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Exhibitions at Penn Libraries

Proposal Form for Faulty and Staff

Access the exhibition proposal form here. Once you've completed and submitted your proposal, someone will be in touch with next steps.

Looking for some guidance? Read on for tips.

Crafting a Mission Statement

Mission statements express the intent and purpose of a project. They act as the foundation you will build upon to communicate the themes and ideas of your exhibition. Mission statements are also a quick and concise "elevator pitch" that describe the exhibition. Here are two examples:

It's Kitsch! Betsy Ross in Popular Art aims to educate visitors on the evolution of Betsy Ross' image in popular Western art and culture.
Beyond the Sea investigates the diversity of marine life in the Black Sea.

Learn more about generally developing a mission statement here.

Collection Details

Are you exhibiting circulating or special collections? Download this Excel template to input as many collection details as possible in the green highlighted columns. Details can be exported from Franklin/Aeon. Please include at least preliminary dimensions of the artifacts.

Describing the Concept

This is an opportunity to write a compelling narrative for your exhibition. Here are some questions you may wish to think about or address in the narrative:

  • What is the subject matter? What makes this topic engaging?
  • What are the themes that you will explore in the exhibition?
  • How does the proposed exhibit align to Penn Libraries mission?
  • Why an exhibition? (as opposed to a publication or pop-up)
  • Ideally, what might a visitor experience during their time exploring this exhibition?
  • How does this exhibit appeal to different learning styles?
    • Do you have any ideas or suggestions for interactive components? Interactives are a great way to facilitate the learning process. (i.e. hands-on activities, use of technology)
  • A brief synopsis of an interactive you might incorporate to facilitate the learning process (are there opportunities for hands-on activities within the space? What about technology considerations?)
  • How will you approach curating the collection? (i.e. how will you group artifacts and collection items? By the themes you mentioned earlier? Are you seeking any artifact loans outside of Penn Libraries?)
  • What is the look and feel of the show? (is it a colorful space? Moody? Inviting? Warm? etc.)
  • What type of audience do you see enjoying your exhibition? (are they primarily Penn Faculty? Community artists? Undergraduates?)
  • Are there any collaborations between staff or other community partners on this project?
  • How do you want people to feel when they enter your space? What do you want them to take away from the exhibition?

Determining an Audience

Your exhibition will likely have something for everyone to enjoy, and all are welcome to attend. But in order to craft compelling content, it's important we determine the visitors or users we're trying to reach. This helps narrow down the themes of the exhibition and determine the best way to communicate those themes. We can identify primary, secondary, and even tertiary audiences. Consider:

  • If we were formulating a marketing campaign or doing community outreach, who might we connect with or target to invite to the exhibition?
  • Who will connect most with the content? Why?
  • Is there an active community already engaging with the topic you're focusing on?

For instance, if your exhibition focuses on a collection of anatomical drawings of animals, the exhibit audience might be: primarily the Penn Libraries veterinary community, the secondary audience may be science majors/researchers at Penn, and the tertiary group might be science enthusiasts throughout Philadelphia.

Timeline and Gallery

When proposing an opening date or timeline, keep in mind that the workflow process for exhibitions (from planning to preparation to implementation) takes a year or more. Be prepared to be scheduled at least a year out, likely more. Please include any special considerations that may affect scheduling, such as a related symposium, special event, anniversary, etc.

You are welcome to suggest a gallery or library space for your exhibition, however the Exhibition Committee (alongside Heads of Departmental Libraries, if applicable) will make the final determination for scheduling and space. This determination is based on a handful of considerations, including the fragility of collection items, amount of space required to exhibit materials, lighting and A/V requirements, among others.

Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access

The exhibition program at Penn Libraries is dedicated to furthering the strategic initiative related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Anyone proposing an exhibition topic should deeply consider how their proposed exhibition topic can incorporate critical inquiry of the subject, further DEIA, or support DEIA in some way.

Additional Materials

While optional, you do have the ability to add additional documents to your proposal form. Please include anything that might help the Executive Committee for Exhibits evaluate your proposal. Include anything that is relevant, i.e.: information on potential collaborators, a list of educational goals, images that help convey the look and feel of your exhibition. Again, this is not required.

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