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Washington Library Association Historical Archives Exhibit

Project by Sara Cordes (2019)

In an age where cultural institutions are fighting to prove their relevance, libraries need to find a better way to communicate their history and value to the public. Museums have been telling stories for decades and are at the forefront of engaging audiences, developing educational practices, spearheading experiential learning, and involving their own communities. There is an opportunity to take exhibit practices from museums and apply them to the library field in order to more effectively engage visitors in interpreting the history of and participating in the future of libraries in society. This project aimed to create an exhibit that portrays the story of the Washington Library Association (WLA) through an interpretation of their archival holdings. This traveling and collaborative exhibit also incorporated the stories and ephemera of WLA member libraries. This project was organized into six phases of work. The initial phases focused on concept and content development. The latter phases produced three documents that described the process, resources, and considerations needed when implementing a traveling and co-curated exhibit. The resulting exhibit and dissemination plan can be used to both help raise awareness of those efforts WLA makes on behalf of the public as well as of the resources that WLA member institutions have. These documents present a way to share the narratives of WLA and other participating institutions in a cohesive and engaging manner. This project concept proves that libraries and archives can use museum techniques to increase engagement with their material.

Keywords: museum, library, archive, exhibit, interpretation, engagement, collaborative


Cordes, S. (2019). Washington Library Association Historical Archives Exhibit. Unpublished master’s project, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.