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Exhibition: Paper or Plastic? January-February 2015

An exhibition of bookstore bags from around the world curated by Naomi Sinnathamby, class of 2015, Book Arts Gallery, Neilson Library, Level 3, January 26-February 28.

January 26 - February 28, 2015


Exhibition: Paper or Plastic?
Book Arts Gallery
Neilson Library, Level 3

poster Paper or Plastic exhibition

Listen to an interview with Barbara Blumenthal about the exhibit on NPR (Feb. 24, 2015).

The Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith houses approximately 45,000 books and manuscripts. Our holdings also include objects and ephemera, including a somewhat frivolous collection of 176 paper and plastic bags from bookstores and museum gift shops from the United States and numerous other countries, including England, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Tunisia. An eclectic selection of the bags is on display. 

Elizabeth A. Swaim saved these bags as she bought books around the world. In December 2000, Elizabeth’s sister Kathleen donated the bags to the Mortimer Rare Book Room, along with Swaim’s extensive reference library of books about books. Elizabeth Swaim, a scholar of English literature and book studies, retired in 1998 as Rare Books Librarian and Archivist at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. 

Enjoy this trip around the world. One case is devoted to “mystery” bags, which don’t include the location of the bookstore. Please help us to identify places of origin for these bags.


Mortimer Rare Book Room
(413) 585-2906