Elizabeth I: Ruler and Legend was a traveling exhibition for libraries that commemorated the 400th anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England. The exhibition encouraged audiences not only to reacquaint themselves with the Queen, but also to become more familiar with the historical and cultural forces that shaped her personality and her time and examine the mixture of history and legend that continues to surround her today. The traveling exhibition was based on a major exhibition of the same title that opened at the Newberry Library of Chicago on September 30, 2003.
Two copies of the exhibit travelled to 20 libraries (for a total of 40 libraries) around the country between October 2003 and March 2006. Each copy consisted of six colorful, freestanding photo panels incorporating representations of artifacts from the Newberry's exhibition and new text written for the exhibition by the curator, Clark Hulse, professor of English and art history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The sections of the traveling exhibition investigated Elizabeth's life and career as a head of state, revealed the political workings of her court, examined the cultural and diplomatic worlds of England and Europe in the late 16th century, and explored the legacy of Queen Elizabeth from the time of her death to today.
Libraries on the tour hosted the exhibition for a six-week period. All participating libraries presented at least one program that is open to the public that features a lecture/discussion by a scholar on exhibition themes. All showings of the exhibition were free and open to the public.