Special Collections

Book Arts Exhibit

A selection of works by contemporary book artists

On display now

Special Collections Reading Room

The field of book arts is a vibrant sector in the world of contemporary art. Work produced by book artists is diverse in both form and content. The physical and conceptual variety characteristic of artists’ books is the focus of the current exhibition in Walker Library’s Special Collections Department which features works drawn from the Dimensional and Artists’ Books collection.

Artists’ books have a rather curious dual nature. They are part of the visual world of art but, at the same time, rooted in the functional world of books and text. If we envision a line with “art” at one end and “book” at the other, many artists’ books fall somewhere in the middle, incorporating properties from both sides of the scale.  The 21 works on display in Special Collections represent various points on the book arts continuum and incorporate a wide range of materials, structures and subjects but share one important characteristic—they are compelling, expressive objects.

All of the books in this exhibit are part of The Dimensional and Artists’ Books Collection, an eclectic assembly of works which also includes pop-up, movable and miniature books. In various ways, items in this collection explore the character of the book and the nature and boundaries of its form.

The exhibit, which runs through August of 2015, will be open during Special Collections’ regular hours, Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 4:30.

Special Collections is the rare book facility for Walker Library. Its mission is to acquire, preserve and provide access to materials to support the activities of students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the general public.

Search the Collections

Search Special Collections using the Library Catalog.

Early Tennessee Imprints

The Early Tennessee Imprints collection consists of books and other print materials produced in Tennessee between the years 1791 and 1866 (that is, between the year the first printing press operated at Rogersville and the first year after the Civil War).

Dimensional and Artist's Books

The Dimensional and Artist's Books collection is an eclectic collection that explores the nature and boundaries of the book form. The collection encompasses examples of fine letterpress printing as well as artists' books that alter, question, or play with the conventional experience of reading or otherwise using the book. Additionally, the collection includes miniature books as well as pop-up and movable books. We have especially strong holdings in works by Julian Wehr (1898-1970), the American master of animated children's books.

Robert Allen Ragland Sr. Memorial Civil War

The Robert Allen Ragland Sr. Memorial Civil War collection includes nineteenth and twentieth-century books and other materials that cover various aspects of the Civil War. The collection has numerous materials that focus on the war in Tennessee and on the Battle of Stones River.

University Collection

The University Collection consists of MTSU theses, yearbooks, institutional publications, and similar items.

Special Collections Reference Area

The Special Collections Reference Area includes works on book collecting and the rare book market, various bibliographies and checklists, technical and historical works on printing and bookbinding, historical works on bookselling and publishing, and studies centered on the history of print culture.

Books and other items held in Special Collections can be fragile, old, unique, and often of considerable monetary value. They require careful handling as well as a stable and secure environment. Please observe these rules when using Special Collections:

  • First-time users are asked to complete a registration form and present a photo ID before using materials.
  • Special Collections materials--including reference books--do not circulate.
  • Food or drink must not be brought into the area.
  • Pencils--but not pens--should be used in the Reading Room.
  • Rare books must remain on the work tables. Please do not pick them up and carry them around the Reading Room.
  • The Reading Room is a quiet area. Patrons and staff engage in research, cataloging, and other activities that require concentration.
  • Fragile or rare items may require handling by staff. Use of some materials may be otherwise restricted at the discretion of staff.
  • Photocopying and digital imaging are considered on an item-by-item basis.
  • The current legal status of copyright regulates the photoreproduction of MTSU theses. By law, we cannot photocopy entire or substantial portions of any MTSU thesis without permission conveyed in a letter signed and mailed to Special Collections by the author.
  • Requests for photocopying cannot be immediately accommodated.
  • Briefcases, backpacks, bags, and other items brought into the Reading Room are subject to inspection when visitors leave the area. Lockers are available for storing these items while users are in Special Collections.



Special Collections is located on the 4th floor of the Walker Library. Both the Reading Room and the Exhibition Room are open to the public from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Thursday and from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm on Friday. The area is not open weeknights or on weekends.

From time to time, Special Collections hosts lectures presented by visiting scholars or by MTSU faculty, and occasionally Special Collections hosts MTSU classes whose students use materials in the collections. At these times the Reading Room may be temporarily unavailable for research.

Ask a Research Question

You may contact ask a research or collections question at LIBspeccoll@mtsu.edu. General research questions will be referred to the Reference Desk on the 1st floor.


Alan Boehm, Special Collections Librarian

Susan Hanson, Library Specialist