"Reason and Fantasy in an Age of Enlightenment" opened on Jan. 20, including etchings and gravings from Francisco Goya, Giovanni Battista Piranesi and William Hogarth.
The collection draws attention to the contradictory notions of European culture during the 18th century.
Over the years, the Ackland has collected many works dating from the Enlightenment. They are not displayed often -- they make up only a tiny fraction of the Ackland's 15,000-piece collection.
"About every year we try to have a show that brings out part of that collection," said Andy Berner, director of communications for the museum.
The museum also rarely shows these works to the public because of a need to preserve its condition.
Much of the exhibition is composed of paper artifacts, and increased exposure to light speeds up their aging process.
Berner said that now is as good a time as any to bring these works out for the public to appreciate.
"The opportunities are only few and far between when we can bring these things out into the light," he said.
The exhibition was partly inspired by a graduate seminar led by UNC Professor Mary Sheriff last fall. The seminar focused on 18th century art and the types of expression and illusion many artists used during the Age of Enlightenment.