Communicating research through exhibitions by Ewa Stenberg

Last week an exhibition opened at Malmö University Library, ”Fighting cancer with plastic bullets”. This exhibition presents ongoing cancer research at Malmö University. The exhibition is an activity in The Researchers Gallery, which started out as a project and now is a part of Malmö University Library’s regular repertoire. I will give you a glimpse of this specific exhibition as well as tell you shortly about The Researchers Gallery.

Let us start with the content of this exhibition. Two research projects at Malmö University, Biocapture and GlycoImaging, train a new generation of chemists, physicists and biologists through a EU-wide PhD training network. Both projects work with plastic antibodies that detect cancer cells. This is similar to the “magic bullets” principle used today with biological antibodies targeting cancer cells, but the plastic antibodies are smaller and can detect cancer much earlier. They are also cheaper and easier to manufacture than the antibodies used today.  The two projects are coordinated by Börje Sellergren and Anette Gjörloff Wingren, who train and tutor 19 PhD students. This exhibition highlights the interdisciplinary work of the PhD students and shows their importance for the research.

The exhibition ”Fighting cancer with plastic bullets” is a result of collaboration between these two research projects at Malmö University and library staff. Together they have been preparing for months, discussing the content and format, and how to find ways of presenting the research outside the projects. The library work group and the project members have met in different constellations, and all the way co-production and mutual understanding have been central. The library work group has then presented the research in different shapes, such as images, filmed interviews and quotations, in order to make the research available to a broader public.

Let us now focus on The Researchers Gallery as an activity in Malmö University Library. It started out as a project with external funding by a project group within the library. The project The Researchers Gallery explored several things. One thing explored was the question of how the library can address the ways digitalisation is transforming behaviors in handling information and knowledge. Another thing explored was a new professional role, the librarian-curator. The essence of the project was the development of a model to co-produce exhibitions with researchers at the University. In order to document the processes and disseminate the experiences and new knowledge to others, the project group developed a web-based five-step model for sustainable exhibition production. The experiences from the project as well as the model for exhibition production have been presented on a national and international level. The national sharing has resulted in a network for Swedish libraries that want to explore the role of the librarian-curator and communicate research through exhibitions. On an international level, Lotta Wogensen made a paper presentation of The Researchers Gallery at the CPDWL Satellite meeting in Zagreb, August 2019. Link to the paper in the IFLA Library


So far, seven exhibitions have been produced within the frame of The Researchers Gallery. Some exhibitions have been co-productions with a single researcher, others with a group of researchers. At Malmö University Library, we are excited over this new way of communicating research, in close collaboration with the researcher(s), through exhibitions. We also find that we have explored, enhanced and developed the role of the library and librarians in a digital world. The Researchers Gallery is here to stay!