Work Beyond the Reading Room

If you are one of the patrons of the Amon Carter Museum Library, all that you might see is the reading room, and one of the fine library staff members helping you find what you need in the library. The reading room is a great space - quiet and welcoming – designed by architect Philip Johnson. At the east end are the periodicals which the Carter subscribes to, along the south wall are the major reference works in the library (catalogue raisonné, etc.) and the Bio Files. On the west wall are the study alcoves, and the north wall displays the collection of exhibition catalogs held at the Carter. It’s a wonderful space, and as I said, really the only space that most patrons of the library see. Behind the scenes, though, it’s a different world.

For example, how does the Carter decide what resources to add to the library’s large collection of over 100,000 items? What path do these items take from the bookseller to the stacks? What happens when a patron requests a book? What about interlibrary loans? Also, the library is just not books, periodicals, and ephemera. It is also a repository for some very important archives – such as the archives of Laura Gilpin, Eliot Porter, Karl Struss, and important records relating to the history of the museum itself. What of the archives, then?

My mind was filled with these questions when I began volunteering at the library here at the Carter. My name is Jason Dean, and I am a student at Syracuse University earning my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. Before I started my library science program, I contacted the Carter library about providing me some practical library experience. So far, working at the Carter has provided me with a wealth of experiences and knowledge, some of which I would like to share with you – and I might even be able to answer some of those “How does it work” questions I posed above.

For my first post, allow me to give you a brief description of how the museum selects what resources are purchased and then added to the collection. There is a document that states a broad collection development policy. It's the tool that guides what the library collects. Though it offers some solid boundaries, it must also be flexible enough to accommodate new subject matter that may relate to new art entering the collection or special research projects. Any of the staff members (including curatorial staff) can propose the purchase of a book, but the final “veto” power rests with Sam, as he is the library director. Individual librarians have influenced the document as well, with their interests and their quest to expand the collection of the library in a meaningful way. These purchases can be sourced from any number of businesses, from ones we use every day – Amazon – to specialized rare book dealers. If an item falls within the areas outlined by the collection development policy, then the subject is researched to see if it will fit into the collection of resources we have here. If it does, then the item is purchased and integrated into the collection.

We also receive a great number of books which are gifts, or books that are sent in exchange by other museums. When the Carter exchanges books with another museum, generally we will send them exhibition catalogues they are interested in, and in exchange they will send us the books we want that the other museum has published. As I mentioned above, we have some very generous donors that give books outright to the library frequently. These gifts are recorded, and then they are researched to see if they fit into out collection.

Depending upon the size of the item purchased, it might simply go into the extensive bio files and skip the next step in the process altogether. However, if Sam, Jon, or Mary Jane think it best, the item will go on to the next step in the process.

What happens to the book next? Do we just put it on the shelf and leave it be? This question will be answered in the next post, which will take you through part of the behind the scenes area in the library. I hope you enjoyed this small look into the library, and I also hope you’ll keep checking “The N-Files” blog, as there is some great information about this wonderful library on the blog.

Jason Dean

More About Art and Health

Researchers from Italy’s University of Bari have announced that looking at art may help ease pain. Twelve healthy subjects were inflicted with a strong stinging pain while looking at works of art that they had previously seen and given a rating of beautiful, neutral, or ugly. Perceived pain was reported to be one-third less intense when subjects looked at art rated as beautiful. On the other hand, the pain was reported as more intense when the subjects rated the art they were looking at as ugly.

Coming to the Carter may ease your physical pain and it won’t cause pain to your wallet either. All exhibitions are free all the time!

Photo of the Week: Winter in Sarasota

This installment of Photo of the Week features photographer Marion Post Wolcott (1910-1990), who would have turned 99 this week. Wolcott is best known for her body of work created for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression. Her sister, Helen Post (1907-1979), was also a photographer whose archive of 11,000 prints and negatives is here at the Carter!

Now on to the photo...

Marion Post Wolcott, Winter Tourists Picnicking on Beach near Sarasota, Fla., 1941, gelatin silver print, Gift of Dr. John Wolcott, Los Alamos, New Mexico

Robert Colescott (1925-2009)

The painter Robert Colescott passed away last week at age 83. Although I was exposed to Colescott's work in college, I didn't know until I read the his obituary in the New York Times that he studied with Fernand Leger and represented the US at the 1997 Venice Biennale. A Colescott lithograph from the Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African-American Art will be on view in the Carter's special exhibition galleries through August 23.

Edited to add: More info on Robert Colescott over at Time Magazine's Looking Around blog.

“Texas’ Gift to the Nation”

On June 6, 1944, Amon Carter handed over the deed to the land that formed the Big Bend National Park. Mr. Carter and his paper, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, spearheaded the drive to raise funds from the people of Texas to purchase the land.

Take the time to visit this incredible place. Be sure to visit the Basin and see Amon Carter Peak.

Carter Art @ MOMA & SFMOMA

The Carter has five photographs in MOMA's current exhibition Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West, which closes June 8. If you're going to be in NYC, stop and check them out.

White Birch, one of the Carter's six paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe, is also currently on view at SFMOMA until September as part of the exhibition Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities.

Photo of the Week: Roping Rabbits

This week's photo brings some levity back to the blog. The image is actually a 100-year-old postcard that was included in the Carter's 2004 exhibition, Wish You Were Here! Early Postcards from the Collection. I like this photo not only because it's funny, but it reminds me of one of my favorite (completely ridiculous) horror movies, Night of the Lepus.

William H. Martin, [Lassoing a rabbit], gelatin silver print (postcard), 1909

A Heart (and Art) Friendly Suggestion

Looking for a great walking workout? Consider taking a tour of the public art in the Cultural District. You can find a handy self-guided tour on our Web site that will inspire you as well as help you to get to your workout target zone.

Photo of the Week: Close Up

I've been tinkering with the digital macro feature on my own camera this week, so I thought Photo of the Week would be a great opportunity to show off a couple of close-ups from the Carter's photography collection.

Edward Weston, No. 10--Pepper, gelatin silver print, 1930, ©1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

Willard Van Dyke, Mushrooms, ca. 1934, gelatin silver print 1977, © 1934 Barbara M. Van Dyke

Photo of the Week: Gertrude Käsebier

This Monday would have been the 157th birthday of photographer Gertrude Käsebier, the subject of week's photo of the week post.

Käsebier was very influential in the early 20th century, not just for her pictorialist portrait photography, but also for her independence and efforts to promote women in photography.

Clara Sipprell, Gertrude Käsebier, Photographer, platinum print, ca. 1910-1911

Käsebier didn't attend art school until her late 30s, and didn't try photography until her early 40s. A few years later, she was already taking her famous portraits of Native Americans touring with wild west shows through New York and was included in Alfred Stieglitz's photography magazine, Camera Notes. She was one of the first women members of the Linked Ring and a founding member of Stieglitz's Photo-Secession group. The first issue of Stieglitz's influential photography magazine, Camera Work, was dedicated exclusively to Käsebier's work.

For photo of the week, here are a few of Käsebier's photographs from the Carter's copy of the inaugural January 1903 issue of Camera Work.

Gertrude Käsebier, Blessed Art Thou Among Women, photogravure

Gertrude Käsebier, Portrait (Miss N.), photogravure

Gertrude Käsebier, The Red Man, photogravure