Guidelines for Lending Materials for Exhibition

Mission Statement

Columbia University Libraries (CUL) recognizes the fundamental importance of original documents and visual materials, historical artifacts, rare printed volumes, prints, and other primary sources to research and intellectual exchange. In order for this cultural heritage to be more widely disseminated among the broader academic and interested public, it is the policy of CUL to lend material from its collections to exhibitions in museums, galleries, and other venues that demonstrate a commitment to an educational and scholarly mission.

CUL also recognizes its fundamental role as caretaker of these cultural artifacts and will lend material only to institutions with facilities capable of exhibiting the items safely. A decision to lend will depend on several factors, including the condition and value of the object, its scholarly relevance to the exhibition and ongoing research, and the facilities of the borrowing institution.  CUL will enter into loan agreements only when the conditions set forth by the following document are met satisfactorily.

1. Initial loan inquiry

  1. All loan requests should be submitted with as much lead time as possible to ensure adequate condition assessment, conservation, preparation, and processing time.
  2. Initial inquiries describing the exhibition, preferably in writing, should be made 12 months in advance of the beginning of the loan period. Requests made with insufficient lead time for necessary loan processing may be refused.
  3. Shortly after the initial inquiry, a preliminary evaluation of the requested material will be made. The prospective borrower will be notified of any special circumstances surrounding the request, such as anticipated conservation needs, complex mounting problems, unusual packing and shipping requirements, or restrictions on the loan of the requested item(s).
  4. Initial inquiries should be made to the following individuals:

    Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library
    Art Properties

    Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library
    Avery Classics (Rare Books Collection)

    Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library
    Drawings and Archives Collection

    Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

    Rare Book and Manuscript Library
    Public Services and Programs Librarian

    Starr East Asian Library

    University Archives and Columbiana Library

    All other libraries
    Director for Preservation

2. Making a formal request: letter & loan agreement form

  1. To make a request to borrow an item or items for exhibition, a letter should be addressed to the appropriate library director or the head of the relevant collection. The contacts listed above will provide you with name and address of the appropriate person to whom to direct the request.
  2. The letter should be sent from the director (or highest officer) of the borrowing institution as early as possible, but at least six months in advance of the loan period.
  3. The letter should include the most current information regarding the following:
    • title of exhibition
    • dates of exhibition
    • place of exhibition, including tour venues (if applicable)
    • title(s) or name(s) of work(s) being requested; for books, indicate page opening for display
    • name(s) of exhibition curator(s)
    • description of the premise or purpose of the exhibition
    • information about catalog (general contents, name of publisher, etc.)
    • date work(s) needed for loan
    • assurance that all costs (loan fees, packing, shipping, insurance, etc.) will be paid by borrower
    • statement of availability of facilities report upon request
  4. The loan agreement form may be sent with the formal request, or later, after the lender has agreed in principle to the loan.  However, please note that a signed loan agreement must be executed before the beginning of the loan period.
  5. Following receipt of a letter, the CUL director or head of collection will evaluate the request. The work will be examined by a conservator to determine whether it can travel and be exhibited safely.
    • If conservation is necessary, the borrower will be informed of the estimated cost; if the cost of treatment is approved by the borrower, the borrower will be invoiced for the expense.
    • Among other possible fees are matting, framing, the construction of a book cradle or other mount, loan fees, and photography for use in the catalog or for other exhibition-related purposes.
    • Among the conditions to be specified by CUL are the method of packing and shipping and the light, temperature, and humidity levels during exhibition.
    • The borrower may be asked to provide a facilities report.
    • For a work of high value, a courier may be required (including costs for transportation, hotel, per diem).

3. Facilities report

  1. A facilities report for the exhibition venue must be provided if requested by CUL; if the exhibit is to travel, include a separate report for each venue on the schedule.
  2. The American Association of Museums Standard Facility Report (ISBN 0-931201-55-1) is strongly preferred. The blank template for this document may be purchased from the AAM Bookstore (202-289-9127) or through the AAM website.
  3. If a different facilities report format is used, it must provide detailed information on all topics listed under Section C, "Facilities report," in Guidelines for Borrowing and Lending Special Collections Materials for Exhibition (Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, Association of College and Research Libraries).
  4. An incomplete facilities report may delay the processing of a loan request, or cause the request to be turned down.

4. Fees & expenses

  1. Per item loan fee

    The standard loan fee is $100.00 per item. The loan fee covers time spent on processing the loan, making the condition report, and preparing the item for exhibition.
  2. The borrower is also responsible for the following fees and expenses:
    • All transportation costs, including packing and crating, freight, customs charges, and brokers' fees, as well as courier expenses, if applicable.
    • Any conservation treatment, framing, matting, or fabrication of custom mounts that may be necessary for the safe travel and exhibition of the item(s).
    • Insurance coverage of the loan material; a copy of the certificate of insurance must be provided prior to the loan.
    • Any photography necessary for the loan, including reproduction for publication.  All photography will be done by CUL before the loan at a per image fee.  Additional information about reprographic services and fees.

5. Conditions of loan

  1. Assumption of Care

    CUL expects the borrowing institution to adhere to accepted professional standards at all stages of the exhibition process, including such matters as security, installation methods, and maintenance of proper environmental controls at all times. If the conditions outlined below cannot be maintained throughout the exhibition, the borrower must notify CUL promptly to discuss appropriate next steps.
  2. Packing and Transportation

    CUL usually packs the items going out on loan, and will require that all items be repacked for return in exactly the same manner as when they were sent to the borrowing institution. For some items, packing may need to be done by a fine arts handler engaged by the borrower. Any changes in repacking should be discussed in advance between borrower and lender.

    CUL will specify how the material is to be transported and will ask the borrower to make appropriate transportation arrangements. An approved fine art mover is usually required for transport of CUL property. Full details of transportation should be discussed as early in the procedure as possible. In some instances, CUL may require that items be accompanied to and from the loan site by a courier. The courier’s presence will be required at all times during the transport, unpacking, installation, de-installation, and repacking of the borrowed material.
  3. International loans

    Loans to countries outside the United States will require the assistance of a reputable customs broker who should be contacted well in advance of the loan arrival date. Customs formalities and the provision of export licenses to and from the exhibition site are the responsibility of the borrower. Objects should not be unpacked in transit for customs inspection, but passed through in bond to the exhibition site. It is the international borrower’s responsibility to meet any courier upon arrival, to have a customs broker on hand, and to escort the courier and the loaned items to and from the exhibition site. Overseas loans must be transported by air.
  4. Condition

    When the material is received, the borrower should inspect it upon unpacking, compare it with the condition report provided by CUL, and record its condition. Any damage or discrepancies must be reported immediately by telephone and subsequently in writing to CUL. Unless specific advance permission has been obtained from CUL, the borrower must not alter, clean, or repair items, frames, or mounts in any way.  The inspection and condition reporting process should be repeated at each venue for traveling exhibitions.
  5. Exhibition environment and lighting

    CUL reserves the right to specify the conditions for any individual item, and to verify that the required conditions can be maintained at the loan venue.  The loan period for light-sensitive items may be restricted to a short period, or CUL may require that items or pages be rotated at set intervals during the exhibition. For more information, see ANSI/NISO Standard Z39.79-2001, Environmental Conditions for Exhibiting Library and Archival Materials.

    For most paper-based materials, CUL requires that the temperature in exhibition, packing, and storage areas be maintained at 70 degrees F, with fluctuations of no more than 4 degrees F in any 24-hour period. The relative humidity in the exhibition, packing, and storage areas should be kept at 50% with fluctuations of no more than 5% in any 24-hour period. For some loans, dated records from a hygrothermograph or datalogger may be required before the loan is approved; the lender may be required to send environmental reports periodically throughout the loan period.

    Lighting in the exhibition area should adhere to the following general guidelines for paper-based library materials:
    • All ultraviolet (UV) radiation must be excluded.
    • Maximum 10 footcandles/100 lux for most printed book pages, broadsides, prints, and black-and-white silver gelatin photographs.
    • Maximum 5 footcandles/50 lux for most manuscripts, textiles (including cloth book covers), colored papers, drawings, watercolors, miniatures, color photographs, 19th-century photographs (e.g. albumen prints, salt prints).
    • Maximum 25 footcandles/250 lux for oil paintings.
  6. Catalog and other publications

    At least one copy of the printed exhibition catalog and any other publication(s) should be provided to CUL without charge.
  7. Right of recall

    CUL reserves the right to recall an item at any time if the terms of the loan are not met for the duration of the loan period.
  8. The borrowing institution may be required to provide information pertaining to accreditation and governance, policies concerning public access to exhibitions, and compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

6. Reproduction

  1. CUL will specify whether the borrowed material may be reproduced in any way for publicity or other purposes while under the care of the borrowing institution.
  2. As owner of unique and valuable cultural artifacts, CUL requires that surrogates of these objects – in print, media, digital, and other formats – reproduce the qualities of the original items as accurately as possible. Reproductions of items may not be altered by cropping, colorizing, reversing, bleeding, overprinting, digital editing, or any other method without prior permission.
  3. Items must appear as an illustration to text. Any decorative use of the image – as background, endpapers, or other uses – requires the express written consent of CUL.
  4. CUL will specify the credit line for all reproductions.
  5. In order to assure safe and accurate reproduction of CUL property, CUL requires the use of CUL reprographic services.