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Exhibiting, special collections, outreach, interaction, university students, researcher


A university's special collections is often a featured stop on campus tours, whether for visiting dignitaries, prospective students, or guest lecturers. This poster presentation highlights successful planning that has allowed a special collections without dedicated classrooms or galleries to utilize limited exhibit spaces in the reading room for rotating and long-term exhibits that align with library-wide initiatives while also focusing student and visitor attention on curatorial strengths, cross-disciplinary opportunities, emerging research trends, and hidden collections.

This study outlines the exhibiting of the University of Arkansas Libraries Special Collections. Founded in 1967, the department is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The collections have grown tremendously over five decades since the initial designation of the Libraries few rare books and accumulation of faculty papers and small assortment of historical document to include more than 28,000 linear feet of material, 2,100 processed collections, some marquee rare books, and rich Arkansiana holdings. There are several significant archives including the papers of Senator J. William Fulbright and Fulbright Program-related collections; Arkansas architects such as E. Fay Jones, a few significant literary figures such as John Williams and John Gould Fletcher, an invaluable collections related to civil rights and social movements in the state. While there are “treasures” in the stacks, the department must provide access and instruction and promote itself as research destination with limited reading room space, no dedicated classroom space, no dedicated gallery or event space, and just a few antiquated exhibit cases. Despite those limitations, outreach and exhibiting has seen a great deal of recent success. In 2011, the department redefined a faculty position as “research and outreach” and hired a full-time architectural archivist with years of professional experience in design fields. Since then the department as mounted at least six exhibits a year, greatly expanded its on-campus instruction, provided numerous pop-up and temporary exhibits outside of the library and off-campus, and vastly increased the awareness of both the breadth and depth of its holdings and its strong service orientation.


Poster presentation given at the Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting in Portland Oregon, July 23-29, 2017.