The Milwaukee Public Library’s rarities collection gathers, preserves, and provides access to significant materials of historic and aesthetic value for the people of the City of Milwaukee and future generations of residents. Through the rarities collection, the Library acts to preserve Milwaukee’s intellectual heritage and to preserve the collective memory of its cultures.
Although broad in scope, the collection has certain strengths that are developed as the opportunity arises:
- Natural History, especially ornithology
- Bibles and early religious materials
- Native Americans, especially tribes native to Wisconsin
- Local History
- Milwaukee advertising
- Book arts and alternative publications
Using the Collection
Materials from the rare books collection do not circulate, and the stacks are closed to the public, however all materials are accessible for viewing or research upon request. Call the Art, Music, and Recreation department at 414-286-3071 to request an item. The materials in rarities may be searched by using the library’s catalog. Annual completion of a Special Collections Use form is required and will be kept on file in the Art department.
Finding Aids for Special Collections & Items in the Rare Books Room
A Book of Autographs
Conceived by Milwaukee philanthropist Lydia Ely, A Book of Autographs contains special slips of watermarked paper that were sent to famous people to sign and return. These were then collected into a book, which was sold to Frederick Pabst in order to secure funds for The Victorious Charge, the war monument sculpted by John Severino Conway which sits outside near the Central Library.
This collection consists of 121 autographs from 101 individuals that range in date from 1816 through 1989. The collection is primarily comprised of letters and postcards both handwritten and typed. Of special interest are letters from Charles Dickens, John Adams, Ludwig van Beethoven, John F. Kennedy and other figures of national and international importance.
Milwaukee Concert Poster Collection
The posters in this collection advertise a variety of punk, jazz, and jazz concerts in and around Milwaukee during the early 1980s. Some bands represented include the Violent Femmes, Die Kreuzen, the Ken Dolls, and B.B. King.
Three collections from the rare books collection are available for viewing online.
Upcoming Events in the Richard E & Lucile Krug Rare Books Room
Schedule Coming Soon!