Meet the ARLIS/NA SIGs Series: Exhibitions SIG

Meet the ARLIS/NA SIGS: An ArLiSNAP blog series introducing you to the ARLIS special interest groups

Responder: Carol Ng-He, Co-coordinator, Exhibitions SIG, & Exhibits Coordinator, Arlington Heights Memorial Library, Illinois

How can students and new professionals get involved in your SIG? And/or are there any projects in progress that need support they can provide?

The easiest and quickest way for students and new professionals to join us is to subscribe to our listserv. Simply send an email to imailsrv@arlisna.org with “subscribe exhibitions_sig” in the body of the message and leave subject blank). You will receive an email confirming your subscription. Anyone who is interested can also email either co-coordinator directly at cng-he@ahml.info or exm296@case.edu. We host virtual book clubs and meet-ups from time to time, and we welcome additional co-hosts. We also have a blog which we always look for new contributors and keep it up to date.  

Boston Public Library Exhibition Room. A room lined with book cases and a central display case in the center.
Boston Public Library Exhibition Room

What actions has your group taken to adapt to remote community engagement? What has worked well? What lessons have you learned?

In the past summer, we hosted a “Virtual Exhibit Show ‘n’ Tell” and we were impressed that 70 people showed up, which tells the pressing needs for creating and/or repurposing digital exhibits to support remote learning. We had librarians and archivists on the panel who talked about their experience in developing exhibits for users in both higher education and K-12 schools. What we found successful in running this event is the importance of peer learning. The event was relatively low-key as we put a call on the listserv to invite presenters and let them share what the exhibit was and how they created it. We were delighted to see the questions and interactions that came after the presentations. We would like to organize more virtual programs, similar to the show ‘n’ tell, that engage people in sharing and reflecting on their work and process. As there are many different web-based tools and applications that are available for digital exhibits, we learned that people appreciate opportunities that allow them to not just see real examples, and also directly ask questions to those who have experience with it to bring their learning up to speed.

From your perspective, what are actions that can be taken within your SIG and the broader field of art information in order to examine the lack of diversity and develop networks of support for communities of color and specifically Black information professionals?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is core to our SIG. As mentioned, we host book clubs and one thing we have done to bring DEI front and center to our exhibition practice is to draw inspiration from books that explore this very topic. For example, in our previous book clubs, we chose Curatorial Activism: Toward an Ethic of Curating by Maura Reily (2018, Thames & Hudson) and Exhibitions for Social Justice by Elena Gonzales (2019, Routledge), and we even invited the latter to give a virtual author talk the past summer. We aim to continue the momentum by bringing in literature and scholars that stimulates discussions. We are thankful for ARLIS/NA special funding and annual funding that have helped make our book clubs and other events a reality. We encourage anyone who is interested in joining us to make suggestions of projects or events with or without potential ARLIS/NA funding to promote DEI in our SIG. We are open to collaborate with you!

As you look ahead, what are your goals, vision, or dreams for your SIG for the next year?

Our SIG is currently busy working with the Exhibition Standards Task Force that was formed this August. The task force is made up of 11 art information professionals with different levels of experience in library exhibitions from across the country (including both SIG co-coordinators). Our goal is to develop standards and best practices in library exhibitions, both in person and online, which will be published on ARLIS/NA website and possibly presented at the annual conference in May 2021.

How did you first hear about/join your SIG?

I learned about the Exhibitions SIG in 2018 when I joined ARLIS/NA membership. I was excited to see a group that’s dedicated to library exhibitions. I was (and still am) curious to learn from my peers and take this as an opportunity to explore ways to tackle exhibitions related issues together.

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