Student Curated Exhibits & Displays

Student Curated Exhibit & Display Guidelines - USC Special Collections 

We are excited to offer opportunities to work with instructors and their classes on assignments through which students will curate exhibits using rare materials from our collections. 

This hands-on experience perfectly lends itself to foster student-directed learning and

to help students develop primary source literacy skills via the following learning outcomes:



  • Develop students’ primary source literacy skills and foster student-directed learning
  • Provide engaging active-learning opportunities for students
  • Encourage historical empathy, curiosity about the past, and appreciation for historical sources and historical actors.
  • Promote the scholarly value of USC Libraries’ Special Collections holdings to the university community
  • Reduce barriers to student and community access to special collections materials


Planning and what to expect

We offer a number of different approaches/models for student-curated exhibits but all require close collaboration between the instructor of the class and the dedicated librarian for students to receive an introduction to searching, accessing, interpreting, and handling rare materials.

For specifics on the logistics of using special collections for a collaborative exhibit, please review the Procedures for Using Special Collections Materials in Student Exhibits.



Due to the complexity of staging exhibits, significant advance notice is required depending on the exhibit location and class size (see locations below), generally speaking:

Anticipated timeline for approval is typically a full working semester in advance of the desired semester (e.g., connect and meet with staff in early Fall for the exhibit to go live in mid to late Spring.) 


Exhibit locations

There are three different locations available for collaborative exhibits, each with their own unique considerations:


  1. Feuchtwanger Memorial Library (DML 206)

This is an informal pop-up exhibit (put up and taken down on the same day) on the Feuchtwanger Memorial Library counters. Minimally public facing. 

  • Session commitment: Requires at least two standard class sessions with Special Collections: 1) an overview of searching, accessing, interpreting, and handling rare materials 2) time to review material and write labels
  • Timeline: Booked on a first come first serve basis depending on space availability
  • Public facing: Minimal and requires no internal review
  • Supplemental programming: Similar to an open house event in that there is no formal press or programming apart from social media post or select invitations to relevant departments/campus departments


  1. Special Collections Exhibit display cases

This is a formal exhibit in small cases outside the reading room entrance.

  • Session commitment: Requires multiple sessions in special collections that may or may not be full extent of class learning objectives
  • Timeline: Advance notice of at least a full semester depending on availability space
  • Public facing: Semi-public facing and will require internal Special Collections review
  • Supplemental programming: Some press or advertisement/programming required e.g. social media posts, reception optional


  1. Doheny Memorial Library (DML) Foyer  

This is a formal, public facing exhibit that integrates into the strategic vision for the USC Libraries Exhibits and Programming department as well as compliments the learning objectives for USC Special Collections collaborative exhibits.

You must submit a proposal via the Exhibition Proposal Submission

  • Session commitment: Requires multiple sustained sessions or embedded class in special collections, learning objectives are explicitly articulated as curatorial exhibit practices
  • Timeline: Advance notice of at least a full semester to an academic year 
  • Public facing: Fully public facing; requires review via Exhibits and Programming department
  • Supplemental programming: Reception and programming highly encouraged/required and Scalar (digital exhibit software) version is optional


Available Exhibit Resources

  • Cradles, book sofas, etc are available in Special Collections (sufficient cradles must be left for remaining class visits/other events)

  • Basic supplies (acrylic stands, mylar, putty, etc available in cabinets in Special Collections exhibit cases)

  • For exhibits in DML Foyer: It is necessary to coordinate with Exhibitions & Programming for install/de-install, and to prepare professionally printed captions. 


Who to Contact?

Requests for collaborative exhibits and or embedded class work can be directed to the Librarian or Archivist in Special Collections responsible for the collection area you are interested in. Names and contact information can be found on the Special Collections Staff site. 

If you have any questions about one of the three types of exhibits or are unsure of who to contact directly, please write to our department email and you will be forwarded on appropriately.


Exhibits beyond Special Collections

For exhibits within the library that are boutique, large scale, or require special locations, funding and or equipment please review the USC Libraries Exhibition Proposal Guidelines page.

should be submitted for approval through the Exhibitions & Programming committee Information about submission requirements and the form 


Visions and Voices

USC faculty are invited to submit proposals on an annual basis to conceive and organize events that will be presented as part of Visions and Voices’ exciting and diverse programming season.

For more information on timelines and proposals, please visit the Visions & Voices website.