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The Library of Congress, 1998

The Library of Congress, 1998 from Oliphant's Anthem: Pat Oliphant at the Library of Congress

Library of Congress Exhibition Loan Requests

The collections of the Library of Congress (the Library or LOC) include millions of objects, including books, but also presidential papers, sound recordings, maps, motion pictures, photographs, and engravings, to name a few categories of the Library's holdings. These collections cover virtually every subject and every era and can help to bring new dimension and authenticity to any exhibition. In order to provide access to its collections, the Library loans hundreds of collection objects to recognized institutions and exhibition agencies, such as libraries and museums, which have established exhibition programs, an acceptable physical environment, and a full–time professional staff proficient in handling the particular material requested. Each request for loan will be judged on its particular merits—the type of institution, the program, and the exhibition for which the loan is proposed in relation to the importance, stability, uniqueness, and value (both monetary and intrinsic) of the material being requested. We strive to balance access with preservation and security to ensure ongoing health and availability of our national cultural heritage.

Submission of Loan Request

In order to be considered, an official loan request must be received by LOC at least nine (9) month prior to the opening of the exhibition. To request a specific item or items from the collections, a potential borrower must contact the Interpretive Programs Office of the Library.  The number of objects to be requested is not limited; however, the Library’s portion cannot exceed 49 percent of the total number of objects in any given exhibition and its exhibition tour, if applicable.

There is no loan fee to borrow from the Library. However, the Borrower will be responsible for all direct costs for digitization, display housing and mount preparation, packing, crating, shipping, insurance, and any courier costs.

Additionally, the Library requires that any loaned objects be insured at the expense of the borrower in the amount specified and under policy terms and conditions contained in Fine Arts Floater Policies and under special conditions required by the Library, as well as the Library's "Replacement in Kind" clause, which states that the Library shall have the right to elect to receive reimbursement in kind, in case of total loss or damage of any item covered by this insurance.

Exhibition Loan Request Requirements

  1. Information about the proposed exhibition, to include its purpose and the exact dates of exhibition.
    Must include location and opening/closing dates for ALL venues on the exhibit tour, if applicable.
  2. Up-to-date Facilities Report for ALL institutions. (Completed within 3 years)
    Include floor plans and recent environmental (temperature and humidity) readings for all display/storage areas.
  3. Specific, complete information regarding each requested object, to include but not limited to, the following information:
    1. Custodial division (i.e. Manuscript, Prints & Photographs, Music, etc.), and collection name, if applicable.
    2. Complete description of object to include title, author/artist, date, media, location within collection (i.e. Box, Folder, Lot numbers), online catalogue identification number, and/or location call number.
    3. EXACT page opening to be shown if a book, 2-sided or multi-page document.
    4. If possible, provide a snapshot photo, digital ID number, or link to LOC URL of each object to further identify.
  4. Borrowing Institution's main point of contact, to include telephone and email.
  5. Proposed provisions for shipping and insurance.

The Borrowing Institution needs to be aware of the following:

  1. Preliminary research must be thorough and complete before the letter of request and accompanying object are submitted to LOC, to ensure that no modifications are necessary. After the loan request has been reviewed by LOC, we may suggest substitutions if appropriate. However, NO additions may be made to the object list or the list of venues by the requesting party. Please direct questions about the collection to the "Ask a Librarian" portal (http://www.loc.gov/rr/askalib/), or to the appropriate LOC custodial division. Specifically ask for the reference section of the division, and/or the division's exhibition liaison so that they may distribute the inquiry to the proper curator(s).
  2. Loan requests for newly constructed or renovated venues will be accepted ONLY after adequate evidence of testing of the building systems is provided to LOC for approval; including temperature and relative humidity readings over a time period stipulated by LOC.
  3. In many instances the custodial division will require digitization of requested items, at the expense of the Borrower. These digital assets will remain at the Library; borrowers may request copies for a fee.
  4. For every object loaned and displayed, the borrowing institution will need to credit the Library as the repository. (i.e. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.). The LOC does not hold the copyright for the object or images in its collections, so the borrowing institution is also responsible for researching and obtaining any necessary permission from the copyright holder.
  5. Each object will require display housing. In most instances, the unbound objects will be sent within a "plexi-pack" or encapsulated.  In most instances, bound objects will require custom acrylic cradles while on display. Borrower is responsible for arranging to have all display housings made and delivered to LOC to be approved prior to shipment. Borrower will bear the cost.
  6. The Library's portion cannot exceed 49% of the total number of objects in the exhibition.
  7. In general, the Library will allow paper based objects (including photos) for a display of 3-6 months per page/sheet. Objects with a significant prior exhibit loan history are subject to stipulated rest periods by the Library, for purpose of long-term preservation, during which time they cannot be loaned.
  8. The Library typically expects all loan objects shall be displayed in areas or cases where the temperature does not fluctuate more than five degrees from 70º Fahrenheit and where the relative humidity can be held at 45 +/- 5 percent.

Send the required information to:

Preferred: NEW EMAIL - [email protected]

Letters addressed to:

Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue, SE
Interpretive Programs Office; LA G-25
Washington, DC 20540-4950
Tel: (202) 707-3609

Attn: Rachel Waldron, Senior Exhibits Registrar