Mortimer Rare Book Room General Information

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Hours Visiting History of the Rare Book Room Publications Staff

About The Rare Book Room

The Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College houses rare books and literary manuscripts. The collection includes works from all periods—cuneiform tablets to contemporary artists' books—in all subject areas, from ancient history to zoology. Located in Neilson Library, the Mortimer Rare Book Room is one of three departments in the libraries’ special collections, which also includes the Sophia Smith Collection and the College Archives.

Barbara Blumenthal with student

Barbara Blumenthal working with a student in the Mortimer Rare Book Room

The current reading room in Neilson Library opened in 1962, although the rare book collection was formed in the 1940s by removing fifteenth- and sixteenth-century books from the general circulating stacks. Dorothy King was the first curator, followed by Ruth Mortimer (1975-1994), Michèle Cloonan (1995-1996), and Martin Antonetti (1997-2016). Just before Ruth Mortimer's death in 1994 the Rare Book Room was renamed in her honor.

Thanks to the generosity of alumnae and friends, the Mortimer Rare Book Room has grown to approximately 45,000 volumes and has expanded beyond its original role as protector of early printed artifacts. In 1973, a bequest established the first fund specifically designated for the purchase of rare books; other sources, notably the William Salloch Rare Book Fund, have enriched the endowment for purchases. The curators actively add to the collections both by purchase and by gift, and welcome inquiries about potential donations. Find out more about the collections here.

Regular Semester Hours

Hours vary during breaks, reading and examination periods, and the summer. For specific dates and times, see Libraries' Hours, or call the Mortimer Rare Book Room at (413) 585-2906. Normally when classes are in session, the Mortimer Rare Book Room is open Monday-Friday 9:00 am-12 noon and 1:00 pm-5:00 pm.

Visiting the Mortimer Rare Book Room

The Mortimer Rare Book Room is located on the 3rd floor North of Neilson Library in the center of the Smith College campus. See area and campus maps. In Neilson Library take the stairs or elevator located in the central core area up to the 3rd floor and head right (north).

For more information, see Visiting Special Collections.

History of the Rare Book Room

In the fall of 2012, the Mortimer Rare Book Room marked its golden anniversary in its current location on the third floor of Neilson Library with an exhibition A Room of Our Own, curated by Barbara Blumenthal. Some of the information and items on display then now form this Mortimer Rare Book Room History.


The Mortimer Rare Book Room occasionally publishes books, pamphlets, and exhibition catalogues related to the collections, all of which are for sale. See Mortimer Rare Book Room Publications.

Mortimer Rare Book Room Staff

Name Job Title Email Phone Number
Karen Kukil Interim Curator of Rare Books (413) 585-2908
Barbara Blumenthal Rare Book Specialist (413) 585-2906