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An exhibit is an object, work of art, activity, artifact or poster designed to demonstrate a concept or show an example. Exhibits are usually housed and shown in a cultural or educational setting such as a museum, park, archive or library. Exhibits may be collected together in an exhibition or shown independently. While most exhibits are permanent or semi-permanent installations, some exhibits—especially exhibits featuring especially fragile or valuable objects, or live animals—may be shown only during a formal presentation, under the close supervision of attendant or educator. Temporary exhibits that are transported from institution to institution are traveling exhibits.
While modern exhibits are largely concerned with preservation, education and demonstration, early exhibits were designed to attract public interest and curiosity. Before the widespread adoption of photography, a single exhibit could attract large crowds. Visitors might even be overcome with Stendhal syndrome, feeling dizzy or overwhelmed by the intense sensory experience of an exhibit. Today, there is still tension between the design of exhibits for educational purposes or for the purpose of attracting and entertaining an audience (see: tourist attraction).
Changes in scholarly communication and the rise of the Internet have led to the creation of digital exhibits. These can include the digital viewing of physical exhibits; video tours of museums, art galleries and other cultural venues; and/or online exhibitions of "born digital" art, models or educational tools. The integration of information technology into museums and archives has also created opportunities for interactive and multimedia experiences inside cultural institutions. Many museums and galleries have extensive online resources that complement or enhance their physical exhibits. For example, in 2009, "Public Poet, Private Man," an online exhibit on the work of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was recognized as an outstanding digital exhibit by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ARCL).
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