Information on Guest Exhibits

In addition to sponsoring its own exhibits, Special Collections considers requests to provide temporary/rotating space for others in the University community who wish to create an exhibit.

Purpose of Exhibits

The primary purpose of exhibits in the glass cases on the fourth floor of Belk Library and Information Commons is to promote interest in and the use of collections and services of Special Collections.

Available Exhibit Spaces

Three cases in the Atrium on the fourth floor are available. Note that exhibits must use all three cases.Atrium exhibit cases


The exhibit schedule for all cases runs roughly in accordance with the semesters: Spring (December–April), Summer (May–July), Fall (August–November). Start dates are flexible. Please contact Special Collections in advance to discuss current availability.

Special Collections will schedule guest exhibits in collaboration with campus partners up to two semesters per year. Special Collections retains at least one exhibit semester each year for their own exhibits.

Focus of Exhibits

  • Exhibits must relate to the subject collecting areas of Special Collections and/or use items from the collections, either originals (when approved) or facsimiles created by Special Collections. Special Collections staff welcomes inquiries about potential exhibits meeting these criteria.
  • Exhibits shall not promote personal, commercial, or organizational positions. Topics subject to controversy may be presented, provided they are approved by the Special Collections team and handled in an objective manner.
  • Because Library exhibition spaces are not exclusively gallery spaces and are not a public forum, all displays must be suitable for viewing by the broad community of people who visit the Library.
  • An assigned Special Collections liaison will review your exhibit as it is being installed and inform the person who proposed the exhibit if materials are not appropriate for display. The guest exhibitor then will have two business days to remove or adjust the item(s) in question, or else the entire exhibit will need to be removed.

Preservation Guidelines

Condition of Materials to be exhibited

  • The condition of exhibited materials directly reflects upon Special Collections and Belk Library and Information Commons. Consequently, exhibited materials should be in good condition as ascertained by the Preservation Archivist in Special Collections. Please work with your Special Collections’ liaison as soon as possible to allow the exhibitor to choose alternate materials in better condition, if necessary, or to arrange for conservation treatment prior to the exhibit.
  • Very fragile, rare, unique, or otherwise extremely vulnerable materials should not be exhibited unless special arrangements are made in consultation with the Special Collections liaison, appropriate collections curator (if applicable) and the Preservation Archivist. Original photographs should not be exhibited unless special arrangements can be made.

Environmental Standards

  • Materials that will have the effect of polluting the case micro-environment and/or that might endanger the condition of any of the materials on exhibit within the case should not be placed within exhibit cases. One example is items that smell like mildew.

Manner of Exhibit

  • A Special Collections staff member will handle and set up fragile or valuable original materials from Special Collections during installation and dismantling of exhibits. Book pages should be held open with polyester ribbons. Books should never be forced open or unnaturally restrained and positioned for display. All supports should be as visually and physically unobtrusive as possible and should be clean, well-crafted, and of uniform materials and appearance.

– Guidelines based on those from Arizona State University Libraries and California Polytechnic State University’s Robert F. Kennedy Library

Exhibitor Responsibilities

  • Each exhibit must have a liaison from Special Collections or Belk Library and Information Commons. A liaison will be assigned when the proposed exhibit is accepted.
  • The person proposing the exhibit (originator) will assume full responsibility to plan and arrange for installing and dismantling the exhibit. The originator, if outside the University Libraries system, will cover special costs incurred in mounting the exhibit, including the repair of any damage to the building or library property caused in installation or removal of the exhibit. The originator will provide suitable descriptive annotations for the items and materials contained in the exhibit.
  • Exhibits should be installed within one working week of specified start dates. Failure to do so may result in forfeiture of the time and space allocated for the exhibit. Materials must be removed promptly at the close of the exhibit period.
  • Exhibitors must include the class or organization’s title as part of the exhibit, i.e., through an introductory panel or panels inside the cases.

Special Arrangements and Requirements

Security and Insurance

  • Loaned objects and materials are afforded the same security protection as that of all library materials. Additional security cannot be provided by the Libraries. The Library assumes no responsibility for the safety of items not from Library collections.

Physical Arrangements

  • Reasonable efforts should be made to make all exhibits accessible to everyone, with special provisions, when possible, to accommodate the disabled. An exhibit must not constitute a physical hazard or impede research or regular library use.

Practical Matters of Exhibiting

See our guide on practical matters of exhibiting.

Selected Resources for Best Practices in Exhibits

Standards for Museum Exhibitions and Indicators of Excellence / National Association for Museum Exhibition

The Field Guide for Museums / State Historical Society of Iowa

Balloffet, Nelly, Jenny Hille, and Judith A. Reed. Preservation and Conservation for Libraries and Archives. Chicago: American Library Association, 2005.

Brown, Mary E., and Rebecca Power. Exhibits in Libraries: A Practical Guide. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co, 2006.

Casterline, Gail Farr. Archives and Manuscripts: Exhibits. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 1980.

How to Propose an Exhibit

Submit a proposal using this form. Proposals will be accepted for display periods up to one year in advance. Submitted proposals will be reviewed three times per year by the Special Collections team. Due dates are:

  • For exhibits starting in December: Second Wednesday of June
  • For exhibits starting in April: Second Wednesday of September
  • For exhibits starting in August: Second Wednesday of February

For more information, contact Greta Browning, Reference & Instruction Archivist, / (828) 262-7702