Most displays in the Library’s main Exhibition Centre draw on Special Collections materials to some degree, but few of them have included quite such a wide-ranging selection of the division’s holdings as ‘Books and Babies: Communicating Reproduction’, which opened to the public this morning.
Curated by a team from the University’s ‘Generation to Reproduction’ group, the display highlights medieval gynaecological texts from the Department of Manuscripts, extraordinary seventeenth and eighteenth-century anatomical engravings from the Rare Book collections, and a ‘Cambridge University Student Union Survival Guide’ (complete with tea, coffee and condoms) kept in the University Archives. These are displayed alongside items from the Library’s modern printed book and periodical collections, together with ancient sculptures, laboratory glassware, twentieth-century research papers and rare printed items generously loaned by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Bourn Hall Clinic, and a number of private collectors (some through the good offices of the Churchill Archives Centre).
As the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, pointed out in his speech at the opening reception last night, the diversity of the objects on show does not obscure the central theme running throughout the exhibition: the role played by communication media over the centuries in shaping and disseminating ideas about human reproduction.
‘Books and Babies’ runs until December. A full set of web pages created to accompany the exhibition is available here, and Paul Kerley’s Books and Babies slideshow on the BBC News website is also well worth a look.