Every Collection is Special: Tips for Exhibiting Ordinary Items (poster)

  Charles Roush, Indiana University

For obvious reasons, library exhibits often emphasize special collections. If primary sources or unique artifacts are unavailable, though, can ordinary music library holdings still make meaningful and compelling exhibits? How can librarians effectively capture the interest of patrons while featuring “less special” items? In this poster, I share an approach to exhibit design informed by two things: my time working with special collections, and generally accepted tenets of rare-book collecting. In the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, A. W. Pollard spells out the latter in an influential entry (“Book Collecting”) highlighting motivations of serious collectors. These ideals easily translate to a blueprint for library exhibits, even if no rare materials are available. Specifically, regular items can be used for displays that catch patrons’ eyes, stimulate their minds, and fuel their imaginations.

My examples stem from a belief that music library collections are special collections. Our holdings are not merely a pool of resources. Rather, they illuminate a vital part of our culture and history, both as musicians and as humans. Scores, recordings, books, and journals do not exist in a vacuum; they are all connected in an overall musical and social context. Exhibits can help reveal those special connections to patrons.

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