Gods and Scholars: Studying Religion at a Secular University

October 22, 2015 - March 7, 2016
Hirshland Exhibition Gallery
Carl A. Kroch Library

From its founding in 1865, Cornell University has been firmly nonsectarian, welcoming students and faculty of any religion, or no religion. This approach — controversial for its time — did not exclude religion from campus life; on the contrary, as its library collections rapidly grew, the new university sought out religious works of all types and eras. By the time the first incoming class arrived in 1868, instructors and students could access a vast array of sacred works. These materials supported courses on topics from philology, art, and architecture, to anthropology, world history, and the history of printing. This exhibition highlights some of the most significant religious texts owned by Cornell, including manuscripts from the Witchcraft Collection, an Egyptian funerary papyrus, Native American prayer books, illuminated Qurans, the Book of Mormon, and Buddhist palm-leaf manuscripts.

View the online exhibition