The exhibition of manuscripts forms our traditional face to the public. The Book of Kells, for example, has been displayed since the 1830s and now attracts over 500,000 visitors each year to Trinity College Library. At other libraries, such at St Gallen, the display of manuscripts forms an integral part of the public image of a place. Currently, international loan exhibitions of manuscripts attract wide attention and favourable publicity. For manuscript librarians however several questions arise, including:
The most valuable manuscripts attract the highest number of loan requests. How do we establish policies that combine the desire to cooperate with the demands of conservation?
Lobbying can take place at a high political level before manuscript librarians become involved. Can we ensure a greater prominence for curatorial concerns?
To what extent can we justify the transport of an entire codex in order to display a single opening?
In what circumstances can manuscripts be disbound for display?
Is the world of manuscript exhibitions merging with the culture of art exhibitions, and how far are the two compatible, in, for example, the arranging of multi-venue exhibitions?
In an age of mass travel and high security, the tradition of hand-carrying manuscripts is more difficult than before. What issues does this raise for manuscript librarians?