Famous and/or infamous alumni.
Law in Literature.
Literature by Lawyers.
Famous Lawyers Who Never Went to Law School.
State or Regional Interest.
Judicial and Legislative Oddities.
Banned Books and the Constitution or Censorship and the Constitution.
Holidays, Heritage Months, and Theme Weeks
Legal Research – Include copies of cases or other authority that discuss the necessity of doing good legal research. Possible items to include:
Famous and/or infamous alumni - Include headshots from graduation or other law school pictures, current pictures, brief biographies, publications, etc. Another twist: alumni involved in pro bono work or working in the public interest sector. Include candid photographs of them at work and excerpts from interviews with clients, news stories, etc.
Law in Literature – Use books and short stories featuring law and lawyers. Possible items include:
Literature by Lawyers – Use poetry, short stories, fiction, well-written non-fiction and even well-written opinions by lawyers and judges. Possible items include:
Further resources: Lawyers as Poets page: http://www.wvu.edu/~lawfac/jelkins/lp-2001/intro/lp1.html
You can also add poetry about the law, such as Auden's "Law Like Love"
Suggestion: display photographs of these people with their names on captions, with a query – what do all of these people have in common?
Famous Lawyers Who Never Went to Law School – Display photographs and brief biographies of:
You can add a famous law-school dropout: Clarence Darrow
Famous American Trials –
These exhibits can be done one trial per exhibit (either a one-time exhibit or a rotating exhibit, with perhaps a new trial featured each month), or a larger exhibit with several trials. Case opinions, newspaper stories, depictions of the trial in popular culture (novels and films), and photographs or portraits of the participants should be easily available for these trials.
Legal Heroes – Illustrate exhibit with quotes about heroes. Good examples can be found at:http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/trialheroes/HEROSEARCH3.html
Pictures, case opinions, law review articles, and books would all make good exhibit objects.
Corporate Crime – Illustrate exhibit with logos (observing all applicable copyright laws of course), pictures of corporate headquarters, newspaper articles, items that each corporation sells. Include summary of corporate misdoings and any punishment handed down. Possible candidates for inclusion:
Exxon Corporation: Paid $125 million fine stemming from federal criminal charges arising out of the Valdez oil spill. Include pictures of oil-stained birds, copy of the famous newspaper ad apologizing for the spill.
Louisiana-Pacific: Pleaded guilty to 18 felonies and has paid $37 million in fines for pollution, consumer fraud, and whistle-blower violations.
Summitville Consolidated Mining Co.: Pleaded guilty to 40 counts of violating the Clean Water Act and other federal statutes at a mining operation. Killed a 16 mile stretch of river.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.: Pleaded guilty to 21 felony counts and paid $18 million in fines for dumping oil and waste and lying to the United States Coast Guard. Illustrate with cruise brochures.
General Electric: Pleaded guilty to defrauding the federal government in the sale of military equipment to Israel.
Colonial Pipeline Company: Pleaded guilty to criminal charges in connection with a spill of almost one million gallons of oil into the Reedy River in South Carolina. The spill killed about 35,000 fish as well as many beaver, muskrat, turtles, and other animals dependent on the river.
Legal History of Your State or Region - Display photographs, portraits, and biographies of important people in the legal history of your state, together with blown up copies of important state legal documents. If your city or region has hosted a notable trial, or is the home of a famous judge or lawyer, an exhibit focused on that event or person is likely to be well-received.
The American Flag – Display different versions of the American flag, cases about the flag (Texas v. Johnson), the United States Flag Code, articles about the flag, and lyrics from songs about the flag. Libraries with multimedia capacity for their exhibits could have patrons listen to songs about the flag
Judicial or Legislative Oddities – Highlight funny cases and rhyming or punning opinions. A library could also do an accompanying exhibit on funny or absurd laws, with accompanying realia. For example, in Tennessee it is illegal to carry a skunk into the state – an exhibit could include a blow-up of this law with a stuffed skunk (plush, not taxidermied). One caveat – beware of highlighting absurd laws, as many of the lists of "funny laws" or "dumb laws" are unverified and contain "laws" that were never passed.
Alternative use of display cases: allow student groups (or interested faculty) occasional use of the display cases in order to create their own themes and displays. Allowing students to create their own displays will result in greater interest in, and a sense of participation in, the law library (as well as resulting in interesting displays).
Banned Books and the Constitution or Censorship and the Constitution – In conjunction with Banned Books Week (held in late September each year). Exhibit items could include books that have been banned, portraits of their authors, case opinions and law review articles about book banning, images of burned books or book burnings, or even partially burned books themselves.
Links that might be useful in compiling a display on banned books:
Libraries that can use multimedia in their exhibits have included videotape of banned films (such as The Tin Drum), and performers (Elvis Presley), and listening stations where patrons can listen to banned, challenged, or blacklisted music, such as Verdi's Rigoletto, The Weavers, Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You," the Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie," Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Ohio," "Suicide Solution" by Ozzy Osbourne, 2 Live Crew's 2 Live is What We Are, Nasty as They Wanna Be, or Move Somethin', N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton, anything by Ice Cube, anything by Marilyn Manson, anything by the Indigo Girls, Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady," and Steve Earle's "John Walker's Blues."
Holidays, Heritage Months, and Theme Weeks
Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 - October 15 – Could include pictures of important Latinos in the law, such as New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid, Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Court of Appeals Second Circuit, California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, Maria Echeveste, former deputy White House Chief of Staff, and Antonia Hernandez, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Could also include case opinions such as Cano v. Davis, 191 F. Supp. 2d 1135 (C.D. Cal. 2001); Pemberthy v. Beyer, 19 F.3d 857 (3rd Cir. 1994); Riverside v. Rivera, 477 U.S. 561 (1986); and Keyes v. School District, 413 U.S. 189 (1973).
Lesbian & Gay History Month (October) – Include: news clippings about cases currently in the news together with pictures of the people involved in those cases; books and law review articles relating to gay rights and issues; blown-up copies of military policies; pictures of prominent gay and lesbian lawyers and judges (perhaps a picture of Roy Cohn would fit in here); and pictures and memorabilia (t-shirts, buttons) from Gay Pride marches.
Libraries with the capacity for multimedia displays could include videos such as Outlooks (available from the Law School Admissions Council, discusses the experiences of gay and lesbian law students and attorneys), The Times of Harvey Milk, and Daddy & Papa.
Black History Month (February) – Include portraits of prominent people in African-American legal history, such as Dred Scott, Cinque (from the Amistad), Rosa Parks, Anthony Burns, Carol Mosley Braun, Charles Hamilton Houston, blow-ups of important documents such as early broadsides against slavery, and newspaper stories on church bombings and freedom rides.
Libraries with multimedia capacity could include a listening booth for patrons to hear songs about incidents important in African-American legal history, such as Leadbelly's "The Scottsboro Boys," "We Shall Overcome," "Strange Fruit," "Freedom is a Constant Struggle," "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," and "In the Mississippi River." A video booth for watching films such as Freedom on My Mind could also be part of the display. A particularly on-point film is Out of Obscurity: The Struggle to Desegregate America's Libraries.
Another possibility would be to focus on one selected issue in African-American legal history, such as the Amistad case, the Dred Scott case, the Scottsboro Boys trial, the Freedom Rides, the Mississippi Burning trials, or the Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteenth.
Yet another possibility is to highlight African-American legal history in your state. Such a display could include cases on racial discrimination from your state's courts, blow-ups of (hopefully repealed) laws that discriminate against African-Americans, current news clips, and portraits of prominent African-American attorneys and early African-American attorneys.
Sites that describe Black History Month library displays:
Women's History Month (March) – Feature prominent women lawyers and judges from the past and present. Or focus more narrowly on a particular field (Women Lawyers in Tennessee) or person (Ruth Bader Ginsburg).
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May) – Feature Asian-American judges or a particular incident in legal history, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Such a display could include blow-ups of Executive Order 9066, the Korematsu case, and books and law review articles about the internment camps. There are many photographs of the process which could also be used in a display. Libraries with multimedia capacity could show films on the internment camps and host listening booths with songs about them, such as Tom Russell's "Manzanar." Reproductions of letters and artwork from the camps are also available and would be good display items.
Additional web resources:
Description of Tarlton Law Library's exhibit, "500 Years of Legal Language":
Descriptions of exhibits by the Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Books Room of the Boston College Law Library:
Display documenting the history of the University of Oklahoma Law School:
Harvard Law Library publishes catalogs of its library exhibits. The list of titles and contact information is available here:
Harvard Law Library's exhibit on "Medieval Society and the Law in England, 1100-1600":
Harvard Law Library's exhibit on "Food & Drink in the Law Library":
University of Louisville Law Library's display spotlighting violence against women:
University of British Columbia Law Library display on life in prison:
Display on Watergate: summary and discussion from Hastings Law Library:
Many thanks to members of the email list lawlib, who contributed many of the initial ideas for this compilation.
Do you have any display ideas to share? Please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org