Book Reviews

RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage reviews books, reports, new periodicals, databases, websites, blogs, and other electronic resources, as well as exhibition, book, and auction catalogs pertaining directly and indirectly to the fields of rare book librarianship, manuscripts curatorship, archives management, and special collections administration. Publishers, librarians, and archivists are asked to send appropriate publications for review or notice to the Reviews Editor.

It may not be possible for all books received to be reviewed in RBM, but the reviews appearing in the print journal are supplemented by a larger number of reviews published digitally on the RBM digital platform at https://rbm.acrl.org/index.php/rbm/pages/view/reviews. Books or publication announcements should be sent to the Reviews Editor: John Henry Adams, j.adams@missouri.edu, Research and Instruction Librarian, University of Missouri, Columbia MO, 65201.

On the Road Again: Developing and Managing Traveling Exhibitions. 2nd ed. Rebecca A. Buck, Jean A. Gilmore, and Irene Taurins, eds. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2020. Paperback, 105p. $35.00 (ISBN: 978-1-5381-3077-3).

On the Road Again: Developing and Managing Traveling Exhibitions, 2nd edition, provides a useful and practical introduction to planning, preparing, and successfully circulating a traveling exhibition. The title is directed especially to small and midsized museums, but its content may also benefit special collections, archives, and other cultural heritage practitioners interested in the topic. In addition to outlining and describing the considerations and work integral to mounting a traveling exhibition, editors Rebecca A. Buck, Jean A. Gilmore, and Irene Taurins provide sample forms, from checklists to contracts, for each step of the process. This updated edition accounts for some developments in digital technologies as well as updated laws and regulations relevant to lending cultural objects. For this second edition of the widely used 2003 text, Taurins, Director of Registration at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, joins Gilmore and Buck, who both retired from long careers as museum registrars in 2013.

The book’s structure follows the lifecycle of a traveling exhibition, from concept and exhibit creation, to preparation for the exhibition tour, to upkeep, and, finally, dispersal. If exhibitions require planning, a timeline, and a large cast of contributors to be successful, those that travel require these features to an even greater degree. In contrast to noncirculating exhibitions, traveling shows must pay for themselves, or for travel expenses and direct costs of circulation at a minimum. Buck, Gilmore, and Taurins address conceptualizing and creating an exhibition together as these processes inform one another. They point to the need to market a mobile show at least two years in advance, partly to ensure its economic feasibility, but realize that some creation must occur to make marketing possible. They also emphasize that objects must be selected, exhibition details compiled, and budgets drawn up at a very early stage, but acknowledge that some iterative planning will be necessary. Some elements of exhibition creation discussed in this manual will be familiar to those who have mounted noncirculating exhibitions. Other considerations are unique to traveling shows, and the editors’ efforts to highlight them are helpful. For example, calculating an exhibition fee is a key part of conceptualizing and creating a traveling show, as it is this fee that will cover exhibition expenses. Full booking is also desirable, so that an exhibition does not need to be dismantled and stored during the tour. Crates and packing are the largest travel expense, meaning that objects really must be selected early in the process for accurate budgeting. Furthermore, an organization’s main insurance policy may not be sufficient to cover a traveling exhibition. These points are key for those readers embarking on a traveling exhibition for the first time.

The editors consistently highlight the need to carefully manage details throughout the exhibition lifecycle. In contrast to a noncirculating exhibition, a traveling show requires the secure transportation of items and careful handling and display by many different individuals in many different environments. This creates a need for internal checklists and, in the authors’ recommendation, for a database that documents objects, couriers, lenders, crates, and shipments. Shared documentation, namely a contract drafted by the organization circulating an exhibition, is also necessary and important. This document governs the relationship between lenders and exhibitors and establishes the terms of a loan. Buck, Gilmore, and Taurins dedicate a short chapter to contracts and contract negotiations, as these can vary from simple and unspecific to highly detailed and are key to ensuring the success of a show. The editors make useful recommendations toward a “standard” contract, thus helping to simplify a complex and tedious element of touring shows. They also provide a sample incoming loan agreement and a sample receipt.

Once objects are selected and the feasibility of a traveling exhibition is confirmed, preparations for the tour begin. Crate making, packing, and transportation are important logistical considerations. The exhibition creator must compile exact specifications, seek out a crate maker, arrange for delivery of crates, number and label them, create packing instructions, and develop a master list with crate number and objects contained. Similar steps are required for securing a shipper and ensuring that items arrive at their destinations in a timely manner and in good condition. Couriers play an important role in the transportation of exhibition objects as well as their upkeep, and the editors address booking a courier and making travel arrangements. Exhibition labels, installation details, and condition reports must also accompany the objects. The editors advocate including diagrams, photographs, and highly specific instructions to facilitate all elements of the process. The need for planning and precision is a theme that threads through this concise yet thorough guide.

Useful sample forms included throughout the text and in appendices at the end of the book can be readily adapted by those arranging a traveling show for the first time. And while the forms are intended for those involved with traveling exhibitions, some might also be adapted by institutions for other needs. The “Generic RFP for Shipping” in appendix A, for example, might be used to solicit estimates for shipping and crating acquisitions or donations. The “Sample Incoming Loan Agreement” in appendix E might be used to document loan arrangements between different repositories on a common university campus, such as a special collections and a campus art museum. Similarly, the text’s recommendations regarding the makeup of exhibition committees and suggestions for exhibition checklists can apply to nontouring shows and may benefit institutions or practitioners that are new to, or interested in growing, exhibition programs.

Short texts on indemnity, insurance coverage related to acts of terrorism, and digital condition reporting by various authors complement the main text and the appendices in this second edition of the book. These are indeed useful updates. Additional discussion of how digital technologies, digital collections, and digital exhibiting have altered the landscape of traveling exhibitions would be welcome. The book’s final chapter, “Traveling Exhibition Theory in Practice,” briefly documents some of the challenges and lessons learned in the planning of a traveling exhibition of wall-mounted sculptures by Michael Sherrill. This is a tangible example of some of the factors and considerations that are otherwise presented in the abstract in this work. Additional and expanded case studies of this sort would serve to further illustrate possible distress points in traveling exhibit preparation and execution while also filling out and strengthening this chapter. An updated bibliography concludes a text that remains a key resource to the planning and execution of traveling exhibitions, by novices and the more experienced alike.—Erika Hosselkus, University of Notre Dame

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