An Exhibit of Many Colors (An Outreach Case Study)

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the role of exhibits and programs as outreach activities


You’re an archivist at a small private university. Your university has ties to a religiously affiliated group, but as of five years ago no longer receives funding from that group. One of the board of trustees is appointed by this group, and beyond that there is no formal connection. The bulk of your archives is university records, with some collecting in the areas of religious scholarship and oral history collections. As part of your regular programing initiatives, you create small exhibits that highlight portions of your collections. Alumni weekend is approaching, and you’ve decided to let your exhibit be focused on student groups. You’ve asked for student groups to submit small displays to include with archival material as an outreach initiative that you hope will aid in your collecting. You’ve told student groups that nothing inappropriate will be allowed into the exhibit, but you have not defined what this means. One university sanctioned student group, the recently formed gay straight alliance, is very eager to include some photos and other materials for the exhibit. You also have interest from many of the older and larger student groups from across campus, some of which are informal and not recognized by the university.


  • How would you design this exhibit in order to clearly tell the story of student life on campus?
  • How would you deal with student expectations about how their materials will be exhibited along side archival materials?
  • If there is any backlash to this exhibit, how will you deal with it? What kind of political capital will you have to spend in order to fairly represent all interested student groups. If a group isn’t recognized by the university, does this change how you will approach dealing with any issues that may arise?


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