Over the course of the last year, I have worked on creating a collection inventory of the artists' books collection at UNCG. The resulting product is meant to be a living document--one that is reviewed and updated regularly with new acquisitions or transfers from circulating collections in Jackson Library.
The collection inventory, provided the necessary data to conduct an initial analysis of the collection strengths and gaps. That investigation has informed an Artists' Books Collection Development Policy. A collection development policy can describe the history of a collection, how it is used and by whom, as well as guide staff in making acquisition decisions.
Historically, collection decisions may have been guided by a desire to complete a collection of an artist's work, to support curriculum or instruction, or simply because an artist's book was remarkable in its production or content. Though those are all valid reasons for acquisitions decisions, the policy will help home in on what our priorities should be.
|A pop-up exhibition of items from the |
Artists' Books Collection, 2019
Despite the variety of artists’ books specimens already in the collection, the primary focus for building the collection is to select artists’ books that support the curriculum and instruction of UNCG students and to align with other collecting strengths within Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA). As UNCG began as a college for women, some of those strengths include the history of women in the military, women’s literature, Home Economics pamphlets and cookbooks, as well as physical education and performing arts among others. SCUA has also prioritized collecting examples of a variety of binding and printing methods.
Moving forward, in addition to the prior listed categories, new acquisitions will focus on artists or authors from North Carolina or subject matter related to North Carolina. Likewise, SCUA is committed to building a more diverse and inclusive collection of artists and authors represented in the Artists’ Books Collection, including those of any race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.
The acquisition decisions are made collaboratively with the SCUA Department Head, the Rare Books Specialist, and other library faculty and staff with relevant expertise. Periodically, artists’ books may be identified among Jackson Library’s circulating collections and transferred to SCUA to become part of the Artists’ Books Collection, as noted in an earlier blog post.
Ellen Knudsen's work for CAUSE:EFFECT,
a collaborative book project exhibited in 2019
Although SCUA endeavors to represent a broad range of examples of artists’ books, the nature of the field of artists’ books is quite expansive and we are unable to adequately represent books of every type and category. In spite of this, there are very few items we will not consider for the collection. Those include books containing hate speech or related offensive contents, those of questionable structure or materials that may be challenging to preserve or store, or those that are simply too costly for us.
In addition to building the collection, SCUA is exploring ways to increase the visibility of the collection through various methods, such as outreach events, exhibitions, or modifying descriptions of artists' books in our online catalog to improve search results. Likewise, we will continue to investigate methods of increasing the use of the collection, such as creating a visual reference guide to the collection or creating lists of titles related to various subjects or other characteristics. For example, creating a list of titles about nature or a list of books using a certain binding or printing method. In any case, the goal is to make it easier to find and enjoy the artists' books collection at UNCG. We look forward to being able to welcome visitors in to see the artists' books collection in person once pandemic restrictions have lifted and it is safe to do so.