The new Vancouver Public Library was the site for one of the Conference's first workshops, "Special Collections in the Art & Architecture Library." 31 attendees and 8 speakers gathered in the VPL meeting room, where the group was graciously hosted by Mary-Anne MacDougall, Head of Special Collections.
Linda Kruger (Queens College and Pratt Institute), the first scheduled speaker, was unable to attend; her paper was read by Jean Hines (Pratt Institute). Linda detailed her extensive educational and professional background as an art and rare books librarian, which consisted of both formal training (B.A., M.A., M.L.S., and Ph.D. in Library Science degrees) and informal training (lecture series, professional organizations, continuing education workshops, such as the Columbia (now U-Virginia) Rare Books School, and book clubs). She discussed a few horror stories perpetrated by uninformed individuals or libraries looking to raise funds, such as the sale of the entire American trade catalog collection belonging to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
Linda also queried several other rare books librarians about their major concerns for the field today. Preservation issues were foremost, followed by librarians who do not know either what is in their collections or their values; lack of knowledge of basic bibliographic tools; and lack of fellowships for advanced education.
In her conclusion, Linda recommended ways today's librarians can improve
their expertise in this field. Among these were to take preservation
courses, enroll in the workshops of the Rare Book School, and to find a
mentor. She had several handouts, including a bibliography and printouts
from several relevant websites: The Rare Books and Manuscripts Section
(ALA) Educational Directory
http://www.princeton.edu/~ferguson/rbmsed/Rbms-dir.htm#CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA
University of Alabama's Book Arts Program
University of London's History of the Book Program
Society of the History of Authorshop, Reading, and Publishing
Paula Baxter (New York Public Library), who, unlike Linda, failed to take any courses relating to rare books, discussed the self-taught method. She believes that the training and perspective an art librarian has must be merged with rare book management essentials. It is not essential to learn all the lingo or even know all the various types of books typically found in rare book collections (e.g., chapbooks, Bibles). Rather, the importance lies with the physical attributes of the illustrated art book: Its paper, binding, and type of illustration process in use. There are often political issues related to rare and special collections: Designating materials as being rare or special collections when they were previously in the general collection; photocopying; security and viewing control; even access can differ from more general collections. However, the principles remain the same, i.e., keeping materials safe and exploiting them appropriately. The "treasures" nature of rare books and special collections means these materials may get more use for display or donor incentive sessions than more work-a-day items.
In a special collection, or one with rare and fragile materials, balancing the preservation needs of an item with its accessibility can be an issue as well. As a large research library open to everyone, NYPL is a microcosm of other institutions' experiences with this, particularly the question of photocopying for the patron when doing so may damage the material.
Publicity can be critical to a special collection, as it may bring in additional donations. Exhibitions can be especially useful for this, as they not only highlight what you already have, but inform donors who may also collect in that area.
Paula gave a number of tips on identifying and categorizing materials.
She suggested examining the items initially in an innocent and "critical"
fashion in terms of such categories as for preservation and potential exhibition
purposes. Look for characteristics that could create a special collection:
Unusual physical formats; notable features such as a group of chromolithograph
plate books on design and ornament; pattern or sample books; trade catalogues;
or even exhibition catalogues with unusual covers and materials in their
composition. She also cited the importance of having a good working relationship
with a variety of book dealers, particularly important when one must refer
patrons (and especially prospective donors) for appraisals and other advice;
and suggested beginning with those who are regular ARLIS/NA exhibitors
and sponsors. Probably her best advice was to network with those
in the know-other librarians, collectors, book dealers. As the result of
preparing exhibitions and writing catalogues, and conducting her own research,
Paula has been able to compile a useful bibliography for the working art
librarian. Among the titles she recommended highly were John Carter's
ABC for Book Collectors (7th ed.; New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1995)
and Five Hundred Years of Printing by S.H. Steinberg (4th ed., rev.; New
Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1996)
Art book dealer Laurence McGilvery shared some of his practices and unique experiences. One fascinating example was when Ed Ruscha's 26 Gasoline Stations was first published, it cost $3; a copy recently sold for $1,975. To alert unsuspecting librarians to the treasures that could be in their open collections, he wrote an article about his "Razorblade List" in the ARLIS/NA Newsletter(v.2, no.5, Summer 1974, pp.62-63), which he also provided to the attendees (the list itself remains unpublished). This is a list of books which were published mainly in the 1960s and 70s which included original color lithographs that are highly desirable to thieves.
This is just one instance which demonstrates the usefulness of building and maintaining good relationships with book dealers. Another is for referring prospective donors who need an appraisal. If you are planning a booksale, he suggested inviting a book dealer to review it first, just in case there is something valuable that was overlooked. Similarly, in some libraries it might be useful to have a book dealer evaluate all or part of a particular collection for those items which originally were everyday trade publications, but which over time have substantially increased in value (such as a 1970s monograph on Nicolai Fechin, now worth approximately $400-$500).
Larry concluded by expressing his concerns about the effect of the Web
on out-of-print bookstores and dealers, his opinion being that the general
op bookstore will go out of business (as have many bookstores carrying
in-print titles), and that such business will take place on the Web instead.
Alice Cornell of the University of Cincinnati Archives and Rare Books Dept. and Editor of the U-C Digital Press spoke about the Press' first project, a 2 vol. cd-rom set of George Catlin: The Printed Works (http://www.ucdp.uc.edu), based on works in the Rare Books Dept. Calling it "a new tool to do what we have done in the past," the cd allows the library to preserve rare material, enhance the collection, and provide greater access for scholars. It was decided to establish the Press within the library in order to produce the collections which can be used for research.
She discussed some of the issues she dealt with in developing this project, such as the need for a great deal of storage capacity and high speed. They decided to write their own interface, as an outside vendor would not have made this project his only priority. They were also able to set their own parameters, such as requiring a full bibliographic record with up to 21 subject headings (this, in turn, engendered much original thesaurus work). Notes from Catlin's 1848 catalogue were added as well, and links were made to map sites.
In this first edition, images are linked to points in the text where they were discussed; in the next version, the user will be able to do the reverse as well. Among the additional resources developed specifically for this project are a 156 page index to the text; a 1,500 item bibliography; listings of other Catlin repositories; and URLs for institutions with Catlin material.
The Press' next project will be The Aboriginal Port-folio from 1835/36
by James Otto Lewis; only two copies with all 80 plates exist in the U.S.
Future projects will continue to take advantage of the Library's rich collections,
including McKenney & Hall's History of Indian tribes of North America
and other Missouri River collections, all of which include art, artifacts,
and maps. They may partner with other institutions in similar endeavors.
Although current plans call for additional cd-roms, they may eventually
mount the materials on the web for access by subscription.
After lunch, Mary-Anne MacDougall led the group on a tour of VPL's Special
This department was only created when the Library moved into its new building
three years ago, and Mary-Anne is the first Head of Special Collections.
She gathered together a number of existing small collections to create
the department, and has gradually been adding individual works, such as
Ackermann's Microcosm of London (1808-1809?), Thomas Dibdin's 1822 volumes
on Althorp and its collections, Repton's Fragments on the Theory
and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1816), and 18th & 19th century
travel journals. Among its collections are the Vancouver Building
Register, over 250,000 photographs of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory
from the 1880s to the present, and juvenile literature by Canadian authors.
TheDept. also provides a copystand and camera for patron use.
Carol Knicely of the Fine Arts Dept. at the University of British Columbia
discussed her experience in having students in her upper-division Medieval
art course use the facsimiles in the Fine Arts Library Special Collections
for an assignment. She worked closely with the librarians of the
UBC Fine Arts Library to develop the assignment. Working in pairs, the
students chose one Book of Hours to examine and describe. They
were required to discuss what scenes were illustrated in the Office of
the Virgin; locate any donor portraits or coats of arms; and describe some
of the marginalia and other border imagery. The second part of the
assignment required them to use a periodical index to locate an article
about their particular manuscript, read it, and then to "reflect on the
ways a knowledge of the facture of the original manuscript or a knowledge
of the facsimile was useful/necessary for the development of the argument
contained in the
article," as well as to determine what important points or questions cannot be answered just by examining the manuscript.
Carol considered the assignment to be a success as it helped the
students in understanding the differences between large "public"
manuscripts such as the Book of Kells and small prayer books (e.g., Psalter
of St. Louis). She found it also got the students more involved,
both with one another and with the material.
The cataloging of an art instructional collection recently given to the Huntington Library was the topic of Elizabeth Robinson (Huntington Library). The Korzenik Collection contains materials from the 19th century through the 1940s, and includes books, pamphlets, and serials, as well as coloring/drawing/copy books, stencil kits, a drawing desk, geometric models, a mannekin, and myriad other artifacts. The challenge was to develop a methodology for cataloging these materials that would be suitable for a grant application.
Through a series of actual catalog records, Elizabeth discussed the
critical issues in the record, referring to the typical bibliographic tools
she uses as a rare books cataloger (e.g., Descriptive Cataloging of Rare
Books (aka DCRB), which replaces Chapter 2 of AACR2 on early printed books;
the RBMS Thesauri; and, for artifacts, the Art and Architecture Thesaurus).
For some of the ephemera and realia, she decided to do collection level
rather than item level records, and she included an example of that as
Rosemary Haddad (Canadian Centre for Architecture) addressed the topic of realia as a special collection. The CCA Library collects architectural ephemera, such as blocks, shopping bags, souvenir buildings, and cookie cutters, and she outlined how such materials can be utilized. Construction toys, for example, are effective in fostering awareness of the work of architecture, while shifting social values can be seen in the development of toy villages. Additionally, as more scholars and researchers look to popular culture in their work, comic books and commemorative objects can provide them with useful avenues of research. Yet, despite this burgeoning interest, realia are usually not collected by "serious" institutions.
Items such as miniature buildings and Worlds' Fairs souvenirs can also
be used for public outreach, exhibits, and fundraising. The CCA's
collection began in the early 1970s with the donation of a single item,
and continues to be built mostly by gifts, many from library staff members;
others have been purchased for very little money. Another useful
technique is to solicit donations from the manufacturer. When Rosemary
attends conferences of the Souvenir Building Society, she also talks up
the CCA, garnering more publicity for the institution, and possible eventual
gifts as well. When she curates an exhibition, she also publishes
catalogue; the educational programs, which often include workshops, have also become very popular. All of these help to promote the CCA in general
and the Library in particular.
The CCA's collection of Worlds' Fairs souvenirs comprises 1,500 print and non-print items from 50 different expositions held from 1844 (Paris) to the 1990s. Among these are china, medals, tea tins, and jewelry, often architectural in nature. Such ephemera has played a crucial role in the dissemination of experimental architecture that was featured at the exposition.
One of their most recent gifts was the Norman Stevens librariana collection. She was allowed to choose the items she wanted (not all of it was architectural), and includes postcards, library book plates, china, paperweights, and license plates.
Rosemary succinctly answered the question of why these sorts of materials
should be in the library and not another department by stating that it
is the library that makes the objects accessible via cataloging any thing
in any format (each item is cataloged according to AACR2 and given an LC
call number); by resource sharing; and the fact that they had a special
Victoria Steele (University of Southern California) brought everyone into the future with her presentation. She began by stating that change has changed, and therefore planning has changed. In scholarship, there is a de-emphasis on the traditional approach of literary history and bibliography and a shift away from the critical edition of a text to interdisciplinary studies and to reevaluation of the library canon. It is now necessary to look at the margins for collecting areas. She now collects for communities, obtaining materials which are interesting to different groups, perhaps for differing reasons. Victoria cited the Catlin project is an excellent example of this sort of collecting.
It is now more important than ever to build partnerships and coalitions, as Alice Cornell did, and to develop constitutencies. The new art histories are filled with inquiries based on culture, not objects, and thus more primary source materials are required.
Likewise, there has been a redefinition of what is "antiquarian." Taking the place of the traditional antiquarian collections of rare books and often secondary sources are such collections as the CCA's. Thus it is important to be alert to the topics of the moment, and realize that sometimes style is as important as content.
Furthermore, our institutions are rapidly changing. Progressive management styles requiring more flexibility, more participation by others, and decentralized departments will become the norm, creating new sets of challenges and opportunities for anyone working with special collections.
Amy Navratil Ciccone
University of Southern California