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UW Libraries Exhibits Policy

This policy defines the philosophy and goals for exhibits throughout the Libraries, identifies responsibility for these programs, and defines acceptance guidelines and general policies. Libraries staff involved in organizing, curating, and/or installing exhibits or displays are deemed to be acting within the course of official duties and under the authority of the University of Washington Libraries.


  • Promote and support the Libraries’ strategic directions, services, resources, and the scholarly value of its diverse collections
  • Promote and support University and greater community events, people, history, programs, symposia, activities, and accomplishments

Criteria for Selection

Exhibits in the Libraries will be selected with reference to this Exhibits Policy and Goals Statements. Exhibit spaces are made available, in accordance with these Guidelines, to University and University-related departments, groups, and organizations, to student organizations registered with the UW Student Activities Office, and to exhibitors sponsored by the Libraries.

The following criteria apply as exhibit proposals are considered, although not all accepted exhibits will meet all criteria.

  • Educational content ranging from advanced scholarly contributions to general informational value
  • Broadness of appeal of the main theme
  • Appropriateness of subject, technique, and style for intended location and audience
  • Relation to other events or exhibits in the community
  • When the topic is controversial, an objective presentation is required
  • Does not promote the political, religious, or social doctrines of any single person or group, or the financial profit of any individual, organization, or commercial enterprise
  • Reflects vitality, originality, artistic expression, and experimentation
  • Ease and cost of installation
  • Maintains public saftey expectations and adheres to ADA compliance


  • In order to provide equitable access to exhibit area, exhibits are limited to 4-8 weeks in duration.
  • Installation and De-installation should take 1-2 days, depending on exhibit complexity
  • Installation and De-installation must take place during hours that the Library is open to the public.

The Libraries reserves the right to approve or disapprove exhibit requests, has final approval for the layout of the exhibit, exhibit duration, placement of exhibit, and content of exhibit promotion.

The Libraries will follow a process for Dispute Resolution when concerns are raised about exhibit content or depiction.

The Libraries reserves the right to remove or shut down an exhibit that is not in compliance with safety or ADA guidelines, or endangers patrons in any way.

Exhibit Locations and Display Policies

The Libraries has a number of exhibit locations in the Suzzallo and Allen Libraries, the Odegaard Undergraduate Library, and the other campus and branch libraries.

Listed below are exhibit spaces that may be scheduled according to the use policy for each facility.

To view the Use Policy/Description of Facility and the schedule for a particular exhibit location please select from the following list.

    General Exhibit Proposal Process

        1. Exhibitor reads University Libraries Exhibits Guidelines.
        2. Exhibitor reviews Exhibit Locations and Display Policies.
        3. Exhibitor completes the exhibit proposal process specific to their exhibit location. Please include as much information as possible regarding exhibit theme and equipment needs.
        4. Libraries contact for the exhibit location approves or rejects proposal in a timely manner, based on the Exhibit Criteria for Selection and/or schedule. Exhibitor is contacted with result.
        5. At exhibit installation, the Exhibit Release Form [pdf] is signed by exhibitor and Libraries sponsor.


          Exhibitors are solely responsible for funding all costs associated with the exhibit, including but not limited to shipping, installation, dismantling, and insurance. Exhibitors are responsible for publicity beyond that provided by the Libraries. See the publicity section of this document for more information.

          Security and Insurance

          Exhibits are often located in high traffic areas whose visibility reduces the likelihood of damage or theft of materials; however, the Libraries takes no responsibility for the security or welfare of exhibits at any time, including during transport, installation, or dismantling. Before an exhibit is installed, exhibitors and the Libraries sponsor must sign a release, indemnifying the UW from any responsibility for loss or damage. The original signed Exhibit Release Form [pdf] will be retained by the Libraries sponsor.

          Insurance coverage, if needed, is the responsibility of the Exhibitor. Insurance to cover the value of the exhibit is available for on-campus exhibitors from UW’s Office of Risk Management. Exhibitors from off-campus are encouraged to insure their exhibit through their own agent.


          Exhibits and displays must be placed so as to accommodate physical safety considerations. There cannot be loose cords or cabling; free-standing units must be secure; and ease of egress from the exhibit for emergency purposes must be assured. The exhibits must be set up so as to accommodate disability access.

          Best Practices

          Exhibits must be well prepared, organized, and aesthetically pleasing. In order to most effectively promote a Libraries exhibits program, units are encouraged to have a schedule of exhibitions planned for six to twelve months in the future.

          Exhibit Materials Handling

          Exhibitors must handle books and artifacts gently and with conservation concerns in mind. In general, books should be displayed on bookstands, cradles or supports. Exposure to direct sunlight should be avoided. Panels with halogen light and cases with interior lighting can also be damaging to exhibited materials. Exhibitors should consider using facsimiles for fragile materials such as newspapers and photographs.

          Special Collections and Preservation staff are experienced in the proper handling and display of unique and fragile materials, and can provide guidance to library exhibitors. Special arrangements should be made in advance for consultation and questions by contacting Special Collections or Libraries Preservation.

          Generally, when circulating Libraries materials are used in a display, the materials must be checked out using an exhibition check-out card available from Circulation. This will cause a special message to appear in the UW Libraries Catalog that the item in “Unavailable” for the duration of the exhibit. Exhibitors may place a card in the display noting that the materials will be available for check-out after the exhibit ends.

          Exhibit Text/Labels

          Text should be printed on a high quality printer if not professionally designed.

          • Typeface should be an accessible font such as Open Sans
          • Text should have contrast, such as black on white.
          • Introductory panels should be 150-170 words or less
          • Captions for individual items should be 20-30 words
          • Font size should be at least 28 point for introductory text panels. For secondary text panels, 18 point is acceptable if the reader can be within 20 inches.

          Exhibit Support Materials

          • Bibliographies, brochures and other promotional material and/or instructional materials to accompany an exhibit are strongly recommended but not mandatory.
          • Exhibitors are responsible for preparing the content of the publications associated with their exhibit. Examples include: a bibliographical list of items displayed; a double sided brochure; an exhibit catalog.

          Traveling Exhibits may be complemented, if possible, by exhibits of materials from the Libraries collections.

          Sound, video, or computer displays accompanying exhibits will be installed and removed by the exhibitor in consultation with library staff.


          • For information to be placed on the Events & Exhibits webpage, send copies of the approved proposal to the Libraries Communications Director.
          • The Libraries Communications Director is also available for advice on media contacts.

          Receptions & Exhibits Related Activities

          Rooms in the Libraries may be, on occasion, available for receptions and other activities (workshops, talks, demonstrations) linked to exhibits. These should be discussed with the specific Libraries sponsor who will consult the room use policy and check the schedule to see whether a reception or other activity can be held.

          Some rooms carry a room-use charge and the exhibitor will be responsible for meeting these costs unless other arrangements have been made prior to the reception or event. If alcohol will be served, consult the Office of Special Programs Alcohol Service Form.

          Dispute Resolution

          The University Libraries supports academic freedom and the free expression of opinion. The Libraries will not exercise any censorship of materials such as books, images, labels, catalogs, or promotional literature that do not violate the guidelines as expressed in the University Libraries Exhibits Guidelines or local, state, or federal laws.

          The University Libraries subscribes to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights as it applies to exhibit spaces and bulletin boards, specifically:

          The library should not censor or remove an exhibit because some members of the community may disagree with its content. Those who object to the content of any exhibit held at the library should be able to submit their complaint and/or their own exhibit proposal to be judged according to the policies established by the library.

          Challenges of a display, exhibit, or printed materials posted or displayed in a UW library may be sent in writing to the Senior Associate Dean of University Libraries for Research and Learning Services for areas in the Suzzallo and Allen Libraries, the Director of the Odegaard Undergraduate Library for space in that library, and the library director or head in other Libraries spaces. The Libraries will respond to written statements as follows:

          • The individual will be notified that the Libraries has received his/her written statement of concern.
          • A copy of the statement is to be forwarded through the supervisory chain.
          • A review process will be conducted in a timely matter by Libraries Administration in response to an individual’s statement of concern.
          • While a concern is being considered, there will be no change in the status of the display, exhibit, or printed materials.
          • Upon completion of the review process, the appropriate administrator will notify the individual of the Libraries’ decision.
          • The individual may appeal the decision to the Senior Associate Dean of University Libraries.

          Last reviewed and updated: February 2024