Visitors to the exhibit “OK, I’ll Do It Myself: Narratives of Intrepid Women in the American Wilderness” will be greeted by items illustrating the experiences of intelligent, exuberant, and indomitable women navigators of the North and South American wilderness. Items in this monumental exhibit, spanning five centuries, are on display at the Penn Libraries thanks to the generosity and exceptional collecting prowess of Caroline Schimmel, CW’ 67.

“I fell in love with Caroline Schimmel’s collection the instant I opened the first box of her 2014 gift of fiction to the Penn Libraries,” says Regan Kladstrup, Director of Special Collections Processing in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Penn Libraries. “Getting to know Caroline and, later, seeing her astounding non-fiction collection of books, manuscripts, and art by and about women in the American wilderness only deepened my appreciation.” 

The product of 45 years of collecting and research, Caroline Schimmel’s exhibition “OK, I’ll Do It Myself” includes 145 books, photographs, manuscripts, and memorabilia ranging from Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, German-born naturalist and illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian's monumental 1705 study of the flora and fauna of Surinam, to sharpshooter and entertainer Annie Oakley's travel trunk and gloves.

An interdisciplinary line-up of scholars from around the United States, including Caroline Schimmel herself and Harvard historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, will gather at Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center for “Women’s Voices from American Frontiers,” a free exhibition-related conference on September 6-7, 2018. "For anyone working on larger issues around women and settlement, Caroline Schimmel's collection is an invaluable resource. Researchers don’t always know exactly what they’re looking for, or what they will find,” says conference coordinator, Lynne Farrington. “As an academic, you may think you’re going down one path only to make discoveries within collections that change the course of your research, setting you off down other, and often more interesting, paths. That’s what great collections do—they provide you with opportunities to make important discoveries."

“Ok, I’ll Do It Myself” will span the entirety of the Kamin and Goldstein Family galleries as well as spaces on the fifth and sixth floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. The public is invited to explore this exhibit, free of charge, from August 23 through November 11.

The exhibit will be open for extended hours on the evening of Thursday, October 4, in conjunction with the Annenberg Center performance of “Zora Returns to Harlem,” a one-woman show, performed by Antoniá Badón, about the life of acclaimed novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. For more information on the exhibit and conference, please visit:


About the Penn Libraries

The Penn Libraries serves the world-class faculty and students of Penn’s 12 schools. The mission of the Penn Libraries is to provide high-quality information resources - both print and digital - in a manner that is reliable, timely, responsive to the needs of our constituents, and delivered with expertise while stewarding and preserving the knowledge contained in our holdings. The Penn Libraries is a force for the democratization of access to information and hands-on scholarly experimentation, equally available to all at the University and, increasingly, to the world. Collections at the Penn Libraries comprise more than 8.3 million volumes, over 192,000 journals, some 3.5 million digitized images, and extraordinary rare and unique materials that document the intellectual and cultural experience of ancient and modern civilizations. Through our collaborative relationships, we supplement Penn’s great local collections with physical access to the Center for Research Libraries (approximately 5 million items), the combined holdings of the Ivies (more than 70 million volumes), and exclusive electronic access to some 2 million public domain titles in the HathiTrust. Today, the Penn Libraries plays an instrumental role in developing new technologies for information discovery and dissemination, and is noted for groundbreaking work in digital library design.

About the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
The Kislak Center is a vibrant space that brings together people, technology and unique content.  Located on the top floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, it was redesigned in 2013 to allow several different groups to interact with objects of study simultaneously, increasing the use of primary resources in the University’s curriculum and access to the Libraries’ resources for the larger scholarly community.  Today the Kislak Center encompasses the Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Furness Memorial Shakespeare Library, the Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Collection and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies. To learn more about the Kislak Center, visit 


Press contact: Elina Tonkova,