Mortimer Rare Book Room History

The Dedication of the Mortimer Rare Book Room

John Lancaster Karen Kukil Sarah PritchardShortly before the death of Ruth Mortimer in January 1994, the Smith College Board of Trustees voted to name the Rare Book Room in her honor. A dedication took place on April 23, organized by Karen Kukil, acting curator of rare books. The dedication featured readings, speakers, a musical performance, and reception. A plaque was unveiled, designed by former library assistant Sarah Black.

Photograph of John Lancaster, Karen Kukil, and Smith College Librarian Sarah Pritchard, with MRBR plaque, April 23, 1994.


MRBR dedication keepsakeMRBR Dedication ProgramThe Dedication keepsake included a poem by James Sacré in honor of Ruth Mortimer, translated into English by David Ball; a commemorative bookmark; and a text from Siena by Swinburne, hand-set and printed by students in Mortimer’s course, Art 261a, in the fall of 1993, and reprinted for the dedication. The keepsake folder featured a gold-stamped hand and book from a portrait of St. Catherine of Siena in her Epistole devotissime of 1501, the book chosen by Ruth Mortimer for the rare book collection as the millionth volume acquired by the Smith College Libraries.

Mortimer Rare Book Room Dedication Keepsake [Click on image to enlarge]

Mortimer Rare Book Room Dedication Program, April 23, 1994
[Click on image to enlarge]

Ruth Mortimer’s legacy at Smith is ensured by the rare book collection she built and by her commitment to teaching and scholarship. In addition, her husband John Lancaster established the Ruth Mortimer Rare Book Room Fund, an endowed fund which is used to support exhibitions, publications, and other educational programs that promote Smith’s rare book collections and encourage undergraduate use of the Mortimer Rare Book Room. Mortimer also encouraged the establishment of the Smith College Library Staff Seminar, an annual gathering of Smith library colleagues in the MRBR to honor Ruth’s memory with edifying programs and refreshments.