Photo of a case full of Egyptian artifacts and books.

Exhibits at Sutro

The Sutro Library mounts four physical exhibits in its reading room each year (excepting the recent pandemic). Additionally, the Sutro Library has, along with thousands of other cultural institutions worldwide, partnered with Google Arts and Culture to create virtual exhibits on the 2017 Women’s March and other interesting topics.

Current Exhibit

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Sutro Library has partnered with Google Arts and Culture to launch an online exhibit of posters from our 2017 Women’s March Collection.

Previous Exhibits

Golden Gate Park: 150 Years of Recreation, Green Space, Entertainment, and Culture

Cancelled due to COVID.

On a list of what to do while in San Francisco, at the top is most certainly a visit to Golden Gate Park. This year marks the 150th anniversary with 100 institutions throughout San Francisco participating in some way to celebrate Golden Gate Park’s past, present, and future. One of the largest parks in the world at 1017 acres (New York’s Central Park is 843), its origins and that of San Francisco’s rise to prominence are parallel tales.

See the book list for Golden Gate Park: 150 Years of Recreation, Green Space, Entertainment, and Culture.

Game of Thrones Pop-up Exhibit

In our excitement for the final season of Game of Thrones, Sutro Library teamed up with the J. Paul Leonard Library to host a pop-up exhibit where we shared historic resources related to the themes and imagery of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire (the source material for the show). Even though the series is based on medieval English history (e.g. War of Roses), Sutro Library made connections to various titles found within our special collections from military maneuvers to historic figures that closely match the characters.

Women in the Archive

January 2019 – March 2019

Creative. Resilient. Brave. Industrious. The Sutro Library explores the many and varied representations of women through the ages. Exploring what they tell us about our culture today, and about women throughout history.

See the book list for Women in the Archive.

Images of Mexico: From the Aztecs to the Republic

October 2018 – December 2018

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month this exhibit focused on the extensive collection of Mexicana at the Sutro. On display were illustrations, caricatures, and photographs that represented the diverse and complex history of Mexico from the Aztecs up to the Mexican Punitive Expedition which began in 1916 and ended in 1917. Of particular note, an Aztec codex called the Codex of Santa Maria Calacohuayan in Nahuatl, circa 1650, was displayed.

See the book list for Images of Mexico.

War in the Archive

June 2018 – August 2018

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of November 11, 1918, which ended the fighting of World War I, Sutro’s exhibit displayed a broad range of artifacts, books, and illustrations on the subject of warfare, dating from the sixteenth through the twentieth century.

See the book list for War in the Archive.

Cataloging the World: Natural History Illustration in the Enlightenment

April 2018 – June 2018

The Enlightenment fueled Europeans to embark on voyages of discovery during the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth century. They sought to gather specimens and to document and catalog newly discovered flora and fauna that would crowd the cabinets of Natural History Museums. The illustrations in the exhibit reflected the way in which art and science met.

Clothes that Define Us: Fashion and Dress through the Ages

January 2018 – March 2018

Throughout history the clothes that we wear speak volumes about our identity. Whether it is geographic residence, occupation, gender, class, religion, or ethnicity, the garments we dress in can define our place in the world. This exhibit explored clothing throughout history and the ways in which sartorial choices continue to express the circumstances of our existence.

See the book list for Clothes that Define Us.

Recollected: Photography and the Archive

September 2017 – December 2017

Sutro Library’s exhibit explored the image as artifact. Prior to photography, the eager public relied on master illustrators and artists to provide visuals showing the animals, people, places, food, temples, rivers and cities of faraway lands. Sutro’s exhibit juxtaposes early examples of illustrated travel narratives of Mexico, Peru, India, Egypt, Japan, Florida, and Cuba with their photographic cousins. The Sutro Library’s exhibit was in conjunction with a complimentary exhibit mounted at SFSU School of Art’s Fine Arts Gallery.

See the book list for Recollected: Photography and the Archive.

Before the Summer of Love: From Alchemy to Astrology

July 2017 – September 2017

Exhibit commemorated the 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco which saw youth from around the world converge on San Francisco heady with progressive ideas of peace, community, love, and freedom — notions which fueled the culture, music, and literature of the time. Sutro Library’s exhibit looked to past antecedents to the iconic Summer of Love: early Astronomy books, Phrenology, Alchemy, Palmistry, Spiritualism, magic, Utopian communities, and Mesmerism, showing that there is nothing new under the sun.

See the book list for Before the Summer of Love.

Extra-Illustration: From Marginalia to Scrapbooks

February 2017 – May 2017

Almost unknown today, extra-illustration was a wildly popular activity that lasted for almost one hundred and fifty years. The exhibition explored this significant part of bookbinding history and printing history, one almost entirely lost to posterity — namely extra-illustration or grangerization — as it often referred. Sutro Library’s display includes a wide array of these types of works, which involved an individual unbinding a book then rebinding it with inserted illustrations and other artifacts in order to visually represent the subjects at hand.

Into the West: Exploring the Americas through Print

October 2017 – December 2017

The Americas have been a place of conquest and conflict. New Western historians, such as Patricia Limerick, have long spoken about the West as a place where cultures clashed, often violently, and this exhibit investigated and offered insight into that notion through images, maps, atlases, manuscripts, and books. Questions about the power of print and the ways in which, for centuries, conquest and conflict were reified through books and other documents were considered through primary sources.

See the book list for Into the West.

Exploring the Sutro Library: The Yemenite Hebraica Collection

March 2016 – June 2016

The items on exhibit are primarily from the Sutro Library’s Yemenite Hebraica collection. Purchased in 1884 from the estate of nineteenth century antiquities dealer, Moses W. Shapira, the manuscripts in this collection have the potential to shed new light on the rich cultural and religious history of the Yemenite Jews. A story about the doomed Shapira is told in the book by San Francisco State Professor Chanan Tigay, titled The Lost Book of Moses, set to be released in March, 2016. This exhibit runs through the end of June, 2016.

See the book list for The Yemenite Hebraica Collection.

Women's March

The Women's March was a worldwide protest that happened on January 21, 2017. Marches occurred across California, the United States, and the world. The event drew millions of people, and photographs of posters from the march were immediately circulated on social media as well as traditional media.