Libraries have always known the value of displays and exhibits as a way to capture the interest of their patrons. Putting books and other items of interest on display leads patrons to explore further. This page offers a number of important sources for libraries to contact. Exhibitions come in many sizes and shapes, on a wide range of topics, and have varying requirements for space, security, and length of time. Some are free of charge, many have at least modest rental and shipping fees, but there is something for every size and shape of library.
Informal Learning Experiences Eleventh-Hour Notices
Informal Learning Experiences offers a roundup of traveling exhibitions that are available in the next twelve months. A good place to start your search for exhibitions.
ALA Public Programs Office
Through grants, the ALA Public Programs Office offers the essential resources, funding, visibility, and framework needed for libraries to conduct high-quality cultural programs during the project term and beyond. Public Programs Office initiatives bring audiences together to experience diverse and excellent humanities programming across all types of libraries in the United States. Libraries are selected by application.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
“Abraham Lincoln: Self-Made in America” examines Lincoln’s life from his beginnings in the crudest of circumstances to his ascension to the Presidency and his assassination. The exhibit is composed of seven learning stations and has been designed for public spaces, libraries, historical societies, and other cultural or educational institutions that wish to highlight our nation’s most revered President.
Ben Marra Exhibitions: American Indian Photography
“Faces from the Land” is a traveling exhibition that documents the proud spirit and identity of American Indian powwow dancers throughout the United States and Canada. This exhibition features thirty-seven of Ben Marra’s large, color portraits of powwow dancers. Each photograph is accompanied by personal narratives written by the subject, compiled by Linda Marra, describing the tribal significance of their regalia and dance. These striking images, along with the text, vividly detail the magic of the powwow, which juxtaposes ancient tradition and modern culture. There is a rental fee.
Blair–Murrah, founded in 1979, offers more than eighty traveling exhibitions in art, science, and history. Multilingual text panels and labels are included free upon request. They are happy to work with libraries to customize exhibits for smaller spaces and budgets; they suggest selecting exhibitions that interest you from their Web site, then contacting them to modify the requirements to fit your needs.
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Reaching a vast and diverse audience, the Burke Museum traveling exhibits service brings natural history, cultural heritage, scholarship, and research directly to communities and neighborhoods across the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Current exhibitions include “Arctic Wings: Miracle of Migration,” “Coffee: The World in Your Cup,” “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway with Artist Ray Troll and Paleontologist Kirk Johnson,” and “Yellowstone to Yukon: Freedom to Roam.”
The California Exhibition Resources Alliance
CERA exhibitions explore history, art, natural science, and contemporary issues through photography, artifacts, stunning image and text panels, and hands-on educational materials. CERA provides museums, libraries, and cultural organizations with affordable, high-quality exhibitions that enhance civic engagement and human understanding.
Canadian Museum of Nature
The museum offers suitcase exhibitions, which fit on one or two tabletops, and full-size exhibitions that fill a room. Topics include birds, climate change, genetics, mammals, and gems.
Castellani Museum of Niagara University
The Castellani Museum is currently offering three traveling exhibitions: “Jean-Michel Basquiat: An Intimate Portrait” (PDF), twenty-five to thirty framed photographs accompanied by informative text panels; “The Exquisite Corpse in Glass: Contemporary Figurative Flameworkers Play a Surrealist’s Game” (PDF), twenty-two complete figures, each approximately 12" tall and with support armatures, along with wall hung photographic/text panels; and “Fields of Dreams: North American Baseball Stadiums” (PDF), twenty-six framed panoramic photographs accompanied by an introduction panel and extended labels. The museum’s traveling exhibitions typically rent for $2,000–$3,000 plus return shipping.
Center for Lunar Science and Space Exploration
Part of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, the Center for Lunar Science and Space Exploration currently offers exhibitions on the moon and asteroids. The exhibitions are free, but the center does request that institutions pay for shipping if able. Each exhibit consists of three single-sided banners, each of which measure 32" wide by 83" tall when displayed.
Charles M. Schulz Museum
The Charles M. Schulz Museum is the only place dedicated to preserving, displaying, and interpreting the world famous art of Charles Schulz and his Peanuts characters. Bring the story, the art, and the history of the popular Peanuts characters and the man who created them to your community. Now available are three traveling exhibitions that tell the Peanuts story: “Inside Peanuts: The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz” is an in-depth exploration of Schulz’s creative process spanning his fifty-year career; “Peanuts at Bat” examines the Peanuts Gang’s ill-fated baseball adventures and Schulz’s love of the game; and “To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA” covers the history of the Apollo 10 mission and the Peanuts characters’ role in that flight.
These traveling exhibitions produced by ExhibitsUSA (EUSA) require at least limited security (an attended, lockable, space), so are best suited to small museums or libraries with separate galleries. More than fifty exhibitions are offered each year in fine art, studio arts, and history and culture. An outgrowth of the Mid–American Arts Alliance regional exhibition touring program, EUSA offers discounted rates to states that are members of the alliance.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
The museum maintains an active program of traveling exhibitions and also presents joint exhibitions with other museums and libraries. Currently on tour is “This Great Nation Will Endure: Photographs of the Great Depression.” Other traveling exhibitions include “FDR: His Vision, Our Values, Still Alive” and “Banners Along the Hudson: FDR’s Hudson River Collections.”
Gilderman Lehrman Institute of American History
This New York organization offers traveling panel exhibitions for display at schools, libraries, and historical sites. Exhibits feature graphic reproductions of rare documents, images, and interpretive text, with rental fees ranging from $200–$500.
GuestCurator Traveling Exhibitions
GuestCurator Traveling Exhibitions offers several exhibitions suitable for small museums, college galleries, libraries, cultural centers, and other visual arts spaces. These exhibitions have low rental fees and shipping costs and address a wide range of topics related to social and cultural history.
Herb Block Exhibitions
Four special exhibitions display the work of legendary Washington Post editorial cartoonist Herbert L. Block, famously known as “Herblock.” Produced by The Herb Block Foundation, the goal of these exhibitions is to present Herblock’s effort to preserve American’s rights and freedoms through his political cartoons. The exhibitions are available for display and use in classrooms, museums, libraries, and organizations supporting the spirit of Herblock’s work.
The Humanities Texas exhibitions program circulates traveling exhibitions designed to appeal to institutions of all sizes and budgets, from small community centers with volunteer support to museums with curatorial staff. Their program offers a wide variety of topics and formats, high-quality content and supplementary materials, easy installation, and low rental fees. They also make available a large collection of documentaries and other media resources to supplement humanities programming. Exhibition topics include American history, Civil Rights, Texas history and cultures, literature and other imaginative heritage, Mexican American history and cultures, art history, African American history and culture, and women’s history.
Independent Curators International (ICI)
ICI produces exhibitions, events, publications, and training opportunities for diverse audiences around the world. A catalyst for independent thinking, ICI connects emerging and established curators, artists, and institutions, to forge international networks and generate new forms of collaboration. Working across disciplines and historical precedents, the organization is a hub that provides access to the people, ideas, and practices that are key to current developments in the field, inspiring fresh ways of seeing and contextualizing contemporary art.
Irish American Heritage Museum
Several panel exhibitions on Irish and Irish-American history, typically available to nonprofit organizations at a cost $2,000 for thirty days, are especially suitable for libraries with large Irish service populations (or for the month of March!).
The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum
“Once Upon a Time … Exploring the World of Fairy Tales” brings seven favorite multicultural fairy tales to life, and “Magic Tree House” is based on the best-selling children’s book series and follows Jack and Annie on time-traveling adventures through American history. They are willing to negotiate with libraries on rental fees and also on using just parts of the exhibit for smaller library spaces. Contact Sarah Buckley for more information.
The “Math Midway” traveling exhibit will provide an interactive, hands-on tour of a variety of exciting and surprising mathematical ideas, principles, games, and activities. The individual exhibits within the show will be presented with a midway/carnival style, and generally concern mathematics related to an event or activity you can find in a typical carnival, fair, or circus setting. Content can be adapted for elementary, middle, or high school students and for different sized venues.
Meridian International Center
Meridian’s Traveling Exhibition Service organizes exhibitions for circulation nationwide in collaboration with museums and other arts organizations in the United States and abroad. These exhibits, along with related cultural and educational programs, are designed to increase international understanding.
The Museum of Science, Boston
The Museum of Science’s exhibit offerings include “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination” and several small exhibits that focus on recent developments in engineering and technology, scientific discovery, exploration, and climate and environmental issues. They also license the use of many of their public programs, science theater presentations, and Planetarium shows.
Museum on Main Street
Part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Service, Museum on Main Street offers exhibitions developed with state humanities councils and rural museums. Current exhibitions include “Key Ingredients: America by Food,” “Between Fences,” “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music,” “Journey Stories,” and “The Way We Worked.”
National Library of Medicine
The exhibition program at the National Library of Medicine provides traveling exhibition services to libraries across the United States based on original scholarly research and address a wide range of topics related to the social and cultural history of science, medicine, and technology. Offered exhibitions include “Against the Odds: Making a Difference in Global Health,” “Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America’s Women Physicians,” “Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature,” “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine,” and “Opening Doors: Contemporary African American Academic Surgeons.”
The National Museum of the American Indian
The National Museum of the American Indian traveling exhibitions are two–dimensional banner shows that are affordable; easy to transport, install, and uninstall; and specifically designed to accommodate limited environmental and security resources at some venues. The program’s inaugural traveling exhibition, “Native Words, Native Warriors,” developed in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), tells the story of Native American servicemen who used their indigenous languages on behalf of the U.S. military during World Wars I and II.
The National Museum of Nuclear Science and Energy (PDF)
Current traveling exhibitions include “Atoms for Peace,” “African Americans in World War II,” “Inspired Excellence: Marie Sklodowska Curie & Lise Meitner,” and “Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future.” The exhibitions range from 64–120 linear feet, and rental costs range from $1,000–2,000 per month.
New York Public Library’s Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture
The Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, part of the New York Public Library, is a national research library devoted to collecting, preserving, and providing access to resources documenting the history and experiences of peoples of African descent throughout the world. Its traveling exhibitions programs includes major exhibitions, which require a museum–like setting, and panel exhibitions, more suitable for library venues, that include either wall–hung, framed photo–text panels on Masonite or freestanding, framed photo–text panels. Panel exhibitions can be booked for four to eight weeks.
New York State Museum
The New York State Museum offers three traveling exhibitions on 9/11, including “September 11, 2001: A Global Moment,” which explores the global, personal, and historical significance of September 11, 2001; “Recovery: The World Trade Center Recovery Operation” documents the historic process to recover human remains, personal objects and material evidence from the collapse of the World Trade Center; and “September 11, 2001 Timeline,” an accessible, affordable, and easily installed exhibition designed to reach audiences in non-traditional exhibition settings that details the timeline of events from the groundbreaking for the Pentagon on September 11, 1941, to the terrorist attacks sixty years later.
Oklahoma Museums Association
Three traveling exhibitions are currently available from the Oklahoma Museum Association, with monthly rentals ranging from $125 (instate) to $250 (out of state) plus freight.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry offers small, medium, and large traveling exhibitions on such topics as animation, nutrition, money, and space.
A Peace of My Mind
Exploring the meaning of peace through portraits and personal stories, this traveling exhibition features 52 black-and-white prints, each on a vertical panel with a brief bio and text. The rental fee ($2,500 plus shipping for five weeks) includes the panels, a publicity packet, web-based audio content, and programming suggestions.
Positively Ninety: Interviews with Lively Nonagenarians.
This traveling exhibition is designed to help change perceptions of aging through interviews with and photographs of twenty-eight active people in their nineties. Measuring sixty linear feet, the exhibition includes color photographs with accompanying narratives as well as information on the interviewees and a list of personality traits of lively nonagenarians.
SeaTrek Traveling Exhibits
These low-cost, small-footprint traveling exhibitions from the Mote Marine Laboratory are designed to connect your visitors with a live presenter through a TV screen. Programming is delivered on the host’s schedule, to enable visitors to experience a fast-paced lively exchange with a remote SeaTrek educator. Current exhibition topic include sea monsters and coral reefs.
Smith Kramer Traveling Exhibitions
Smith Kramer exhibits are fully curated, carefully packed and crated with ready-to-install artworks, wall labels, framed title and text panels, exhibition brochures, insurance, condition report books and press materials. Since 1981 its partnerships with museums and organizations throughout the United States, especially The Associated Press, have produced more than 150 quality exhibitions.
Smithsonian Institute Traveling Exhibition Service
The granddaddy of traveling exhibition programs, this is the Smithsonian Institution’s catalog of exhibitions available for rent. Some include objects and may require greater security than typical library exhibition areas afford, but others are panel exhibitions with limited security needs. Exhibition fees range from $1,500 up, depending on number of artifacts, size, and so on. There is also a community grant program that can provide up to $5,000 per library for supplementary programming.
Society of Illustrators
The society’s traveling exhibitions for colleges and universities include “Illustrators 53,” an annual tour of forty amazing works selected from the society’s Annual Exhibition; “Earth: Fragile Planet,” which addresses the current environmental issues that we face today; and “Original Art,” a showcase for children’s book illustrators whose work is seldom seen outside the studio and publisher’s office.
Space Science Institute
The Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning, with funding from the National Science Foundation and NASA, has developed a national traveling exhibition program called “Great Balls of Fire: Comets, Asteroids, and Meteors.” The project includes two exhibits (3,000 sq. ft. and 750 sq. ft.), an education program for museum educators and docents, an outreach program to engage amateur astronomers, a public website, and the exhibit website.
Stepping Stones Museum for Children
The museum’s Conservation Quest Mini Exhibit is available free of charge throughout Connecticut. The small, portable exhibit promotes energy conservation and can be set up anywhere to help visitors learn about clean energy, light bulbs, recycling and more.
Teacher’s Discovery offers traveling exhibitions featuring a variety of artists as well as on such topics as global warming, the Civil War, Ellis Island, and the Harlem Renaissance. Exhibitions are available for one to seven weeks; rental prices start at $179 for one week.
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Traveling exhibitions available from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum that are especially suitable for libraries include “Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and Nazi Book Burnings,” as well as exhibitions on Oskar Schindler and “Varian Fry: Assignment Rescue, 1940–1941.” The site includes extensive support material for related programming, promotion, and marketing.
Visual Studies Workshop
Traveling photography exhibits with rental fees ranging from $2,000–$6,000, plus shipping. Rentals are typically for six-week periods and often include free catalogs and posters.