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Exhibits Handbook

Detailed instructions for anyone curating physical or digital exhibits.

This page will guide you through the creation of a digital exhibit. The goal of a digital exhibit is that the selection and juxtaposition of components produces a narrative or new understanding in the audience. Curators should take an active role in designing digital exhibits that are engaging, accessible, and illuminating by selecting display elements and tools which aid their audience in interpretation, rather than passive consumption.

Digital Exhibits Checklist

Before you submit your proposal:

  • Review the exhibit policies and be prepared to submit a proposal at least two months in advance (or earlier if possible!).

  • Review the Exhibits Archive to make sure the topic or theme has not been recently explored.

  • Consider the audience for your exhibit, the types of materials you'd like to include, and select an exhibit platform accordingly using the Digital Storytelling Sampler or the Tools & Platforms suggested below.

  • If you would like to use Libraries materials in your exhibit that are not already digitized and available online in the Digital Archives, you must first contact the respective curator for the collection and include them as a contact in your proposal.

  • It's important to think about accessibility before you begin planning your exhibit, not after. New exhibitors will be asked to meet with a member of the Libraries Exhibits Committee for an accessibility consultation. Furthermore, every digital exhibit will be accessibility tested prior to being published so please plan ahead. For example, all images must have alternative text (or sufficient visual descriptions if alt text is not available.)

Still interested? Submit your proposal!

After your proposal is accepted ... creating your exhibit:

  • Provide context for all visual media. At minimum, this should include the title and originating collection. Ideally it will also include an author or creator name, date of creation, and any publication information.
    • All images should be captioned with the preferred citation for the image.
  • Link to records in Digital Collections. All visual media or references to items should link out to item records in digital collections.
  • Edit, edit, edit. Question exactly how much information your audience needs to understand the purpose of your exhibit, and whether more is actually more. A digital exhibit is a great opportunity to be strategic and concise in your selections and explanations!
  • Write for an online audience. Check out the Mailchimp Content Style Guide for tips on web writing.
  • Credit yourself and contributors. Finished exhibits should clearly identify the author by name, library position (for staff), academic program or major, and graduation year. For example: Sarah Romer, BS '23, Wildlife & Conservation Biology, Digital Initiatives Assistant, Ohio University Libraries.
  • Follow accessibility guidelines. Digital exhibits should adhere to the WebAIM Principles of Accessible Design as much as possible. Additional resources can be found on the OIT Web Accessibility page.
    • New curators will be required to meet with a member of the exhibits committee for an accessibility consultation shortly after submitting a proposal.
  • Allow time for fact checking. Provide the collection curator and the exhibits coordinator two weeks from the intended publication date for copyediting, checking accessibility, and fact checking.
  • Be ready for community challenges. We will follow the lead of Digital Initiatives regarding takedown requests, but all other community challenges to digital exhibits content should be addressed and/or forwarded to the exhibits coordinator.
  • Remember that nothing is permanent. At some point in the future, exhibits may become outdated, we may switch exhibit platforms, or other circumstances may arise that would necessitate the sunsetting of your exhibit. That decision will be made by the exhibits coordinator in consultation with the Springshare administrator.

Digital Exhibits Tools & Platforms


ArcGIS Online (AOL) is a free, web-based software for managing and presenting maps and geospatial data. AOL also supports digital storytelling through its StoryMaps platform. While the StoryMaps interface excels at displaying maps, it is well-suited for a variety of media.

Pros Cons
Creators without any website development or design experience can build dynamic web presentations. Collaboration & permissions can be challenging to navigate in ArcGIS projects.
StoryMaps can display a wide range of multimedia and embedded content including image galleries, swipe comparisons, maps, videos, PDFs, timelines, slideshows, and immersive content. Individual StoryMaps are limited to scrolling page navigation with an optional headings list at the top.

Uses & Recommendations

  • As one of the Libraries most popular exhibit platforms, StoryMaps are ideal for multimedia presentations that work within the confines of a linear scrolling interface.
  • Multiple StoryMaps can be grouped in a Collection and presented as a navigable set (see examples below.)
  • If you would like to use ArcGIS for a Libraries exhibit, contact Erin Wilson to be added to the organizational account. This will enable collaborative editing, shared storage, and access to additional features.

Accessibility Notes (StoryMaps)

  • Attributions and alt text are supported within the individual media settings.
  • When embedding media in StoryMaps, creators should individually test.
  • PDF embeds and Esri maps are not navigable with a screen reader. Static alternatives should be considered. 

Resources & Examples

  • See the Libraries' public-facing StoryMaps Guide
  • Examples of maps embedded in LibGuides can be found in the Digital Exhibit Sampler staff guide. These include an ArcGIS Online map and a Google Map.
  • Since 1804: Glimpses of People and Places of Athens & OHIO

    This digital exhibit created by Photo Archivist Laura Smith demonstrates the utility of a StoryMaps Collection, presenting multiple stories as a cohesive set. It also exemplifies visual flow and layout variations that help maintain audience engagement.

  • Mapping the Historical Range Books of W. E. Peters

    This digital exhibit created by Digital Imaging Specialist Erin Wilson features a wide variety of media possibilities and interactive features including guided map tours, swipe comparisons, embedded videos, 3D maps, and immersive content blocks.


Formerly known as Adobe Spark, Adobe Creative Cloud Express is a design tool for creating professional looking graphics, web pages, or videos. Adobe Express can be accessed using your OHIO credentials.

Pros Cons
Full-page and immersive layout options enable visually engaging web displays. When creating web pages, media options are limited to images & video.
Creators can easily add collaborators to projects. Web page navigation is limited to a scrolling interface without content menus.

Uses & Recommendations

  • A complete digital exhibit can be created using Adobe Express Web Page. Supported media include photos, videos, and text with several creative layout options.
  • Adobe Express can also be used to create videos and to design promotional or informational graphics.
  • Because Express web pages are scrolling, they are best-suited for content with a strong narrative. Consider appropriate page length and volume of content. Use headings to break up content and aid users who navigate via keyboard.

Accessibility Notes (Express Web Pages)

  • When using a screen reader, Adobe Express pages give an option to "View Static Version."
  • Image alt text can be added in individual media settings.

Resources & Examples

About allows you to create a guided tour of images with text in an interactive viewer that supports panning and zooming. Images must be provided via IIIF, a standard adopted by many institutions with digital collections, including Ohio University’s Digital Archives.

Pros Cons
Configuring an exhibit requires minimal skill once you have the required image links & text content. Only works with IIIF images, such as those from the Libraries Digital Archives.
Several templates are available: slideshow, scrolling and quiz. Page navigation is limited to either scrolling, or forward/backward through slides.

Uses & Recommendations

  • The platform is ideal for showcasing image details and presenting deep explorations of individual objects.
  • Images must be sourced via IIIF manifest links. All content found in the Libraries Digital Archives is available through IIIF. See the internal staff guide for using IIIF images.

Accessibility Notes

  • Image alt-text is not available, and the image info popup doesn’t work with screen readers–creators should describe images within the text (see example).

Resources & Examples


YouTube is a popular choice for hosting and publishing video content. The Libraries have an established process for submitting content to be posted on the OhioULibraries YouTube channel.

Pros Cons
Wide use of YouTube helps ensure compatibility with other platforms & ease of embedding video content. Video creation requires specialized software and skill development.
Supports subtitles/closed captions.  

Uses & Recommendations

Accessibility Notes

  • All videos must have subtitles or captions. See the Libraries YouTube video creation guidelines for directions and tips.
  • Screencast creators should be mindful of voiceovers when clicking/navigating through websites. Avoid saying “Click here” instead say “Click on the purple request button at the top…” 

Resources & Examples

This video was produced and edited by Digital Initiatives Social Media Editor (2022-2023), Taylor Burnette. It was featured as an embed in the StoryMaps exhibit Margaret Boyd 150: OHIO Founders Day 2023.


Timeline JS is a web-based tool that generates interactive timelines from data provided in a Google spreadsheet.

Pros Cons
Easy to create with a spreadsheet. Text must be formatted using HTML markup. Some previous experience with HTML is helpful.
Can display a variety of linked media, including images, videos, maps, etc. Only works for content with a strong chronological arc.
  Has accessibility issues (see below.)

Uses & Recommendations

  • This tool is well-suited for timelines that benefit from multimedia and interactivity.
  • Timelines are configured entirely within a spreadsheet.
  • Media must be sourced from the web and added via a URL. If using the Libraries Digital Archives, refer to the item record's IIIF Image link.

Accessibility Notes

This tool has limited accessibility options and should be evaluated for exhibit use on a case-by-case basis.  

  • Image alt-text is not available. 
  • Image captions don't display reliably. Timeline creators are advised to describe image content and significance in the main text body and limit captions to ~100 characters.
  • Some default text has low contrast.  
  • Hyperlinks in text are not identified by screen reader.  
  • When embedded, content is not available to screen readers; Creators must provide a fullscreen viewing option or static alternative.

Resources & Examples

This timeline was created as a test to evaluate the tool and creation process. View the spreadsheet from which the content is generated. The images are sourced from the Libraries' digital collections.