographs of Egypt, archaeological surveys, and travel memoirs.

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September 6 – October 7, 2018

Paradise Lost | Árpád Krizsán

Paradise [Lost] featured a collection of photographs by Árpád Krizsán, Best in Show winner of Pequot Library’s 2017 Art Show. Viewers explored with Krizsán as he scratched past the superficial “to look at the other side or what others wouldn’t see, yet finding beauty in all of it.” Krizsán’s passion for photography was inspired by his father, who taught him to “walk and see.” He has studied in Vienna, Washington, D.C., and New York City and participated in shows in Austria, New York City, and Connecticut for which he received numerous awards.

June 14 – August 25, 2018

Garden Menagerie | Alex Sax

Garden Menagerie featured a variety of works by Alex Sax and a selection of nineteenth-century books and poetry from Pequot Library’s Special Collections of rare books, manuscripts, and archives. The exhibition included the artist’s “garden” of imaginative and whimsical finely detailed nature drawings, prints, egg tempera paintings, and cast paper and paper-mâché animal sculptures inspired by Pequot’s holdings of works by American poets Emily Dickinson and John Greenleaf Whittier and The wild flowers of America…with fifty- colored plates, from original drawings, by Isaac Sprague by George L. Goodale, 1886, among other literary works highlighting the grandeur of nature. Also featured were a number of the artist’s handmade books.

February 15 – May 6, 2018

Living in the New World

This exhibition features a selection of the Library’s rare books held in Southport and on long-term deposit at The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University, including The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, in the Mohawk language, William Hubbard’s 1677 discourse on the Pequot War, and an early catechism for young children. Materials on native languages and colonial New England life offered insight into the intersection of two cultures in Fairfield and beyond. Items on view include primers, language studies, and histories of local, state, and New England life which helped viewers journey back in time to the early days of the New World and explore the dynamics between new settlers and Native Americans through Pequot Library’s Special Collections.

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December 14, 2017 – February 4, 2018

Holiday Magic: Selections from the Children's Historical Collection

This exhibition highlighted holiday materials from Pequot Library’s Children’s Historical collection and encouraged visitors to experience the magical and memorable role holidays play in the lives of all readers, especially children. Items on display included classic works of holiday literature, caroling music, and vintage postcards. From Christmas and Halloween to Thanksgiving and “Primrose Day,” the books and imagery covered a variety of religious and secular subjects including etchings of “The Three Wisemen” and the antics of Eloise and Babar the Elephant.

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October 27, 2017 – January 7, 2018

Nature Morte | Jarvis Wilcox

Artist Jarvis Wilcox’s paintings explored the subtle relations among objects portrayed and the interactions of the colors chosen, while encouraging thoughtful consideration from the viewer. This exhibition highlighted a selection of recent works featuring oil paintings and drawings of floral arrangements, nature scenes, and wildlife. Wilcox’s body of work includes still lifes, water scenes, landscapes, and works on paper that have been featured in solo exhibitions from New York to California.

October 12 – December 3, 2017

The Great War and the United States Home Front

This exhibition considered the question posed by those at home during the Great War: “What can we do?” It featured a selection of books, maps, military diagrams, pamphlets, and propaganda posters from Pequot Library’s Special Collections of rare books, manuscripts, and archives. Viewers discovered and learned more about a variety of patriotic, civilian efforts that took place on the American home front after the United States entered WWI in 1917.

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September 7-24, 2017

People's Choice 2017

This selection of works featured the talents of the winners of the 2016 Art Show, as chosen by the viewers at the Art Show Preview Party. The artists were:

Sage Goldsmith Tremaine, painting
Alexandra Wallace-Currie, mixed media
Robyn Swan Filippone, photography*

*Generously bestowed by Ellen Gould

June 8 – August 27, 2017

Jane Austen: Insights and Influences

Pequot Library celebrated the life and work of Jane Austen and helped viewers discover how her insights into the ordinary lives of her characters have influenced culture for the last 200 years, featuring timeless illustrations and text. The exhibition examined how authors such as Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott inspired the young Jane and explored her influence on contemporary literature through novels such as Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding and Pemberly Shades by Dorothy Hlice Bonavia-Hunt.

March 9 – July 2, 2017

Perspectives at Pequot: U.S. Immigration Today

Migration Now is a portfolio of 37 silkscreen and letterpress prints illustrating the power of art to engage people in informed conversation about immigration and the broader global theme of human migration. The collection highlights reasons why people migrate, from helping family or escaping persecution, to alleviating financial burdens or finding personal fulfillment. Many of the contributing artists are students of the global tradition of political printmaking. Their visual portrayals of migration provide a lens through which to begin a discussion about immigration and social issues such as race, culture, gender, class, and economics, that affect us all.

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February 16 – May 6, 2016

Pages from Pequot: Uncovering Shakespeare

Uncovering Shakespeare features material from Pequot Library’s Special Collections including extracts from the First Folio; complete Second, Third, and Fourth Folios; the Players’ Shakespeare series from 1923 with seven plays; the Norton Facsimile of the First Folio; stunning editions of As You Like It and Merry Wives of Windsor; a small popular edition called The New Temple Shakespeare, with engravings by Eric Gill, and many scholarly editions and studies about Shakespeare and the Earl of Oxford. The exhibit includes, in large part, the collection of Shakespeare materials bequeathed in 1974 by Dean S. Edmonds, a trustee of the Shakespeare Oxford Society, founded in 1957. Mr. Edmonds was dedicated to exploring the Shakespeare authorship question and researching the evidence that Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford (1550 – 1604) is the true author of the poems and plays of William Shakespeare.

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