Exhibition Explorer Card Deck: Experiential Learning for Rhetorical and Critical Thinking
Many academic and public libraries display their unique archives and special collections materials in exhibition spaces. With an array of primary sources and visuals, special collections exhibitions offer a wonderful venue for experiential learning of constructed narratives and perspectives. This Exhibition Explorer Card Deck is designed to guide students to experience close viewing of special collections materials through explicit steps for thinking rhetorically and critically in an exhibit space. The Exhibition Explorer Deck consists of eight cards, including one card with basic instruction on how to use the deck, five cards asking students to answer specific questions about the exhibit, and two cards with short activities to promote mindfulness as students move through the exhibit space. Each card is double-sided with an activity title on one side and questions/activities on reverse. This exhibition exercise can take place complementary to or independent of hands-on instruction sessions in departments of archives and special collections. Also, it is adaptable to use in various kinds of exhibitions in libraries, museums, and other learning spaces.
In-class Visit Lesson plan with Exhibition Explorer Card Deck:
Working in pairs or small teams, students visit the Archives and Special Collections exhibition. First, students shuffle the Exhibition Explorer Card Deck, then they work through each activity card in a random order. The shuffling of cards encourages serendipitous discovery of the exhibition, in which each student group conducts the exhibition activities following different orders of cards in the exhibit space. (15-20 minutes)
After students complete all the activity cards, the course instructor and/or special collections librarian facilitate a group discussion in the exhibition gallery. Students are asked to share observations from the exhibit exercise. Each group selects the activity card they find most engaging or confusing and share their responses to that card. Students are also asked to reflect on the connections between the exhibit exercise and applications for rhetorical thinking. (15-20 minutes)
The Exhibition Explorer Card Deck can be used as a stand-alone student assignment that is conducted outside of class time. Students can visit a special collections or library exhibition and complete the card activities on their own. In this case, the exhibition exercise is self-guided by students. Instructors may set additional guidelines for the assignment.
After students complete this exhibit exercise on their own, the course instructor may facilitate a follow-up discussion with students about the exhibit exercise and their experiences. Additionally, students can write a short reflective paper responding to the card activities and their experiences with the exhibit.
The Exhibition Explorer Cards can be edited to use for exhibitions in various learning spaces other than archives and special collections. Also, the activities can be modified to meet specific learning needs in the local contexts.
The Exhibition Explorer Cards are easy to make. They are set to print double-sided on cardstock or regular paper, then cut the cards out, and they are ready for use!
The Exhibition Explorer Card Deck is available for download and edited as PDF and Word files.
Also, attachments include sample pictures of a printed Card Deck with both front and corresponding back sides, as well as visual examples of students conducting the exhibition exercise in the LMU Library’s Archives and Special Collections Gallery in Spring 2019.
Please feel free to send any questions to Rachel Wen-Paloutzian and Laura Poladian.
- Students practice explicit steps for thinking rhetorically about their experiences in exhibition spaces.
- Students analyze the context of the exhibition and investigate materials on display to become critical viewers.
- Students gain an understanding that an exhibition is curated with specific perspectives.
Information Literacy concepts:
Individual or Group:
Through extensive collaboration, Rhetorical Arts Instructor Laura Poladian and Special Collections Instruction Librarian Rachel Wen-Paloutzian have created and incorporated this Exhibition Explorer Card Deck into instruction sessions for Rhetorical Arts students in the William H. Hannon Library’s Department of Archives and Special Collections at Loyola Marymount University.
In Rhetorical Arts, a foundational course on speaking, writing, and thinking for social justice, students use reflective and affective strategies that connect critical thinking with self-awareness. Both Rhetorical Arts and the Department of Archives and Special Collections bring together scholarly and social works through imagination and inquiry.
The focus of the Exhibition Explorer Card Deck is to foster the kind of thinking (noticing, describing, inquiring) that promotes rhetorical awareness. Also, students meet information literacy learning outcomes for recognizing and evaluating various kinds of information and building analytical skills to evaluate information presented in exhibits.