Coombe Suite Offers Space for Viewing, Study of Art and Historical Collections

Posted November 2nd, 2010 at 4:51 pm.

Alumnae and students chat at the opening of the Coombe Suite

Alumnae and students chat at the opening of the Coombe Suite

The official opening of the Eva Jane Romaine Coombe ’52 Special Collections Suite on Friday, Oct. 22, introduced a new space that will draw attention to Bryn Mawr’s art and historical collections. Construction took place over the summer of 2010 to create an exhibition foyer and gallery, a seminar/exhibition room, and a reading room on the second floor of Canaday Library.

“The College’s collections of art, artifacts, rare books, manuscripts and archives, along with the staffs for the collections, have been spread out on three floors of Thomas Hall and in cobbled-together space on the second floor of Canaday Library,” says Director of Library Collections and Seymour Adelman Head of Special Collections Eric Pumroy. “The spaces were not designed with historical and cultural collections in mind, and most of them have been largely hidden from public view, invisible to the students and faculty. The new Coombe Special Collections Suite has the visibility and public presence that these rich collections merit, and provides a welcoming space for students to experience the thrill of working with original historical and artistic works.”

The major improvements brought about by the Coombe Suite:

  1. A highly visible space on the second floor of Canaday, including exhibition space, that will draw attention to the College’s strong art and historical collections.
  2. A seminar room specifically designed for teaching with collections objects.
  3. A large reading room that will accommodate students working on class projects, outside scholars, and people working with prints, maps, artifacts, or other large objects.
  4. Space to accommodate much of the art and artifacts collections currently stored in Thomas (scheduled to be moved in summer 2011), along with most of the art-and-artifacts staff (Collections Manager Marianne Weldon will still remain part-time in the Archaeology area on the 3rd floor).
  5. Two new exhibition spaces on the second floor. One secure area behind glass for the displaying pieces from the collections, and a large open gallery for travelling exhibitions and student shows.

A new foyer with display cases for the collections introduces the way to an open gallery space. Two exhibitions are currently on display: “mAwRTyrS: Bryn Mawr Women in the Arts,”  an exhibition celebrating the work of  Bryn Mawr alumnae who had prominent careers as writers, actors, or visual artists; and “A Year at Bryn Mawr/125 Years at Bryn Mawr,” an exhibition of historical photographs of student life at the College.

According to Pumroy, the space will host a traveling exhibit in February from the Givens Collection, a collection of African-American history and culture from the University of Minnesota, in cooperation with the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. The Bryn Mawr College Art Club will host a student art exhibit in the new gallery space in the spring.

The construction of the Coombe Suite was made possible by a gift from the estate of Eva Jane Romaine Coombe, who received her A.B. degree from Bryn Mawr in political science in 1952. She worked for the International Department of the Bank of America shortly after graduating, spending time at The Hague and in the Netherlands. She returned to Cincinnati in 1957 and obtained an M.A. in Modern European History at the University of Cincinnati. She married Andy (V. Anderson) Coombe in 1957 and had three sons. Coombe was a quintessential volunteer, working with Planned Parenthood, The Cincinnati Playhouse, and YWCA, to name a few. The Cincinnati Women’s Political Caucus presented her its outstanding achievement award. She was a loyal and enthusiastic alumna and generous donor to the College.

Planning for the Coombe Suite began in late 2009. Construction began in early June 2010, and the staff was able to move in to the new space in late August 2010–around the same time the Class of 2014 arrived on campus. While there are still a few things that need to be finished (the art and architecture collection won’t be moved until the summer of 2011), the space and collections are available not only for students and staff, but also for the public. Pumroy noted that visitors from New York University and England, among other places, have recently come to take advantage of the collections.

For access to the collections, stop by the suite, contact Director of Library Collections Eric Pumroy at, or visit the Special Collections pages on the Bryn Mawr Library website. Pictures of the renovations are available on the Special Collections blog.

— Sarah Henkind ’13

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