Kislak Center
for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts

About the Kislak Center

The Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts advances learning and inspires discovery in Penn's community and around the world. The goals of the Kislak Center align with those of the Penn Libraries as a whole: to make our collections accessible; to use technology in innovative and meaningful ways; to enhance teaching and research; and to preserve our cultural resources for future generations.

Collections

The material collections housed at the Kislak Center include more than 350,000 books and 15,000 linear feet of manuscripts in a wide range of disciplines and formats, from medieval manuscripts to twenty-first century artists' books. More information about the collections administered by the Kislak Center can be found at the main Collection Overview page and at the Library at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies homepage. Collections of digital images from the Kislak Center collections and other Penn Libraries departments can be found on Digital Penn.

Digital Innovation

The Kislak Center fosters innovative approaches to integrating material and digital research and advocating for open data. The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS), located in the Kislak Center, is a dynamic research think tank focusing on pre-modern manuscripts and manuscript culture, and supports an array of manuscript related digital projects, including the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts (SDBM). Other Kislak and SIMS supported projects include OPenn, a resource to make primary digital resources available to everyone, and the Provenance Online Project (POP), sharing images of ownership marks that tell the history of books and manuscripts. For more information, see the Digital Projects page.

Research, Learning and Events

Located on the 6th floor and parts of the 5th floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, the Kislak Center' recently renovated, award-winning facilities provide a variety of opportunities for learning and research. The reading rooms can accommodate twenty researchers at a time in addition to small groups in each of three study rooms. Five Kislak Center classrooms provide a space for students to interact with original editions of the works they have been studying and to learn how earlier generations encountered those same books, documents, manuscripts, or codices. Students, faculty and staff engage in the study of both digital humanities and material culture in the technology enabled Vitale Special Collections Media Lab. To learn about the many exhibits, workshops, lectures and other events taking place at the Kislak Center, visit the Events Page.

About Jay I. Kislak

Jay I. Kislak is an avid collector of books and artifacts and a longtime supporter of the University of Pennsylvania. A graduate of the Wharton School in 1943, he is the first of three generations of his family to graduate from the University and served as a navy pilot in the Second World War. In the 1950s, he moved to Florida and expanded his family's business into a privately held real estate and financial services empire. Together with his wife, Jean, Mr. Kislak assembled rich collections of primary research materials on the history of Florida, the Caribbean and Mesoamerica, with special emphasis on native cultures, their contact with Europeans and the colonial period to about 1820.
A leader in making primary resource materials available for scholarship, Mr. Kislak has made his collections available for research through his family collections, through the Jay I. Kislak Foundation and gallery, through a 2004 donation of more than 3,000 books and other objects to the Library of Congress, and now through a gift of books from the library of Jacques-Auguste de Thou to the Kislak Center at the Penn Libraries. In recognition of his efforts to preserve cultural heritage, Mr. Kislak was appointed by President George W. Bush to head the U.S. State Department's Cultural Property Advisory Committee from 2003 through 2008 and, in 2013, received the Encomienda of the Order of Merit Civil from the King of Spain, among other awards and appointments.
"Preserving cultural history and making materials from the past available to researchers has always been my passion," Mr. Kislak has said. "Through the renovation of the [special collections] space, the Penn Libraries have shown their commitment and leadership in the field, particularly in the digital humanities. My family and I could not be more pleased to support their endeavors."