Domain: Exhibitions 2017



Exhibitions are a means for Repositories to offer thematic presentations of items from their for educational and cultural enrichment. Placing items on exhibition can help Repositories to introduce and promote their collections to general audiences who might not otherwise consult archival and special collections materials for research in a Reading Room setting. Exhibitions may be presented both physically and digitally. Collecting statistics on the numbers of Exhibitions mounted, Exhibition visitors, related publications, and publicity can help Repositories assess the operational and audience impacts of their Exhibition programs.

Basic measure (“Number of Exhibitions”)

Count the number of Exhibitions mounted by the Repository, including both physical and digital exhibitions.


Recording the number of Exhibitions a Repository mounts provides a basic measure of the activity of its Exhibition program and a basis for evaluating its operational impacts on staffing and other resources. It can also help a Repository evaluate the preservation and conservation needs of items that are displayed frequently or for long periods (see also the Exhibition use advanced measure under the Collection Use domain).

Guidelines for collection:

  • Count the total number of new Exhibitions mounted during the time period measured (for example, the calendar or fiscal year).
  • Include Exhibitions mounted at the Repository that are curated by students or guest curators who are not Repository staff.
  • Include physical, digital, traveling, pop-up, and other curated displays of materials from the Repository’s holdings. If an Exhibition has more than one manifestation, count each manifestation separately (i.e., count a physical Exhibition and digital Exhibition as two Exhibitions). Count digital Exhibitions presented on a specific digital device, such as a touch screen or table, separately from web-based Exhibitions that may be accessed online from any number of devices.
  • If the Repository creates a traveling Exhibition, count the number of times the Exhibition is installed at other venues during the time period measured. If the Repository installs a traveling Exhibition created by another institution, only count the installation of the Exhibition at the Repository.
  • Exclude displays of collection materials for Instruction Sessions unless the display is also available for viewing by other audiences.

Application and examples:

  • If the number of Exhibitions is tallied on an annual basis, count only those Exhibitions that opened during the year. Exclude Exhibitions that were installed or opened during the previous year, but remain on display during the current year.

Advanced measure (“Exhibition Visitors”)

Count the number of individuals who visit a physical Exhibition.


Tracking Exhibition visitors can assist Repositories in assessing the success of an Exhibition and ensuring the safety of both visitors and materials.

Guidelines for collection:

  • Visitors can be tallied manually by creating a daily count of the number of visitors who view Exhibitions. Visitors can also be tallied using door counters or other types of electronic sensors, especially if the Exhibition space is enclosed.
  • Using a guestbook to solicit visitor contact information and comments can provide some indication of visitor traffic for Exhibition spaces that cannot be equipped with an automatic counter nor allow for manual counting.
  • If ticket or pass is required for admission to an Exhibition, the number of ticket stubs collected or pass scanned will yield the number of visitors.
  • If the same visitor visits the same Exhibition more than once, count each visit separately.
  • If a staff member or volunteer docent gives a tour of an Exhibition, count and include the attendees in the Number of Attendees total calculated for the Events domain.
  • For online Exhibitions, refer to the Online Interactions domain.

Application and examples:

  • A historical society offers a suite of connected gallery spaces. It installs an electronic gate counter at the entrance to the first space to record the number of visitors that enter each day.
  • A receptionist stationed at the entrance to a special collections library greets visitors to the building and encourages them to view the current exhibition, a portion of which is display along the main corridor. Since many building visitors and staff pass through the corridor without stopping to look at the exhibition, the receptionist keeps a manually of those who do.

Advanced measure (“Exhibition Types”)

Categorize and record the types of Exhibitions curated by the Repository.


Categorizing Exhibitions by type can provide Repositories with a means of comparing preparation time, attendance, and other measures across Exhibitions of the same type or different types.

Guidelines for collection:

  • Identify and categorize the types of Exhibitions according to criteria that have meaning for the Repository and permit unambiguous classification. Common Exhibition types include physical Exhibitions, hybrid online and physical Exhibitions, online-only Exhibitions, traveling Exhibitions, displays, pop-up displays, digital displays on platforms or equipment not online, or other measurable, curated displays of material from the Repository.
  • Repositories may differentiate between Exhibitions mounted in the Repository and those it mounts in other locations.

Application and examples:

  • The university archivist creates a display about the university’s first building in the lobby outside the lecture hall for viewing before and after an event marking the university’s founding. This is recorded as a pop-up display. If a version of this pop-up display is created for the interactive touchscreen inside the student union it is counted as a second Exhibition of the type digital display.

Advanced measure (“Exhibition Duration”)

Count the total number of hours an Exhibition is available for viewing during the course of its installation. This measure is most appropriately applied to physical installations rather than digital exhibitions.


Tracking Exhibition duration can assist Repositories in monitoring the amount of light to which materials are exposed and ensure proper preservation of frequently exhibited materials. It can also provide a more precise measure for metrics designed to compare the audience impacts of different exhibitions (e.g., average number of visitors per hour).

Guidelines for collection:

  • Exhibition duration can be calculated by totaling the number of hours the Exhibition is available for viewing during regular business hours and special Events.
  • For online Exhibitions, Exhibition duration counted by hours may not be a logical measure for a Repository to track. However, Repositories may want to track when an Exhibition was published and how long it has been online.

Application and examples:

  • If an Exhibition is opened for viewing during an evening or weekend reception or in conjunction with another Event outside of regular business hours, count and include those hours in the total calculated for Exhibition duration.
  • If an Exhibition is installed for four weeks, the Repository is open to the public 30 hours per week, and its Exhibitions are accessible for those 30 hours, count 120 hours for the Exhibition duration.

Advanced measure (“Exhibition Preparation Time”)

Record the amount of time Repository staff spend preparing Exhibitions.


Tracking the number of hours that staff contribute to preparing Exhibitions can enable Repositories to monitor the impact of curating Exhibitions on staffing resources. Increasing the number of Exhibitions or offering displays that require more preparation time may require a reallocation of staffing resources. The amount of time required to create different types of Exhibitions may assist the Repository in future Exhibition planning, especially when considered in conjunction with other measures, such as number of visitors or other outcomes such as media coverage, donations, etc.

Guidelines for collection:

  • Count in hours the approximate total time spent by all staff, interns, volunteers, contractors, or other persons affiliated with the Repository in preparing an Exhibition including research, retrieving material, conservation treatments, making Reproductions, preparing material for display, design, installation, deinstallation, or other aspects of preparation for the Exhibition.

Application and examples:

  • An archivist curated a new display in the archives reading room to mark the birthday of the founder of its museum parent organization. The archivist spent 20 hours conducting research and retrieving material, the archivist spent 10 hours designing the display, an intern spent 6 hours preparing the material for display, staff spent 2 hours installing and de-installing the display, and the archivist and intern spent 20 hours creating an online version of the display. Count the physical and online Exhibitions separately. Count 38 hours for the physical display and 20 hours for the online Exhibition.

Advanced measure (“Exhibition Publications”)

Count the number and quantities of catalogues, brochures, and other publications produced in conjunction with an Exhibition.


Tracking the the number of catalogues or other publications produced can a Repository determine whether appropriate quantities were produced. This measure can be cross-referenced to Exhibition visitors and other outreach efforts associated with the Exhibition.

Guidelines for collection:

  • Count each publication type separately.
  • Publications may include printed or electronic catalogues, brochures, checklists, handouts, bookmarks, posters, invitations, and other types of ephemera produced in conjunction with an Exhibition.
  • Do not count press releases, blog posts, social media posts, broadcasts, interviews, and other forms of media publicity. See Exhibition promotion advanced measure.
  • For electronic publications produced in conjunction with Exhibitions, count the number of downloads or Page Views (see Online Interactions domain).
  • Some Repositories may wish to also count direct and indirect expenditures used to create publications and publicity (e.g., design, printing, and mailing costs, and staff time).

Application and examples:

  • A county historical society prints 200 catalogs, 400 bookmarks, and 60 posters to distribute in conjunction with its centennial Exhibition. The quantities of each type of publication are counted separately. The society also tracks how many copies of each publication are voluntarily taken by Exhibition visitors, and determines that bookmarks are most popular with visitors to the Exhibition.

Advanced measure (“Exhibition Promotions”)

Count press releases, news announcements, blog posts, and social media posts, as well as news articles, broadcasts, interviews, and other forms of media placement and publicity that pertain to an Exhibition.


Tracking the number of promotional pieces and media placements for an Exhibition enables a Repository to measure its marketing reach.

Guidelines for collection:

  • Count each post of the same promotional content on different social media services as one promotion. Exclude retweets, reblogging, and other sharing on social media services by followers of the Repository’s accounts; these may be counted as social media reach (see Online Interactions domain).
  • Track each media placement separately. For example, if a newspaper story is picked up and published by other media, count each placement individually.

Application and examples:

  • A news story for an Exhibition opening is published on the Repository’s website in March. After a larger than average number of visitors view the display and attend related programs, a portion of the news story is republished at the end of the year in a “best of” compilation article by the Repository. Count 2 promotions.
  • A press release sent to local media outlets leads to the publication of a newspaper article in the print edition. The newspaper also creates a short video about the Exhibition to publish alongside the online version of the article. Count 2 promotions.

Recommended metrics

Total number of Exhibitions mounted per year

  • Counting the total number of Exhibitions a Repository opened per year provides a basic metric for comparing the level of activity of Repository’s exhibition program from year to year.

Total visitors per year

  • Tracking the total number of visitors to a Repository’s Exhibitions during the course of a year can help it evaluate the success of its overall Exhibitions program on an annual basis.

Total visitors per Exhibition

  • Counting the total number of visitors per Exhibition can enable Repositories to track the popularity of Exhibition topics and formats, aiding curators in planning future Exhibitions.

Average number of visitors per month/year

  • Calculating and monitoring the average number of visitors per month or year can reveal visitor traffic patterns. For instance, the average number of visitors per month may increase during summer months or in conjunction with annual events held at the Repository or its parent organization.

Average number of visitors per Exhibition

  • Calculating and monitoring the average number of visitors per Exhibition can help a Repository evaluate the impact of changes it makes to its Exhibitions program and display areas and their effects on attracting visitors.

Average number of visitors per hour

  • If Exhibitions are open for varying amounts of time, calculating the total number of hours an Exhibition is open and dividing it by the total number of visitors to the Exhibition will yield an average number of visitors per hour, which may provide a more precise and useful metric for comparing Exhibition traffic than total or average numbers of visitors per Exhibition.

Next: Domain: Online Interactions


Table of Contents


Measures and Metrics:

Appendix A: Glossary