Items on exhibit in the Ball Room celebrate the lives of Elisabeth Woodworth Ball (1897-1982) and Ruth Elizabeth Adomeit (1910-1996): two women whose collections are now part of the Lilly Library. This permanent exhibition features a rotating display of materials highlighting their collecting interests: children’s literature and miniature books, respectively.
Elisabeth Ball’s father, George A. Ball, was one of the five Ball Brothers who came to Muncie, Indiana in the 1880s to found the Ball Company, now famous for its glass canning jars. Elisabeth Ball’s book collection passed to her from her father when Elisabeth was college aged. She took curatorship of the collection very seriously and shared her passion for books through lectures, extensive correspondence with scholars and collectors, and exhibition loans. She also added to the collection throughout her lifetime. The Ball Collection contains literature, history, gardening, and travel materials, in addition to the children’s books.
Afflicted with what she termed the “incurable disease” of collecting, Ruth Adomeit worked tirelessly to amass one of the largest miniature books collections in the world: 8,000 books under 2 ½ inches in height. First exposed to the joy of book collecting by her painter father George, Adomeit’s collecting turned serious in 1938 and continued for nearly six decades. A Cleveland schoolteacher of modest means, she made unprecedented contributions to the field, standardizing definitions, establishing a journal and society, and penning a revered standard reference source. Her collection forms the core of the Lilly Library’s ever-expanding collection of 16,000 miniatures.