Displaying Yale Library’s Collections

Exhibitions Production Manager Kerri Sancomb (left) and Library Exhibitions Technician Sarah Davis matting and framing for an exhibition

The venues supported by the exhibition team (clockwise from top left): Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Sterling Memorial Library, Haas Arts Library, and the Lewis Walpole Library.

Every year the Library showcases collections and student research through exhibitions in multiple Library locations on campus. These exhibitions, at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Sterling Memorial Library, Haas Arts Library, and the Lewis Walpole Library, are supported by the exhibition team in the Center for Preservation and Conservation.

The team is engaged in all aspects of planning, preparation of objects, and installation. The goal of this involvement is to ensure that collection objects are protected from the risks of damage posed by display. The team works closely with the conservation team to assess the condition of every original object selected. Over the last decade, preservation staff worked with architects and exhibition case designers to improve the lighting, security, and environment in exhibition areas. This is challenging in older buildings where the existing cases were designed in eras when the effects of light, temperature, and relative humidity on collections were not clearly understood.

Conservation Technician Frances Osugi matting a photograph during an exhibition installation at the Beinecke Library

The exhibition team also oversees the student curation program in Sterling Memorial Library’s Lawrence Exhibition Corridor. Working with librarians and a Library-wide committee, they facilitate exhibitions where students act as curators. Seniors in various departments can propose an exhibition, usually based on their senior project or essay. The selected student curator gains valuable experience in object selection, exhibition design, label writing, and exhibition preservation best practices. The student curators also have the opportunity to collaborate with a graphic designer on the design of their promotional material. Postcards from past exhibitions can be seen below.

Loans and Facsimiles

A loan report image of a painting of Basket, Gertrude Stein’s poodle

Library collections, like the portrait of Basket, Gertrude Stein’s poodle, are also exhibited in the Yale campus museums and in institutions around the world via loans. Conservators assess the condition of these objects in relation to the specifics of each loan. They may carry out treatment and act as couriers for very fragile or valuable objects.

Some materials cannot be exhibited in Library spaces due to their inherent sensitivities or exhibition cases that lack environmental controls. Facsimiles of comic books were created by the exhibitions support team to replace the originals that could not be displayed.

This facsimile item might almost be mistaken for the real thing.  Facsimilies are identified as such in exhibition labels.

Display Mounts

The Exhibitions Program Manager and exhibition technicians mat, frame, and produce book cradles and mounts for more than 1,000 collection objects every year. This work involves measuring items on site and developing mount specifications that map to the exhibit space casework. Production work is carried out in the Gates Conservation Laboratory.

The exhibitions team records specific measurements that are needed to create custom book cradles and mounts for exhibition materials.

Custom cradles display books for an exhibition at the Lewis Walpole Library.

Custom Display Mounts

Objects like scrolls require custom display mounts. The exhibitions team works with conservators to design and produce specialized cradles and mounts for objects that cannot be supported with typical book cradles and mats.

The unrolled portion of this scroll is attached to the base using small camouflaged magnets, while the rolled portion rests gently against an acrylic dowel.

Library Exhibits Technician Megan Czekaj carefully adjusting a scroll during an installation at the Beinecke Library

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