Exhibition, Distinctive Collection, Outreach, Local Relevance


In the changing academic libraries environment, area studies and special collections, marked by a high level of expertise in a specialized area, are faced with the challenge of articulating their value and becoming connected with a broad range of local users. This article shows that exhibitions can be a powerful instrument for making a convincing case for the relevance of these specialized collections to local users. It discusses a model case of strategic exhibition development for the Gordon W. Prange Collection, which archives Japanese-language print publications issued during the first four years of the U.S. Occupation of Japan, 1945-1949. Making use of the multiple functions of exhibitions, Prange Collection staff strategized exhibition planning as a way to form and demonstrate geopolitical, academic, and linguistic relevance in an attempt to illuminate the potential of the Prange Collection materials to suit local users’ educational and research agendas. By examining this practical approach to exhibition development, this study seeks to highlight the possibility for a specialized collection to go beyond its relationship with its core patrons and reach new user communities on campus and beyond.