Traveling Objects

Did you know that museums loan each other artifacts for exhibitions?

Scene from the exhibit "Headed to the White House" produced by the National Constitution Center.

Scene from the exhibit “To The White House” produced by the National Constitution Center.


The Ohio Historical Society frequently loans objects to other museums and galleries and also takes items on loan for exhibits at the History Center and our sites. Recently, we welcomed the return of the largest loan that we have done to date. Not large in the physical sense, but large in volume – 336 presidential campaign buttons to be exact! They were part of the National Constitution Center’s traveling exhibition Headed to the White House. This exhibit highlights the excitement and spectacle surrounding the presidential election process, from the first primaries until inauguration day. Along with objects, like our campaign buttons, the exhibit featured multi-media experiences and hands-on activities for visitors to enjoy.

How do preparations for a loan start?

Ideally, we will have several months from the moment a loan request comes in until an exhibit opens. Sometimes we receive requests as much as two years in advance of an exhibit. Museums requesting loans want to make sure the items will be available during the dates of their exhibit, and that they are stable enough for travel and display.

The Registrar from the National Constitution Center contacted us in the summer of 2010 about the possibility of contributing to their exhibit. She created a “wish list” of buttons compiled from our Online Collections Catalog. Because of the volume of this loan, she made a visit to OHS. While here, she spent several hours with us going through the collection of campaign buttons and taking photographs of them so that her colleagues could review them and update their wish list.

George McGovern campaign button loaned from OHS to the Constitution Center.

George McGovern campaign button loaned from OHS to the Constitution Center.

Once the list had been finalized and the loan received approval from our curators, the next step was photographing and documenting each button. Thankfully, we had close to two months to get this work done. Finally, all 336 buttons were packed up in archival boxes and loaded into the shipping crate that the National Constitution Center provided. From Columbus, Ohio the buttons were shipped to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas. Then they moved on to Philadelphia where the exhibit was re-installed at the National Constitution Center. The buttons left OHS in June 2011 and returned in August 2012.

William McKinley button loaned from OHS to the Constitution Center.

William McKinley button loaned from OHS to the Constitution Center.

Object Loans are Opportunities

Our loan program is very active. It is a great way to get collections out of storage and on display for visitors in museums all over Ohio and beyond! Loans are also a way for OHS to support our colleagues in other museums. Maybe you’ll see some of our fantastic objects s on display at a museum near you soon!

Lesley Poling, OHS Collections Registrar

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