Update: Moffitt Library is closed for seismic work, but most other libraries are open. Learn more.

Exhibits at The Bancroft Library

The Bancroft Library exhibitions highlight the breadth and depth of our collections.

The Bancroft Gallery, located across from the library’s entrance, features exhibitions that change once to twice per year.

Exhibitions are also on display in other locations:

  • The Bancroft Library Alfred Bender cases
  • The Bancroft Library corridor cases
  • The Bancroft Library Helen Kennedy Cahill Reference Center
  • The Bancroft Library Rowell cases exhibitions dedicated to university history
  • The Bernice Layne Brown Gallery (located near Doe Library’s north entrance)

Exhibits past + present

Permanent exhibits

Bust of Hubert Howe Bancroft, founder of The Bancroft Library

bust of H H BancroftLocated in the Reference Room of The Bancroft Library, viewable during the open hours of Bancroft's Heller Reading Room.

Date: 1908

Material/s: Marble

Provenance: Commission for Bancroft

After The Bancroft Library was purchased by the Regents of the University of California on November 25, 1905 and moved to the campus in 1906, Hubert Howe Bancroft and his family maintained close ties with the collection.

Intended as a gift to the University, this marble portrait bust was commissioned by H. H. Bancroft's sons—Paul, Philip, and Griffing—from New York sculptor Johannes S. Gelert.

On July 15, 1908, Paul Bancroft wrote to Victor Henderson, the acting secretary of the Regents:

The marble bust of Hubert Howe Bancroft by Mr. Gelert, and pedestal, for the Bancroft Library, University of California, are finished and will be shipped at once by rail [from New York] direct to the University, freight prepaid.

Echoing the sentiment that all associated charges related to the bust be covered by their family, Philip Bancroft also wrote to Henderson:

My brothers and I desire to have our father's bust delivered to the University free and clear of any charges whatsoever.

On August 3rd, Henderson delivered the news that the bust had been safely installed in The Bancroft Library.

About the artist

Johannes S. Gelert was born in Denmark in 1852 and studied art at the Royal Academy of Copenhagen. He immigrated to the United States in 1887 and became a citizen in 1892. His sculptures were exhibited in several World's Fairs, and some of his other well-known works adorn the facades of the Brooklyn Museum and the U.S. Custom House in New York. Gelert died in 1923 in Brooklyn, New York.

“Wimmer” gold nugget

Wimmer Nugget BANC PIC 19xx.031:066—OBJ brk00008384_24aExhibit case located on the third floor foyer of The Bancroft Library, viewable during the open hours of Bancroft's Heller Reading Room.

Date: 1848

Material/s: Gold

Provenance: Facsimile

A facsimile of the “Wimmer” gold nugget—along with a gold pan, scales and weights, and facsimiles of artwork—is drawn from The Bancroft Library's Pictorial Collections.

The actual nugget, found at Sutter’s Mill on the American River near the present town of Coloma, is believed to be the piece of gold that started the California Gold Rush. Peter Wimmer was head of the construction crew erecting the lumber mill for John Sutter. Peter’s wife, Elizabeth Jane “Jennie” Cloud Wimmer, cooked for the workers.

On January 24, 1848, James Marshall--Sutter's general foreman and contractor for the project--found the nugget in the tailrace of the mill during a routine inspection with Wimmer.

He sent it back to the cookhouse where Elizabeth Wimmer boiled it in a pot of lye soap (a folk recipe for testing gold). When she reported that it appeared genuine, Marshall gathered some other flakes and nuggets and took them back to Sutter's fort where he and Sutter tested them chemically, using information gained from an encyclopedia.

Two months later, on March 15, 1848, the first notice of the discovery appeared in The Californian of San Francisco:

GOLD MINE FOUND. In the newly made raceway of the Saw Mill recently erected by Captain Sutter, on the American Fork, gold has been found in considerable quantities. One person brought thirty dollars worth to New Helvetia, gathered there in a short time. California, no doubt, is rich in mineral wealth; great chances here for scientific capitalists. Gold has been found in almost every part of the country.

Affidavits by both Elizabeth and Peter Wimmer accompany the nugget and attest to its being, indeed, the first gold found by Marshall. Although Marshall, a decade after the discovery, stated that he thought Elizabeth Wimmer had used the nugget to purchase some merchandise late in 1848, a re-examination by Professor Erwin Gudde in 1965 indicated that this nugget is, in all probability, the original "first discovery."

The Drake Plate

Drake's Plate --The Plate of brass BANC PIC 19xx.031:053--OBJ brk00002237_24aExhibit case located on the third floor foyer of The Bancroft Library, viewable during the open hours of Bancroft’s Heller Reading Room.

Date: unknown

Material/s:  Brass

A facsmile of the Drake Plate is on display with additional related facsimiles drawn from The Bancroft Library's Western Americana Collections.

The story

In 1579, during his circumnavigation of the globe, Francis Drake put into a "convenient and fit harborough" in California, where he remained for about a month to refit his ship. As evidence of his discovery and conquest, he nailed a plate, presumably of brass, to a firm post declaring that the land had been surrendered by its king and people to Queen Elizabeth.  The queen’s portrait depicted on a silver sixpence, was displayed through a hole cut into the plate.

In the summer of 1936, a young man, Beryle Shinn, chanced upon a metal plate on a hill overlooking the shore of Point San Quentin in the San Francisco Bay. Eventually this object was brought to Dr. Herbert E. Bolton, Professor of History at the University of California, who surmised that it appeared to be Drake’s original plate. Bolton said, "One of the world's long lost historical treasures apparently has been found!"

Is the plate authentic?

Questions about the plate's authenticity were immediately raised by other scholars, but many persons were satisfied that this was not a forgery.  Authenticity was suggested by tests made by Dr. Colin G. Fink, Professor of Electro-chemistry at Columbia University, and Dr. E. P. Polushkin, a consulting metallurgical engineer of New York City. They concluded that this was "the genuine Drake Plate referred to in the book, The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake, published in 1628."

Nevertheless, skeptics continued to contend that the plate was the work of a modern forger. They pointed to the crude manner of inscribing the plate, the relatively modern spelling, the curious forms of some of the letters (particularly, B, P, R, M, and N), and some ostensible oddities of the text, such as reference to Queen Elizabeth of England rather than the more common 17th-century references, such as "Elizabeth, by grace of God, Queen of England. . . ."

Consequently The Bancroft Library tested the plate’s metal and means of fabrication with more contemporary methods.  In 1976 three very small holes were made in the plate, and the resultant drillings tested at the Research Laboratory for Archaeology & the History of Art at Oxford University and at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.

These tests suggested that the plate had a chemical composition comparable to brass of the 20th century rather than of the 16th century. Furthermore, the copper content of the plate is unlike that of the Elizabethan era but similar to that which comes from the contemporary Great Lakes region. Other tests showed that the plate’s metal differed in several basic ways from early European and English brass.

An X-ray diffraction investigation by the Department of Materials Science and Mineral Engineering of the University of California led to the decision that the "plate was produced by modern rolling process rather than having been made by hammer shaping," the only means known in Drake’s time for creating such a large piece of flat brass.

Two detailed binocular microscopic examinations of the plate by Dr. Cyril Stanley Smith, Professor Emeritus of MIT, and his scrutiny of enlarged color photographs revealed that the edge of the plate had none of the qualities of chisel cutting that one would expect in 16th century brass forging, but rather looked like a straight cut made by the modern device of a guillotine shear.

Conclusions of investigations

The full texts of the investigations made between 1975 and 1979 were incorporated in two formal reports issued by The Bancroft Library, The Plate of Brass Reexamined and A Supplement. The assembled evidence turned out to be so negative that Professor Smith, after assessing all the information, stated that the data "made it virtually certain that the plate is not a piece of sixteenth-century brass."  Another leading investigator, Dr. R. E. M. Hedges of Oxford, declared, "I would regard it as quite unreasonable to continue to believe in the authenticity of the plate."

Scientific studies have shown that what was thought to be a historical artifact is evidently a modern creation; yet what is left unanswered are the intriguing questions about who made the plate and why.

(Edited from text of James D. Hart, Director of The Bancroft Library, March 1977. Revised May 2001 and February 2015.)

The Bancroft Library Press

Bancroft Library PressExhibit case located on the third floor foyer of The Bancroft Library, viewable during the open hours of Bancroft’s Heller Reading Room.

On display are examples of The Bancroft Library Press publications along with tools of the hand press trade.

Every semester, The Bancroft Library offers the course "The Hand Printed Book in Its Historical Context" via the History department. Open to both graduate and undergraduate students, the course emphasizes practical experience in the printing of the hand-made book by presenting a historical perspective on the various technologies involved: type founding, paper making, binding, illustrations, and the evolution of the printing press itself.

Under the guidance of the instructor, students closely examine and discuss original printed books from the Bancroft collections ranging in date from the 15th century to the present. And as a group, these students handset and print a small publication on the library's iron handpresses, an 1856 Albion and an 1890 Reliance.

Only a very limited number of copies are made. None of these exquisite volumes is available for purchase: they are only available for viewing in the Heller Reading Room.

For a full listing of The Bancroft Library Press, please visit their publications page.

Julia Morgan bench

Located on the third floor foyer of The Bancroft Library, viewable during the open hours of Bancroft’s Heller Reading Room.

Provenance: gift of Greil and Jenelle Marcus

The design of the bench on display is attributed to Julia Morgan.

This bench once graced the entry hall of the residence of Greil and Jenelle Marcus, donors of the piece.  Their former home, also designed by Morgan, is at 828 Contra Costa Avenue, Berkeley.

Exhibits since 1968

2000 to present

October 2019 - May 2020
Object Lessons: The Egyptian Collections at the University of California, Berkeley
The Bancroft Library Gallery

October 2017 - February 2020
Fiat Yuks: CAL Student Humor, Then and Now
The Bancroft Library Rowell Cases

May 2018 - September 2019
Bearing Light: Berkeley at 150
The Bancroft Library Corridor Cases

March - July 2019
Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy (1864-1934): Engineering the Promised Land
The Bancroft Library Foyer Cases

November 2018 - July 2019
Facing West: Camera Portraits from The Bancroft Collection
The Bancroft Library Gallery

April - September 2018
Sustaining Grandeur: The First 100 Years of Save the Redwoods League
The Bancroft Library Gallery

October 2017 - February 2018
¡Viva la Fiesta! Mexican Traditions of Celebration
The Bancroft Library Gallery

April - September 2017
Teachers at the Center: The Story of the National Writing Project
The Bancroft Library Rowell Cases

April - September 2017
New Favorites: Collecting in The Bancroft Tradition
The Bancroft Library Gallery

September 2016 - July 2017
Guerra Civil @ 80
The Bancroft Library Corridor Cases

September 2016 - February 2017
The Gift to Sing: Highlights of the Leon F. Litwack & Bancroft Library African American Collections
The Bancroft Library Gallery

February - December 2016
Protecting the New Wonderland: The Origins of the National Park Service
The Bancroft Library Rowell Cases

May - July 2016
The Papyrus in the Crocodile: 150 Years of Exploration, Excavation, and Collection at Berkeley
The Bancroft Library Gallery

June - September 2015
From Waikiki to Half Moon Bay: A Brief History of Surfing from the Collections of The Bancroft Library
The Bancroft Library Helen Kennedy Cahill Reference Center

May - September 2015
Highlights and Shadows: Books on Photography from the Reva and David Logan Collection 
The Bancroft Library Gallery

October 2014 - March 2015
California: Captured on Canvas
The Bancroft Library Gallery

September 2014 - June 2015
Commemorating the Free Speech Movement 50th Anniversary
The Bancroft Library Corridor Cases

September 2014 - June 2015
The Originals: African American Faculty and Senior Administrators at Berkeley
The Bancroft Library Rowell Cases

October 2013 - May 2014
Berkeley Student Cooperative at 80
The Bancroft Library Rowell Cases

September 2013 - May 2014
Cartoons, Comics, and Funny Papers
The Bancroft Library Gallery

November 2013 - April 2014
Water and Culture: Recovering Owens Valley Paiute History
The Bancroft Library Alfred Bender Cases

August 2013 - February 2014
Clipper Ship Sailing Cards in The Bancroft Library
The Bancroft Library Corridor Cases

August - November 2013
Zines from the Bay Area
The Bancroft Library Helen Kennedy Cahill Reference Center

January - September 2013
Glorious Past, Glorious Future: Celebrating California Memorial Stadium
The Bancroft Library Rowell Cases

April - July 2013
The Colors of California Agriculture
The Bancroft Library Gallery

September 2012 - March 2013
David Ross Brower: A Force for Nature
The Bernice Layne Brown Gallery

September 2012 - March 2013
Fiat Lux Redux: Ansel Adams and Clark Kerr
The Bancroft Library Gallery

August - October 2012
Illustrating Allegory: William Kent's Engravings for Spenser's Faerie Queene
The Bancroft Library Helen Kennedy Cahill Reference Center

April - December 2012
All Hail to the Chief: A History of US Presidential Visits to Cal
The Bancroft Library Rowell Cases

August 2009 - August 2012
California Gold: The Nobel Tradition at UC Berkeley
The Bancroft Library Helen Kennedy Cahill Reference Center

May - August 2012
Artists' Books: A Selection from The Bancroft Library
The Bancroft Library Alfred Bender Cases

April - July 2012
A Place at the Table: A Gathering of LGBT Text, Image, and Voice
The Bancroft Library Gallery

August 2011 - June 2012
A Centennial Celebration: California Women and the Vote
The Bernice Layne Brown Gallery

March - May 2012
The Classic 17th-Century Folio Editions of Shakespeare's Works
The Bancroft Library Helen Kennedy Cahill Reference Center

October 2011 - March 2012
Women at Cal, 1910-1915: When California Passed the Woman Suffrage Amendment
The Bancroft Library Corridor Cases

September 2011 - February 2012
Bullets across the Bay: The San Francisco Bay Area in Crime Fiction
The Bernice Layne Brown Gallery

September 2011 - January 2012
California Crossings: Stories of Migration, Relocation, and New Encounters
The Bancroft Library Gallery

April - September 2011
Alma Mater Dear: A Century of Cal Souvenirs and Memorabilia
The Bancroft Library Rowell Cases

April - August 2011
Building Berkeley: The Legacy of Phoebe Apperson Hearst
The Bernice Layne Brown Gallery

May - August 2011
The San Francisco Examiner Archive: Life on the Home Front
The Bancroft Library Corridor Cases

March - July 2011
Gained in Translation: Jews, Germany, California circa 1849
The Bancroft Library Gallery

November 2010 - May 2011
The San Francisco Examiner Archive: The Sports Page
The Bancroft Library Corridor Cases

October 2010 - March 2011
Founder's Rock: The Origins of the University of California
The Bancroft Library Rowell Cases

September 2010 - January 2011
Celebrating Mexico: The Grito de Dolores and the Mexican Revolution: 1810 | 1910 | 2010
The Bancroft Library Gallery

June - November 2010
The San Francisco Examiner Archive: The Summer Edition
The Bancroft Library Corridor Cases

March - September 2010
Celebrating 150 Years: Bancroft and His Library
The Bancroft Library Corridor Cases

March - July 2010
Bancroft to the Core: The Bancroft Library at 150
The Bancroft Library Gallery

February - June 2010
The San Francisco Examiner Archive: Featuring The Bancroft Library
The Bancroft Library Corridor Cases

October 2009 - February 2010
The San Francisco Examiner Archive: The 1934 San Francisco Longshoremen’s Strike
The Bancroft Library Corridor Cases

May 2009 - February 2010
Amazing Gate: Rescuing a Campus Icon
The Bancroft Library Rowell Cases

August - December 2009
Darwin and the Evolution of a Theory
The Bancroft Library Gallery

September 2008 - October 2009
25 Years in Black and White: Negatives from the Fang Family San Francisco Examiner Photograph Archive, 1935-1960
Bernice Layne Brown Gallery

June - July 2009
A Modest Exhibition of Recent Acquisitions
The Bancroft Library Gallery

December 2008 - April 2009
Mark Twain at Play
The Bancroft Library Gallery

October 2008 - April 2009
A Century of Innovative Research and Teaching
The Bancroft Library Rowell Cases

March - August 2008
From Plugs to Bling: A Century of Cal Student Fashion
Bernice Layne Brown Gallery

February - August 2008
The Chinese of California: A Struggle for Community
California Historical Society

March 2007 - January 2008
Past Tents: The Way We Camped
California Historical Society

April - August 2006
1906: The Great Quake: The Legacy of a Disaster
Bernice Layne Brown Gallery

February - December 2006
The Bancroft Library at 100: A Celebration 1906-2006
Berkeley Art Museum

January - March 2006
1906: The Great Quake: The History of a Disaster
Bernice Layne Brown Gallery

October - December 2005
Creators, Teachers, and Practitioners of the Mathematical Sciences
Bernice Layne Brown Gallery

April - June 2005
Chinese in California, 1850-1925: Between Two Worlds
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

April - June 2005
Our Collective Voices: The Extraordinary Work of Women in California
Bernice Layne Brown Gallery

December 2004 - March 2005
Celebrating Donors, 2003-2004
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

September - November 2004
Memory Lines: Fifty Years of Oral History at the University of California, Berkeley
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

April - July 2004
Breaking Through: A Century of Physics at Berkeley
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

December 2003 - March 2004
Gifts to The Bancroft Library
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

August - November 2003
Towards and Sustainable Earth: Issues, Challenges, and Leadership in the Environmental Movement
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

March - July 2003
Then and Now: Student Photographs of the Berkeley Campus
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

December 2002 - February 2003
Celebrating Donors: Gifts to Bancroft, 2000-2002
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

August - November 2002
Bear in Mind: The California Grizzly at The Bancroft Library
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

May - July 2002
Sites of Discovery: Art & Archaeology in 19th Century Photographs of the American Southwest
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

January - April 2002
The Foundations of Anthropology in California, 1901-1960: A Centennial Exhibit
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

August - December 2001
California Culinary Culture: Sampling the Collections of The Bancroft Library
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

April - August 2001
PROTEST
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery and Bernice Layne Brown Gallery

December 2000 - April 2001
Gifts to the Library
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

September - December 2000
Images of Native Americans
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

August 2000
The Lehmer Family at Berkeley
Mathematics Department, 1015 Evans Hall

March - September 2000
Looking Backward, Looking Forward: Visions of the Future in the Golden State
Bancroft Exhibition Gallery

January - April 2000
Bridging the Bay: Bridging the Campus
Bernice Layne Brown Gallery

December 1999 - April 2000
Roma Pacifica: The Phoebe Hearst International Architectural Competition and the Berkeley Campus, 1896-1930
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

1968-1999 

1999
Ancient Lives: The Tebtunis Papyri In Context
Biotechnology at 25: Perspectives on History, Science, and Society
The University at the Turn of the Century: 1899-1900

1998
Mark Twain at Large: His Travels Here and Abroad
“I am bound to stick awhile longer” - The California Gold Rush Experience

1997
Gifts to the Library
British Heritage in California

1996
Gifts to the Library
Beat Poets

1994
Gifts to the Library
Family Papers in The Bancroft Library

1993
Gifts to the Library

1992
Gifts to the Library
A Victorian Affair in Two Centuries: Harriet Matineau as Collected by Reinhard S. Speck
El Encuentro
Robert Duncan: A Poet's Art

1991
Gifts to the Library
Legacy of James D. Hart
Printing and the Book of Nature

1990
Gifts to the Library
Yosemite in the 19th Century
Fine Printing of the 18th Century

1989
Gifts to the Library
Rudyard Kipling in America 1889
The Books and Manuscripts of Elinor Raas Heller

1988
Gifts to the Library
The Mexican Heritage of the American Far West
Contemporary Danish Book Art

1987
Gifts to the Library
The Word in Many Languages, Eight Centuries of the Bible
Andrew Jackson Grayson, Audubon of the West
The Chinese and Japanese in California
400 Years of English Diet and Cookery, The Dr. and Mrs. John. C. Craig Collection

1986
Gifts to the Library
Bret Harte's 150th Birthday
Nineteenth-Century Illustrations of California Sights and Scenes
Spain in The Bancroft Library

1985
Gifts to the Library
The European Heritage of California
Huck Finn’s 100th Birthday
The Book as an Artifact

1984
Gifts to the Library
William Morris: the Sanford and Helen Berger Collection
Collector’s Choice: Books and Manuscripts Assembled by William P. Barlow, Jr.
Acquisitions in Memory of Theodore R. Meyer
Cobden-Sanderson's Bindings

1983
Gifts to the Library
The Work and Play of Adrian Wilson
The History of Science and Technology
The Illustrated Book

1982
Gifts to the Library
T. J. Cobden-Sanderson
California Fifty Years Ago: the 1930s
First Books by Notable Authors

1981
Gifts to the Library
Ecology and Conservation
Photographs by Johan Hagemeyer
American Humor
Before 1500 in The Bancroft Library

1980
Gifts to the Library
Modern Hand Bookbinding
Classic California Photographers
Les Jeunes

1979
Gifts to the Library
Robert Louis Stevenson in California
Sir Francis Drake
Great British Documents at UC Berkeley
Great Maps and Atlases of The Bancroft Library
Treasures from Friends of The Bancroft Library

1978
Gifts to the Library
Sources for Scholars: Rare Materials and Published Works Based on Them
Women Writers
Books in The Bancroft Library from the Collections of Famous People
The Joseph M. Bransten Coffee and Tea Collection

1977
Gifts to the Library
The Printed Book in America
Andrew Jackson Grayson
California Mission Music
Drama and Theater Collections in the Bancroft Library
French History and Literature
Lawton Kennedy, Printer
Hermann Hesse

1976
Gifts to the Library
The Nuremberg Chronicle and Adrian Wilson, Book Designer, Printer and Author
Sheldon Cheney
U.S. Senators from California
Campus Open House Exhibit
The Allen Press
Harriet Martineau, Radical Victorian Lady

1975
Gifts to the Library
One Hundred Sixteen Uncommon Books on Food and Drink
North American Indians
George R. Stewart, Historian, Biographer and Novelist
William Everson, Poet and Printer

1974
Gifts to the Library
Sean O'Faolain's Papers
John Baskerville, Printer and Typefounder
Gertrude Stein Centennial
Selections from Some Privately Formed Collections in The Bancroft Library
The Book as an Artifact
Harry Leon Wilson
Modern Fine Bookbinding in England and America

1973
Gifts to the Library
The Aldine Press
Frederick Remington
Some Treasures of The Bancroft Library

1972
Gifts to the Library
Mark Twain Papers
Theodore Dreiser: Collection of John Otvos
Bibles from the Near East to the Far Pacific
Giovanni Mardersteig, Modern Master Printer

1971
Gifts to the Library
Royal Deeds and Commoner's Works: Some Women Write History
Gertrude Stein, Her Family, and Friends
Western Americana
Rube Goldberg Memorial Exhibition

1970
Gifts to the Library
California
Centennial of the Birth of Frank Norris

1969
Gifts to The Bancroft Library
Manuscripts at Berkeley

1968
David Stacton Memorial