Exhibit Loan Policy

This policy covers materials owned by Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) to be loaned for exhibition to another ISU campus unit or to an outside institution.

For the purposes of this document, the term "exhibition curator" refers to the contact person for the borrowing institution, while "archivist" refers to the designated SCUA staff member overseeing the loan process. The "conservator" is the Iowa State University Library staff member in the Preservation Department.

Please contact archives@iastate.edu with any questions or to discuss a loan request.

Conditions of Loan

All loan requests will be examined individually, and SCUA reserves the right to deny permission in all cases, based on size, condition, value, vulnerability, or any other factor. Items are loaned only with the permission of the Head, Special Collections and University Archives, or an authorized SCUA staff member acting in their stead.

Lead Time for Conservation and Preparation of Materials

These are general guidelines for items that are in good condition or need only minor repair and simple exhibit preparation.

On campus loans

Exhibition curator should contact the appropriate SCUA archivist 8-12 months before the exhibit opening to discuss items of interest for loan. A meeting should be scheduled 4-6 months before installation between the exhibit curator, SCUA archivist, and the Library's conservator. This meeting is a consultation to discuss the desired outcomes for the exhibit, what repair work can or should be done prior to the exhibit, and what exhibit supports need to be made. Work will be scheduled accordingly.

Preservation should have all materials that need repair and/or exhibit supports a minimum of 1-3 months, as specified by the conservator during condition assessment. If this deadline is missed, Preservation cannot guarantee delivery of the repaired materials in time for installation.

If during the selection/review process it is determined that major repair is needed, the exhibition curator, archivist, and conservator will to determine a schedule for completing the necessary repairs in time for the exhibit installation date.

Off campus loans

Exhibition curator should contact the appropriate SCUA archivist 12 months before the exhibition opening to discuss items of interest for loan. The SCUA archivist having oversight over the requested items will approve the items for loan. The SCUA archivist will:

  • Review physical items with the conservator
  • Ensure the proper documentation/treatment is requested from the Preservation Department prior to sending materials to the borrowing institution
  • Communicate environmental and exhibit conditions requirements to the borrowing institution
  • Request a facilities report from the borrowing institution
  • Advise on shipping/transportation needs including packing and insurance
  • Advise on other conditions as appropriate

The Preservation Department should have all materials that need repair or preparation no less than three months prior to when the items are needed for shipment. If this deadline is missed, Preservation cannot guarantee delivery of the repaired materials in time for installation. If materials need major repair, please consult with the conservator to determine a schedule for completing the necessary repairs in time for the items to be shipped to the borrowing institution.

Conservation Documentation Required for Off-site Exhibits

The Conservator will evaluate the physical condition of any SCUA collection item that is lent to another institution for exhibit. A condition assessment will be written and photographs of the item will be taken prior to its shipping. A copy of the report will be given to the SCUA archivist and sent to the borrowing institution.

A facilities report will be sent to the Preservation Department prior to the release of collection materials. The borrowing institution will ensure required environmental conditions are met throughout the loan period.

Security, insurance, and transportation will be negotiated between the borrowing institution and the SCUA archivist.

Length of Time on Display

The length of time on display is determined by several factors:

  • What exhibit case/area is being used
  • The environmental conditions of the exhibit case(s) and exhibit hall
  • The type of materials and how sensitive they are to exhibit conditions
  • The condition, size, or value of the materials

In general, items should not be displayed for more than three months at the lowest possible lighting levels. See the ANSI/NISO Z39.79-2001 "Environmental Conditions for Exhibiting Library and Archival Materials" standard for guidelines.

Exhibit Support Specifications

All support materials should be constructed from conservation-quality materials and follow the ANSI/NISO Z39.79-2001 standard. Supports should properly fit the object and should not cause further stress or damage to library materials. Please consult the SCUA archivist and/or Conservator if you want to use supports not created by the Preservation Department.

Bound materials (books, serials, journals, diaries, etc.)

Cradles should be made from pH neutral or buffered paper; acceptable plastics include polyester, polymethyl methacrylate ("acrylic glass" or PlexiglasTM) or polyethylene terephthalate (PETG, VivakTM), polyester (MylarTM or MelinexTM), and polypropylene.

When displayed open, one or two-mil polyester or polypropylene strapping should be used to secure the book to the support. Open the book only so far as the binding will comfortably allow. Do not force the book into a wider opening or it may cause damage.

Flat paper/photographs

Mats and support boards should be made from pH neutral (pH 7.0) or buffered (pH 8.0-9.0) paper and board.

Window mats should be at least four-ply; support boards should be at least two-ply.

Objects should be attached to the support boards using non-adhesive methods such as polyester or paper corners or slings.

If the object is not completely flat or has friable/fragile media, a sink mat should be used so the object does not come in contact with either the mat or the glazing.

Other kinds of collection materials

Consult with the SCUA archivist or the Conservator for advice on the proper supports for other types of collection materials.

Environmental Specifications

Environmental damage is cumulative and often irreversible. Environmental conditions shall be monitored frequently enough to maintain the ANSI/NISO Z39.79-2001 Standard and items shall be inspected regularly for evidence of environmentally-induced change. Photographs should follow the lighting guidelines for very sensitive materials (see Appendix A in "Exhibit Loan Agreement" pdf).


Temperature shall be at a set point not to exceed 72⁰F (21⁰C). For preservation purposes, cooler temperatures are recommended. A temperature range of 5⁰F (3⁰C) on either side of the set point shall be the maximum acceptable total temperature variation. The temperature shall not exceed 77⁰F.

Relative Humidity (RH)

Relative humidity shall be kept at a set point between 35% and 50%. The allowable variation in total relative humidity is 5% on either side of the set point. The relative humidity shall not go above 55% or below 30% RH.


Gaseous and particulate pollutants shall be controlled or eliminated to reduce damage.


Lighting in exhibit cases and exhibit halls should be set at the lowest possible level to allow for visibility of the object. Visible light levels should be set at no more than 50 lux (5 foot candles) for very sensitive materials and at no more than 100 lux (10 foot candles) for moderately sensitive materials. Ultraviolet light levels should be eliminated. If that is impossible, UV light should be reduced below 75 microwatts per lumen. Both the length and intensity of exposure should be reduced to the absolute minimums.

Items that combine media of varying stabilities or where the light sensitivity is not known should be assumed to fall in the category of very sensitive media. Visible light levels should be further reduced or eliminated when exhibition areas are not open to the public. Direct sunlight shall not fall on exhibited items at any time.

Items generally considered moderately sensitive*

  • Printed materials (books, maps, etc.)
  • Objects

Items generally considered very sensitive*

  • Photographs
  • Manuscripts
  • Blueprints
  • Textiles

*Consult with the Conservator.