At a glance

Special Collections & University Archives

Exhibit loan policy

Adopted: 30 October 2012; revised 10 September 2015


The Stanford University Libraries will lend materials from its collections to recognized institutions, such as libraries and museums, provided they have established exhibition programs and professional staff qualified to handle the materials requested. Materials are not loaned to individuals.  This loan policy has been established to ensure the safety and security of the objects in Stanford’s collections.  Traveling exhibitions will be considered, but the Library reserves the right to limit the loan to the original venue and a facilities report will be required from all venues on the tour.

Each loan request is judged on its own merits and the final decision to loan an item(s) is based on the following criteria:

  • The condition of the item(s).
  • The nature and length of the exhibition.
  • The facilities of the borrowing institution.
  • The anticipated need of the item(s) for the Library’s own research or exhibition purposes.

Some objects in the Library’s collections are not available for loan, including those judged too fragile or too environmentally sensitive to travel.

Specific cost details associated with the loan will be outlined for the borrower as part of the loan agreement. 


1. Introduction

The Department of Special Collections & University Archives of the Stanford University Libraries welcomes applications from institutions to borrow items from its collections for exhibitions.  Institutions wishing to request items are advised to read the following guidelines in advance of making a request and to contact the Library a minimum of nine months before the planned installation date of the exhibition. Borrowers requesting a larger number of items should make initial contact with the library no less than twelve months prior to the installation date.

Each loan request is judged on its own merits, and the final decision to loan an item is based on the criteria listed in the Summary above. Written approval by the Head of Special Collections & University Archives is required for all loan requests.

2. Submitting a request

Requests should be made in writing by the borrowing institution (the Library does not lend to private individuals) and sent electronically to:

Requests should contain the following information:

  • The name of the institution, contact name, contact address, contact phone, contact email.
  • The location(s), title and dates of the exhibition.
  • Full details of the item(s) requested, a thumbnail image, the Library’s call number, or appropriate manuscript collection metadata (including mss call number, series or accession number, box and/or folder number) as well as descriptions for bound volumes specifying the opening(s) to be displayed.
  • A full facilities report for the premises where proposed loan item(s) is to be exhibited (travelling exhibitions must provide full details for all venues in the tour).
  • Information about exhibition catalogs and/or web versions of the exhibition.

Requests must be received at least nine months before the planned installation date of the exhibition. Larger requests must be submitted twelve months prior to the installation date.

3. General conditions of loan

A formal loan agreement signed by the head of the borrowing institution, or his/her deputy, is required.

In most cases, the loan period for items is six months, maximum, from the date the item leaves to the date the item returns to the Library. More time may be considered in some circumstances where the nature of the loan requires it, i.e., travelling exhibitions. A maximum number of items for any loan will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, subject to format, condition and value of item(s) requested.

Additional terms:

  • No photographs may be taken of the item(s) by the borrowing institution or visitors to the exhibition without our prior permission.
  • Conservation or remedial treatment of any kind may not be performed without our permission.
  • The source of the loan will be acknowledged both on the exhibition label for the item(s), and in any exhibition catalog.  ‘Courtesy of Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries’
  • Two complimentary copies of any exhibition catalog will be sent to the Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.

Any dispute arising from the loan shall be determined in a State of California court of law.

4. Costs

The borrowing institution should be prepared to pay any and all of the costs related to their specific loan request. An estimate of services provided by Stanford University Libraries will be provided to the borrower before a loan agreement is signed. For specific fees, please see Fee Schedule for External Loan.

Typical costs include:

  • Admnistration, paging, condition assessment, housing and pre-crating packing of the item(s) for exhibition.
  • Any required conservation treatment to stabilize item(s) for loan.
  • Glazing, framing, custom mounts as required.
  • Transportation (including crating, freight costs, customs charges, broker’s fees, travel and lodging for a member of the Stanford Preservation Department to inspect the exhibition venue before a decision is made on an application, if necessary, and courier costs).
  • Nail to nail insurance for borrowed item(s), in transit, in temporary storage, and while on exhibition.
  • Photography or other reformatting of item(s) either at borrower's request for publication or as a facsimile in lieu of original object.
  • Cancelled exhibition fees, including any costs incurred for conservation and preparation to date.

5. Transportation

All transportation agents must be arranged by Stanford University Libraries, and the cost will be borne by the borrowing institution.  We require fine art shippers for our materials. Transportation agents and transportation companies must be bonded.

In general, we will not allow warehouse storage of our property in transit to and from the exhibition.

Occasionally, Stanford will require a staff member from its Preservation Department to travel to the exhibition venue to assess it prior to Stanford deciding to permit the loan.  The borrowing institution will pay the costs of travel and lodging should this be necessary.

In special cases, Stanford couriers will make one journey from the Library to the exhibition location and one journey in return to transport and oversee the handling of an item(s) during the installation and de-installation process.  All costs related to this will be assumed by the borrowing institution.

The borrowing institution will provide secure interim storage, in terms of fire and security against physical harm, theft and unauthorized access, for all cases or crates containing our objects. This applies to the periods of pre-installation and de-installation; in neither case should this interim storage be for longer than 24 hours.

6. Environmental and security conditions

It is highly desirable that environmental conditions fall within the parameters recommended by museum standards.  The borrowing institution must ensure the following standards for all locations that loan materials will be exhibited and documented in a facilities report.  For travelling exhibitions, these standards must be shown for all related venues.

  • Stable temperature in the range of 64-70° F; fluctuation  not to exceed +/- 3°.
  • Relative humidity between 50-60%; fluctuation not to exceed +/- 5%.
  • Light levels in the range of 50-100 lux; UV filtration not to exceed maximum of 75 microwatts per lumen.

An acclimation period of 48 hours in the gallery is required before installation.

The borrowing institution must guarantee the security of borrowed items at all times they are within the borrowing institution’s premises and the exhibition gallery.  If the borrower, for reasons of security, wishes to withhold precise details of alarm systems, please make that clear.

  • There must be fire and intruder alarms covering the gallery containing Library objects.
  • The gallery should be fully locked, secured, and intruder/fire alarms set during closed hours.
  • Security guard patrols should be made during closed hours around the gallery.
  • Security guard or custodian presence must be maintained at all times the exhibition and gallery are open.

7. Installation and de-installation procedures

Installation and de-installation procedures will be approved in writing between the borrowing institution and Stanford University Libraries.  The individuals who will be responsible for handling materials during installation and de-installation must be specified and approved by the Library.

  • When the material is received, the borrower should inspect it upon unpacking and compare it with the condition report provided by the lender.  Any damage or discrepancies must be reported immediately by telephone and subsequently in writing to Stanford Library staff. 
  • The Library requires a 48-hour acclimation period in the gallery prior to installing the materials.
  • In the event that a Stanford Library staff member has accompanied materials in the role of a courier, this individual will photograph the installation and de-installation process. The courier has authority to refuse to proceed with the loan if for any reason he/she has objections to the manner in which the objects are treated or if in his/her opinion the agreed conditions are not met.
  • After condition reporting and installation, the cases will be locked and the security alarms set.  The Library prefers that, from this point onwards, adjustments in the cases be kept to a minimum with alarms set and cases locked throughout the duration of the exhibition.
  • Following de-installation, a report on the condition of the items must be created and signed by both the Library’s and the institution’s authorized staff.  The report should clearly state the date of de-installation.
  • Items should be packed in the same manner in which they arrived at the borrowing institution, and any accompanying materials, such as identifying markers, should be returned to the Library with the correct corresponding item.
  • The borrowing institution will be liable for any damage sustained by the item(s) during the period of the loan.

8. Catalogs and display/credit line

After our agreement to lend materials for exhibition, Stanford University Libraries will not ask to authorize the academic or scholarly content of the exhibition, although our curators are available for consultation if requested.  We do ask:

  • All label citations and any published citations should include the following credit statement: ‘Courtesy of Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.’
  • Any display supports used for the exhibition of items on loan should be agreed to well in advance of the installation date, and the decision of the Library is final.