John Adams Unbound

Exhibition Details

john adams
In the pages of John Adams's library, and the photo-reproductions of personal objects, graphics, maps, and portraits in the traveling exhibition, Adams is a tangible presence, along with his wife Abigail, his eldest son John Quincy Adams, and the rivals, friends, and partners of a complicated political lifetime. The traveling exhibit will give audiences the opportunity to explore Adams's life and character, his enormous contributions to the founding of America, his vanities and sorrows, hopes and fears for the nation and his own life, and his high standards for study, work, and citizenship. It will examine his political passions, religious beliefs, and guiding philosophies, and show how they influenced a life of action in a young nation. The exhibit is also an extraordinary case study in the power of reading and self-education that reveals the role of books and libraries in the health and prosperity of a democracy.

One copy of the exhibition will travel to libraries from November 2008 to November 2012. The traveling exhibition content is arranged thematically in an introduction and seven thematic areas (section headings and section focus may change as the exhibit is developed):

  1. Fame. In this theme, the audience will encounter the enduring legacy of John Adams and experience Adams's own assessment of his contributions to the new nation and his vehement defense of his reputation.

  2. Fortune. This theme looks at Adams's financial sacrifice to acquire his library and the value of that library, then and now.

  3. Power. An examination of Adams's political conviction that successful governments can be formed only when there is a balance of power among branches of government. Key observations on the structure of government are drawn from the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon.

  4. God. This section shows Adams conducting a remarkably wide-ranging and tolerant quest to explore many religions of the world.

  5. Country. Shows Adams as a founder of a new nation, defining its borders, shaping its Constitution, negotiating with other nations, and becoming President.

  6. Clients. Emphasizes Adams's belief that the rule of law in a civil society must be immune to the clamors of public opinion; focus is on Adams's winning defense of the British soldiers tried for the Boston Massacre.

  7. Fellow Men. Focuses on the people closest to Adams, his family and intimate friends. Viewers will come to understand how these people were bound to John Adams by a shared love of books.

The exhibition consists of six to seven separate, free-standing sections; each section is approximately 18 feet wide and 7-1/2 feet high (108-126 running feet). Text and illustrations appear on only one side of the sections. The entire exhibition requires approximately 1,000 square feet of space for optimal display. Libraries that apply are strongly encouraged to make a computer station or stations available near the exhibit so that viewers can access websites with additional educational activities for all ages.

All libraries chosen for the exhibition tour are required to:

  1. Sign an agreement with the exhibit sponsors agreeing to hosting and display requirements.
  2. Sponsor an opening reception for the public.
  3. Present a minimum of two programs featuring a lecture/discussion by a scholar in the humanities and focusing on exhibition themes (one of these programs may be combined with the opening reception). These programs must be free and open to the public. Exhibition sites are encouraged to apply to state humanities councils for honoraria for lecturers and/or discussion leaders.
  4. In the case of academic and special libraries, present at least one program that is open to and marketed to public audiences beyond the library's customary user groups.
    Academic and special libraries are asked to contact the local public library to discuss possible collaborations on programming and publicity.
  5. Demonstrate that they have sufficient space to display the exhibition (1,000 square feet in one area of the library or other display area is preferred), and that they can provide security for the exhibit; i.e., monitor the exhibit at least every half-hour during peak times and every hour at less busy times when institution is open. A description of the exhibit space or floor plan should accompany the application.
  6. Charge no fees for viewing the exhibit.
  7. Provide required reports, including an exhibition condition report and a final report, to sponsors by the deadline. Sites that fail to provide a final report in a timely manner may forfeit opportunities to participate in future ALA-managed traveling exhibitions.
  8. Appoint one staff member as the local coordinator of the exhibit. The coordinator is required to attend an exhibition planning workshop, to held in Boston, Massachusetts in Fall 2008 (date tba).

Libraries selected for the tour will receive:

  1. A $2,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for exhibit-related expenses, e.g., travel/accommodation expenses for the exhibit coordinator's attendance at the planning workshop and exhibition programming expenses (The NEH exhibit development grant to the Boston Public Library will not pay for the coordinator's travel or accommodation for the seminar.)
  2. The traveling exhibit for a six-week loan period; shipping is supported by the grant.
  3. Exhibit brochures and posters.
  4. Two banners that will travel to each site for display with the exhibition.
  5. Educational support materials.
  6. Insurance coverage for reasonable damages to the exhibit. Sites may be held responsible for extensive damages or loss of the exhibit when it is under their control. Some previous exhibition sites have put a rider on their insurance for the exhibit display period, although this is not required.
  7. Both print and online Site Support Notebooks with press materials, art, shipping and installation instructions, suggestions for programming, and more.
  8. Technical and programming support from the ALA Public Programs Office throughout the tour, including participation in an online discussion list for tour sites.
  9. planning workshop for exhibit coordinators in Boston. Books from John Adams's library and other objects pictured in the exhibition will be on display at the workshop; the traveling exhibition will also be displayed.