Student Exhibits


Are you a student conducting research in the performing arts, or have you done considerable research to prepare for a performance? Do you want to share your work or your creative process? We here at MPAL want to exhibit your work! Submit a proposal to turn your research into a visual display in the Library (see the “Proposal Requirements” section below). Contact mpal@library.illinois.edu with any questions.
Instructors: If you are interested in having your students curate an exhibit as a course assignment, please contact Kate Lambaria at lambari1@illinois.edu for more information.


What is an exhibit?
An exhibit is a way of displaying items and information to the general public, and in this case, a way of showcasing research or extensive projects. Within MPAL, monthly exhibits are displayed in our two main cases (upright and flat) in the area by the staircase to our upper level.

Textual Elements in an Exhibit
In addition to the physical items on display, exhibits require textual elements, including a title, narrative, and labels. The narrative typically describes the research question and background information pertaining to the exhibit’s topic. In the case of a biographical exhibit, the narrative can describe a person’s history and their major accomplishments. The narrative element is typically no more than a few paragraphs and at most two pages in length.

Labels are necessary for each item on display and give further context to the story described in the narrative. They help to provide situate items and further the story. For the proposal, student(s) are required to submit three item labels as examples for how they would approach writing labels. These labels generally detail what an item is as well as why it is important and included in the selection. For further information on designing labels or exhibits themselves, please see the Designing an Exhibit section of the Library Exhibition Committee’s website.

Designing an Exhibit: Logistics
All design materials needed to create the display (i.e. book stands, office supplies, polyethylene strapping, etc.) will be provided by MPAL. In addition, we will offer free printing for the student(s) for materials related to their exhibit. Library staff will be available to assist and advise student(s) on the physical construction of the display.

For helpful tips, check out the Designing an Exhibit page from the University Library Exhibit Committee.

Exhibit Dimensions and Photographs
Display Dimensions (upright case)
Display Dimensions (flat case)


Proposals are accepted throughout the year. The timeline is flexible and includes the following steps:
  • Submit proposal
  • Receive notification of acceptance
  • Submit draft of labels/narrative/textual information for review
  • Submit final labels/narrative/textual information for printing
  • Construct materials and prepare exhibit for installation
  • Install exhibit
  • Exhibit runs for one month
  • Remove exhibit

For Instructors
Should you desire to have students research and curate an exhibit for class, we will work with you on deciding a set timeline that works with your semester schedule.


Include all of the following elements in a word document and submit via email to mpal@library.illinois.edu with the subject line “Student Exhibit.”
  1. A title for the exhibit.
  2. A list of contributor(s). Please note primary contact.
  3. When you are due to graduate / leave the university.
  4. A description of project – this should be no more than 500 words.
  5. A list of items to be included in the exhibit along with a brief description of each item. If relevant, please include call numbers.
  6. Three examples of labels you would include in the exhibit. Labels for items should include information pertaining to the item (i.e. item name, author information, publication information, year, etc.) and explain how the item relates to the exhibit.
  7. Either a sketch or drawing of how this project would use the exhibit space.
  8. For items not in MPAL’s collection or owned by contributors, permission must be obtained for use. We suggest contacting the materials’ respective owners via email and including in the correspondence the title of your exhibit, a list of items, a link to each items’ record in the library catalog (if this applies), and how long the items would be needed for display. This communication should be attached as part of your proposal.


Who is eligible to submit proposals?
Any undergraduate or graduate student(s) with research pertaining to the performing arts or materials in MPAL’s collections.

What kind of research projects would be good to submit?
Examples of research projects can be a term paper, thesis, dissertation, capstone project, design project, etc.

How many people can be associated with the project?
This can be a solo or group project. There is no limit to the number of contributors.

Does the research project need to already be completed in order to submit a proposal?
No! As long as you have enough materials to fill the display, you are welcome to apply.

What if I have never created a display before?
We have sources here to help! See links in the following tab, Helpful Links, for more details.

Do I need to own the materials needed for the display?
No! We encourage you to borrow materials from MPAL or other library locations on campus. Permission for these items should be obtained and submitted with the proposal.

How do you evaluate proposals?
For our evaluation criteria, please see this document: Evaluation Form


We would like to thank the University Library Exhibitions Committee and their Graduate Student Exhibit Contest, from which we based this documentation.