As part of a $15.7 million City-funded renovation of the Boston Public Library’s Special Collections department, our team of Graphic Designers collaborated closely with department staff to develop a flexible exhibit system showcasing curated artifacts from their extensive collection of artwork, rare books, and historical items.

The primary challenge of the project was to create an organized display system that could accommodate a diverse range of objects in various sizes, quantities, and colors. We developed a flexible graphic scheme that would both complement the artifacts and highlight the department’s mission, purpose, and staff. The design includes pops of color and varying scales of information to engage visitors with the collection’s diverse contents.

Large panels in bold colors anchor the cases and describe BPL’s mission to Acquire, Preserve, Describe, and Interpret their unique collection which is free to all patrons to access and explore. Artifacts were carefully selected by the staff to support each of these topics and are accompanied by descriptive plaques. Objects were selected to showcase the variety within the collection including Red Sox memorabilia from the early 1900s, an original sketch from Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, a Toulouse Lautrec print, Shakespeare’s first folio, and the bible used in Mayor Wu’s swearing-in ceremony.

Along the second wall, graphics emphasized the department’s commitment to promoting public awareness of “Access for all” to this unique collection. Additionally, a “Staff Spotlight” showcases the dedication and passion of staff members in fulfilling the department’s mission. QR codes incorporated into the displays provide convenient links for further exploration. Artifacts are rotated every three months to protect sensitive objects from over-exposure and ensure the display remains fresh to frequent visitors.

Our scope also included recommendations for modifications within the elevator lobby to create a more welcoming arrival to the Special Collections department. Prior to implementing our recommended design changes, patrons would exit the elevator and see an emergency exit door directly in front of them. With the simple addition of new paint and a dynamic, colored path guiding their way, patrons are intuitively led to the lobby entrance and away from the many back-of-house doors within the small space.

Project Details


Boston, MA


Boston Public Library

Photos by Sarah Farkas