Dean’s Update: Connections Through Exhibits

Dean’s Update: Connections Through Exhibits
Jenny James Lee
November 6, 2013

[The Dean's Update is a column introducing each issue of the Libraries' monthly e-newsletter In Circulation.]

Not long ago, a colleague asserted that exhibit cases are archaic and have no place in the modern. That challenged me to think about if it was true or if, like most things library-related, the purpose remains but means of presentation change.

This month, the Libraries is hosting two exhibits that others have curated. The first is a set of drawings as a part of the Joe Bonham Project, displayed in the foyer at the Hahnemann Library. A lecture prior to the opening reception shared the co-curators’ insights into the history of the art of the warrior as well as the role of military artists in documenting the struggles of veterans as they take the long, arduous and emotional journey of recovery.

The other exhibit, The Power of Civil Society: The Fate of Jews in Bulgaria, which captures a different set of human emotions as it documents the actions taken by Bulgarian citizens to save 50,000 Jews during the Holocaust. The first, sponsored by the Kal and Lucille Rudman Institute, the Pennoni Honors College, and Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, is associated with study in this year’s Great Works Symposium. The second, sponsored by the Bulgarian Counsel, is part of a traveling exhibit that was offered to Drexel through a faculty connection with the local Bulgarian community.

Exhibits use visual displays to communicate and connect people to ideas – a classic role of libraries. This is especially relevant to current attempts to transform the Libraries, as it is the mission of the organization to ensure access to authoritative ideas and strengthen connections to scholarship. Exhibits provide a unique medium to communicate ideas, bringing them to life, and triggering new insights and forming new knowledge.

The logistics of managing exhibits – transport, security, display and access – can be a challenge, but it is the resulting reflections and communications among people who connect with exhibits that demonstrate their value. Modern libraries may increasingly communicate more through fixed electronic display screens or through links on the Web. But the tactile thrill of seeing an artifact or sharing thoughts with others viewing an exhibit, provide ways to strengthen connections—to ideas and to colleagues.

Danuta A. Nitecki, Ph.D.
Dean of Libraries