Exhibiting the written word

What are the challenges in exhibiting something that is meant to be read rather than displayed in a glass case? How can items be displayed which are text rich or written in another language that few can read? How can texts be exhibited in ways that engage different viewers and communities? How can exhibits provide interpretation and context and guide and empower the viewer and generate collaboration? How should these exhibitions be curated? What affects do the different type of written documents have on the way they are displayed? What considerations need to be given to the library exhibition space? What affect does policy have on exhibitions? How can these type of exhibitions be evaluated so that methods can be improved upon?

Ref: 4-7382, Ethiopic manuscript, Sir George Grey Special Collections
All these questions and more are asked in 'Exhibiting The Written Word' which has been written bay the National Library of Scotland and the University of Edinburgh Scotland. The report does not cover the many preservation considerations involved in exhibiting heritage documentary items but rather directs the debate towards the particular exhibition and curatorial concerns involved in exhibiting items such as books, manuscripts and other types of documents.

The report is the result of discussion of these issues by Scottish scholars, academics, archivists, librarians and trust members. Support for the project was given by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The report uses case studies to illustrate how items can be displayed in different ways and the affect this has on the viewer's experience of the exhibition. It is an thought provoking read, covering the many issues concerned with exhibiting the written word.

Ref: 7-C1905, medieval manuscript, Sir George Grey Special Collections


  1. Here is the Medieval Manuscript blog from the British Library. It not only gives a good description of how conservators at the British Library work but also sits well with Auckland Libraries' own approach to Preservation of heritage items: (please copy & paste this link into your browser)



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