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Library exhibit explores spirituality at Mills

Bonne Marie Bautista

Two students in professor Kathy Walkup’s Women Reading as a Necessity of Life class have expanded their class project into an exhibition in the Mills library.

Juniors Hollie Hill and Terri Woodfolk’s project on the spiritual legacy of Mills College will be on display in the library through mid-December.

“I love finding things that relate to this exhibit. We could have done a whole museum full of this stuff. It just kept going and going,” Hill said. “There were some delightful little discoveries we found.”

They began by focusing on how religion influenced reading at Mills from 1852_”1917, but expanded it to the college’s first 100 years for the exhibit.

“One of the surprises we had was how religion was a part of the campus in the beginning,” Hill said. “We thought it would be everywhere, but it wasn’t like that. There were classes that had a Bible or religious focus, but that wasn’t the center of the education.”

As the idea developed, it broadened to include textbooks, books on morality and writers with spiritual themes.

“We wanted to show the breadth of what was taught here,” Hill said. “It wasn’t just a finishing school, there was real substantial growth here.”

The exhibit includes about 50 books encompassed in two cases right outside the Heller Rare Book Room and three cases directly inside. Installing the books and other items in the display was a 12-hour day for Hill and Woodfolk.

“I love the way it looks, they did a terrific job of installing it,” Walkup said. “That was all them. They had a vision of what they wanted to do and they did it very successfully, I must say.”

They did primary research in the Heller Rare Book Room.

“I am surprised that more students do not use the rare book collection,” Woodfolk said. “There are tons of amazing books and information just waiting to be read and studied. You never know what rare treasure you might find.”

The Autumn Literary Salon on Nov. 8 will connect to the exhibit.

Walkup is choosing what will be read from Mills’ collection of Eucalyptus Press books printed from 1930_”1960 for the salon. Some of the books are in the exhibit. She is timing the readings with a kitchen timer to check the length.

“On the whole it feels like I’m writing a play,” Walkup said. “This task I thought was going to be simple has turned out to be quite challenging.”

There will be 14 readers, including students, faculty, staff and one alumna.

The salon will be at noon in the special collection room of the library. Cookies, tea, fresh fruit, cheese, tea sandwiches and Susan Mills’ Brown Bread (made from scratch by Hill and Woodfolk) will be served.

Hill said, “We are trying to recreate tradition that Susan Mills had of inviting people over and having tea and doing a reading.”