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Staff Spotlight: Janelle Rebel, Seymour Adelman Director of Special Collections

September 15, 2023
Janelle Rebel, Seymour Adelman Director of Special Collections

Janelle Rebel started at Bryn Mawr in mid-July as the Seymour Adelman Director of Special Collections. In a recent email exchange she told us a bit about herself and her role at the College.

What are some of the things that you’ll be doing as head of special collections?

The Special Collections department at Bryn Mawr College is unique in that we manage archaeological collections, art collections, plus rare and antiquarian books, manuscripts, college archives, digital collections, and more. We are in an interesting hybrid role, and with my team, I’ll be trying to bridge traditional divides between libraries, archives, and museums. My vision for the future is to better integrate our department and collections so that our classes and researchers could, for example, more easily request and examine an artwork next to a related archival collection in the same space on the same visit.

What did you do prior to coming to Bryn Mawr?

I am an artist, curator, and bibliographer and always have various projects and collaborations ongoing. I was previously working at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida as the inaugural curator and head of the Brizdle-Schoenberg Special Collections Center. 

What got you interested in this sort of work?

I initially went to library school as a designer-publisher and with other artists was producing books and music wriggling in and around the relationship between contemporary art, culture, and traditional religion. 

Once in library school, I discovered that the folx who were interested in the materiality of the book were in the special collections track. Special collections turned out to be a great fit for exploring questions about conception, production, circulation, readership, and cultural histories. 

My bibliographic work, generally speaking, has a design bent. It takes a critical look at the codes of graphic presentation vis-a-vis the interpretation of material texts. Ideas do not circulate independently from their modes of expression, and these modes of expression might enhance, support, correct, or refute their editorial missions. As a former book and book cover designer, I enjoy bringing a practice-based approach to the field.

How can students work with the items in special collections?

We are located on the second floor of Canaday Library. Students are welcomed and encouraged to sign up for a research visit by emailing! Our reading room also has drop-in hours Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

Special Collections