The unseen and supernatural have graced IU with their presence in a new exhibit at the Lilly Library.
The exhibition, “Spiritualists, Sorcerers and Stage Magicians: Magic and the Supernatural at the Lilly Library,” opened June 2 and will be available to the public until Aug. 30.
“The Lilly Library has never had an exhibition on magic and the supernatural before, so many of the items in this exhibition are on display for the first time,” Lilly Library Reference Associate Rebecca Baumann said in an email.
The exhibit is displayed in the Main Gallery, and it offers a look into supernatural and magical history throughout the world.
The showcase is a collaboration between Baumann, who is also the exhibition curator, and Anne Delgado, a visiting lecturer at IU.
Various themes within the exhibit include witchcraft, demonology, ghost stories, stage magic, occultism and weird tales told throughout the world, as well as posters and texts on the famous stage magician Harry Houdini.
Since the exhibition began, tour guides have noted the most popular case contains pieces by famous occultist Aleister Crowley.
“He was a pretty dodgy character, and the letters we have in our collection to book collector Montgomery Evans are fascinating,” Baumann said.
The stage magic case is another staff favorite.
Items are dated from the Middle Ages through the 21st century.
“We wanted to show that an interest in the supernatural and the paranormal has been a persistent part of print culture throughout history,” Baumann said. “This exhibition does not present a unified truth about the esoteric tradition. Rather, it seeks to present a series of fragments and stories that emerge from the Lilly Library’s rich collections.”
The exhibit provides a glimpse into what other features the Lilly Library has to offer.
“We want to highlight and showcase the Lilly’s extensive and diverse collections,” Baumann said. “Our exhibitions present other areas of collecting and give the public a chance to see material they may not have seen before.”
Visitors of the Lilly Library might already be aware of collections such as the Gutenberg Bible, first printed works by Shakespeare and Audubon’s “Birds of America”.
But this particular exhibition shines a light on the mysterious and unknown collections of the library, as nearly all of the items on display are part of the Lilly’s permanent collection.
The library will have an opening reception at 6 to 8 p.m. June 21.
It will feature a performance by magician Steve Bryant, whose specialty is card magic, as well as a talk by the exhibition’s curators.
Public tours for the exhibition are 2 p.m. every Friday, or tours can be set up by emailing email@example.com.