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Visual Arts

A library help guide to Visual Arts resources at UVic Libraries.

Writing Exhibition Labels

Types of Exhibition Labels

  • Introductory text (which orients the viewer to the exhibit and introduces the main idea)
  • Group (or section) labels (which introduce the main themes of the exhibit, and structure the flow or story of the exhibit)
  • Object labels (which identify individual objects, and how they connect with the themes and the big idea of the exhibit)
  • Credits and acknowledgements


Introductory Text

The introductory text introduces the big idea for the exhibition – but it also sets the tone and provides context for the exhibition. What does your viewer really need to know to explore the exhibition? How can you help someone who doesn’t know about this topic get oriented?

  • 200 words. Less is better.

Group Labels

Group Labels

Group labels introduce the main themes of the exhibition and help the viewer see how the parts of the exhibition fit together into the whole.  A group label should tell the viewer:

  • What is the theme here?
  • Why are these objects together?
  • What does this group/theme have to do with the main idea of the exhibition?

Group labels often have a header or title – if you can make the header catchy, funny, or provocative (but still accurate), you’ll get your audience’s attention.

  • 100 words or less. Less is better.

Object Labels (captions)

Object Labels: Object ID + 50 word caption

Object labels identify the image or object on display. They tell the viewer what they are looking at and why it is important – and help the viewer better understand and/or appreciate the main idea of the exhibition.

 The object ID identifies the object:

  • Artist or maker
  • Title, date
  • Medium
  • Credit line (who owns the object, where it originated, copyright notice, etc)

 The caption provides information and context:

  • Captions should refer to something we can see: what am I looking at?
  • Captions should tell us why this object is important: why am I looking at this?
  • Captions should connect this object to a bigger idea: what is the significance of this?
  • Captions should be “active, concrete, clear, and concise”[1]
  •  50 words or less. Less is much, much better.

[1] Beverly Serrell, Exhibit Labels: An Interpretive Approach (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Pres, 1996), p. 26.

Sample Label from Cultures in Counterpoint: Music, Image, and Text in Medieval Iberia


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