Exhibit Program Policies and Procedures

Exhibit objective

Special exhibits are temporary in nature and are tailored to the purpose of a particular group’s visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center. Providing visitors with an immersive archival experience and highlighting the various formats and collections of material allow for an enriched story to be told in exhibit form.

Exhibit location

The size of the group and number of items to be exhibited will determine where the exhibit will be located and time allotted. Conversely, sometimes the time allotted will help determine the number of items selected. The tabletops in Vault 107, Blue Room, Conference Room, Dining Room, Second Reading Room, and Junior’s Office are options for exhibit space, but each must be reserved in advance, and RAC staff should be given notice of a group visit. When appropriate, Exhibit Guides serve as documentation and further explanation of the materials exhibited.

Exhibit security

Security of the original archival materials on exhibit must be taken into account at all stages of exhibit preparation and presentation. All RAC staff (whether serving as tour leader or as document security staff) should be trained in proper handling procedures during group visits and should lead by example.

In determining the quantity of materials to be exhibited, the space allocated for the exhibit should be considered along with intellectual scope. Even when desired for content, an overload of materials creates additional security and handling concerns and choices must be made.

When preparing an exhibit in a locked vault space, a placeholder sign noting whom to contact and when the exhibit will be viewed should remain with the materials once the exhibit has been finalized and staged.

Archival staff should be with materials at all times if materials are staged and exhibited in a room without a lock (i.e., a public room), and staff assigned to that space should remain with the materials until the exhibit has been dismantled and safely rehoused.

RAC staff who are involved in exhibit security should ensure the following objectives are carried out:

  • Familiarize yourself with the Exhibit Guide
  • Station yourself in and orient yourself to the exhibit space before the visitors arrive
  • Stay with the exhibit materials at all times
  • Alert another staff member if you need to leave the exhibit space
  • Introduce yourself when a visiting group enters the exhibit space
  • Articulate handling procedures to visitors before the exhibit narrative begins
  • Model correct handling techniques when interacting with the documents
  • Engage with the visitors and answer questions

Some group visits may be of such a nature that it is not possible for archival staff to introduce themselves and to brief visitors on document handling rules as they enter the exhibit space. However, security staff should feel empowered to ensure proper handling at all times through discreet intervention with visitors when necessary.

Contact the point person for the visiting group if you have any questions.

Exhibit Process

  • Visit Prep Meeting
  • Staff members involved with the group visit and exhibit creation meet to discuss the purpose of the group’s visit and to focus on which collections will best tell the story for the visitors
  • Determine number of archival staff needed based on quantity of visitors, items, and location(s)
  • Preservation
    • Items are identified, an Aeon activity is created, and all items are charged out/pulled
    • Pulled items are assessed for preservation concerns
    • Preservation measures are taken to protect the materials during the exhibit viewing
  • Set-up
    • Materials are arranged and exhibited, so as to best support the narrative and allow for an engaging experience with the documents
    • Exhibit supplies can be used to support and arrange materials
    • Materials should be exhibited with adequate interstitial space so that folders do not open onto adjacent folders
  • Viewing
    • Archival staff provide a brief overview of handling practices for visitors
    • Staff members model best handling practices, circulate the exhibit, and engage with the visitors
    • Staff members will be assigned specific room locations or sections of the exhibit to monitor
  • Break-down
    • Archival staff should take the lead in breaking-down the exhibit
    • All items should be placed back in correct folders and boxes
    • All items are reshelved
    • Aeon activity is updated

In the event of an exhibit in the Conference Room, Junior’s Office, or the Dining Room, temporary signage may be deployed for specific items or furniture. Staff training regarding original items versus replicas, as well as proper handling of material, will be emphasized when necessary to support the items.