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Library History Exhibits

Exhibits are an excellent way of promoting library history and celebrating our library heritage. Exhibits can range from small in-house efforts to much larger state or even national exhibits. Temporary, permanent, traveling, and digital library history exhibits are an alternative to a library history museum. A library or library organization can create a library history exhibit in connection with a special anniversary celebration  or occasion or, for that matter, any time.

Many, if not most, public libraries and academic libraries have some form of exhibit space in their facility.  Public libraries often make these cases or galleries available for individuals or organizations in the community. Academic libraries often use them to highlight their collections, especially special collections. Why not think about uses these display cases to help tell the library's story or stories.

A good exhibit tells an interesting story or stories through the use of relevant artifacts. An exhibit can use a variety of artifacts including three dimensional artifacts, paper artifacts, and photographs. Exhibits can be physical and/or digital. Putting together an in-house library history exhibit starts with doing an inventory of possible artifacts which can be archival, photographic, or three dimensional.

There are also external sources for artifacts that can be used in conjunction with an in-house exhibit.

The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center sponsors an exhibit of Wisconsin Library Memorabilia which is available to libraries for monthly use. Exhibit at the Ripon (WI) Public Library

 

 

 

 

 

An exhibit of library memorabilia at the Marathon County Library in Wausau, WI in conjunction with a meeting of the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries.  Conference participants were able to view the exhibit while attending an open house at the library.  Regular library visitors were able to view the exhibit for a full month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Milwaukee Public Library has a permanent display of an "old time" librarian's office with historic artifacts and memorabilia in its central library building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An entire exhibit was built around a Tabard Inn Library revolving bookcase at the Menasha Public Library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some statewide efforts

Allen Lanham and the staff of the Eastern Illinois University Library have put together a exhibit on "Art and Architecture in Illinois Libraries". Funding for the exhibit came from a Library Services and Technology Act Grant awarded by the Illinois State Library. The exhibit is a traveling exhibit and is being displayed by libraries across Illinois. It's a great idea which has been well executed and is worthy of replication in other states.

 

 

 

 

In 1999, the Wyoming State Library developed an exhibit on the history of Wyoming libraries at the Wyoming State Museum in conjunction with the meeting of the Wyoming Library Association.  The State Library staff created a library history timeline for the exhibit.  The exhibit included photographs, examples of tools used by librarians in the past, and memorabilia.

New Mexico developed a New Mexico Library Legacy traveling exhibit which was displayed around the state in 2000 and 2001.  The exhibit was based on a book by Linda Harris.  Harris also assembled the exhibit and gave talks on New Mexico library history.

Library Philatelic Exhibits

I have developed several philatelic exhibits that use examples of postal librariana to tell the story of America's libraries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last updated: 04-28-2010   2005-2010 Larry T. Nix