UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Archival exhibitions: purposes and principles Gordon, Heather Marie


Most information on exhibitions found in the museum and library literature is of little use to the archivist faced with preparing an exhibition of archival material. A body of literature exists dealing with the allotment of institutional resources to the exhibition function and with the physical care of archival material on exhibition. However, little has been written about the principles governing an archival exhibition's inspiration and development, principles that need to be identified before addressing the methods and practice of mounting an exhibition. This thesis is a response to that need. Exploratory, rather than descriptive or explanatory, its purpose is to identify the principles governing the creation of archival exhibitions, not the practicalities or mechanics of mounting them. Primary sources for this study are exhibition catalogues and brochures solicited from various Canadian archival institutions as well as the letters from members of the Canadian archival community that accompanied the catalogues and brochures. The thesis first establishes that the creation of archival exhibitions is subject to fundamental archival theory. Then, it addresses the ideal motivations or purposes behind thematic, celebratory, institutional, and functional exhibitions and demonstrates that they are linked to the mandate of the archival institution and the nature of the targeted audience. The thesis concludes that archival exhibitions have a responsibility to promote the archival institution and its holdings and to educate people regarding archival functions and services, and that institutional and functional exhibitions are, by definition, best designed to accomplish these objectives.

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