This holiday season, the Brooklyn Museum Library is pleased have one of its collections channeled through the holiday window display of Henri Bendel at 721 5th Ave. (at 56th St.). The display features mannequins wearing garments inspired by the Bendel Fashion Sketch Collection, held in the Brooklyn Museum Library’s Special Collections.
Your history books will tell you that the advertising industry as we know it in was born in the 1920s. Your television will tell you that it really took shape in the 1960s. The Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives own several scrapbooks which show that some aspects of our modern advertising industry were born much earlier. The current Library display exhibition at the Museum Library includes one of these scrapbooks, a number of loose tradecards advertising various businesses, many of them in Brooklyn, as well as books and postcards.
As the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) intern for 2012, I am fortunate to be spending time at all three New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC) libraries. The Frick Art Reference Library and those of the Brooklyn Museum and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) share many attributes. One of these is the important role that collecting expeditions played in increasing the holdings of each institution. Interestingly, in the early twentieth century these libraries supported major expeditions that were led by women. These bold travelers came from a variety of backgrounds and socioeconomic classes and were ahead of their time.
I recently walked through the Elizabeth Sackler wing on the 4th floor of the Brooklyn Museum and found myself at Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party. This led, quite naturally, to thoughts of food and entertaining. Food evokes an emotional response through both flavor and presentation, and new recipes are the result of creativity. All of these qualities tie the edible to the artistic. Entertaining, too, has a connection to art. The host picks china, glassware, and linens that please the eye and sprinkles them with food to please the tongue and conversation to please the ear. A dinner party could be described as a performance piece enacted by the host and guests. This connection has resulted in a gorgeous array of artists’ books on the subject of food and entertaining.
Gowanus. DUMBO. Red Hook. Bed-Stuy. These Brooklyn neighborhoods, among others, represent the borough’s notable status as a thriving hotbed of arts and cultural production. At the Brooklyn Museum, highlighting the work of Brooklyn-based artists ranges from a series of exhibitions known as Raw/Cooked to documentation in the Library and Archives. Moreover, we are making previously hidden information on Brooklyn art accessible in the Library and Archives, with the support of a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.
The recently completed NYARC digitization project “Documenting the Gilded Age: New York City Exhibitions at the Turn of the 20th Century,” was the product of a collaboration between the Frick Art Reference Library and the Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archive. Like many collaborative digital projects, “Documenting Gilded Age” exposed both the challenges and unique opportunities that come from transforming physical items – in this case rare, ephemeral exhibition catalogs – into digital form.
The art exhibitions of small galleries, society clubs, and associations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries chronicle the emergence of New York City as a metropolis destined to be a global center for the international art market. Ephemeral exhibition catalogs, checklists, and pamphlets from this period document artistic movements, artists of the period, economic markets, and social and cultural history. The materials from eleven galleries, clubs, and associations that have played a pivotal role in the history of art and New York City have been digitized from the collections of the Frick Art Reference Library and the Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives and are now available to researchers worldwide. Spanning the period from 1875 to 1922, this initial collection serves as the foundation for a more comprehensive project to document the New York City art scene at the turn of the 20th century.
I was recently offered the opportunity to explore the collection of the Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives and write about it. Delighted, I approached the collection and said, “Where do I start?” This was a surprisingly difficult question; there was just so much to see! Overwhelmed, I sat down and thought about what the library was all about. I’ve learned that the main purpose of a museum’s library is to support its collection. So I was not surprised to discover that The Wilbour Library of Egyptology (a section of the Brooklyn Museum’s Libraries and Archives) is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world, as the Museum’s Egyptology collection is one of the largest and finest in the world. The Museum has been acquiring Egyptian art since the turn of the twentieth century and acquired a large collection assembled by Charles Edwin Wilbour, whose personal library also formed the core of The Wilbour Library. After learning this, I decided that The Wilbour Library was the place to begin. However, with close to 50,000 volumes, this did not make the task any less daunting.
Processing the acquisitions on the Special Collections shelf is always a highlight of my week, especially when I know we’re expecting mail from Printed Matter or a book artist has been by to visit recently. I approach the task knowing that strange and beautiful books of all shapes and sizes await me, and that processing will most likely not entail the usual rote click-click-click through, a cog in the wheel of acquisitions procedure, as the majority of the artist’s books we acquire are not in OCLC's WorldCat, a world-wide catalog of library catalogs, and require a unique new record to be generated.
Over the past three years, 30 talented interns from the Pratt Institute, School of Information & Library Science, have passed through our doors here at the Brooklyn Museum Libraries, Archives and Digital Lab, thanks to an IMLS-funded grant (Institute of Museum and Library Services). These M-LEAD (Museum Library Education and Digitization) interns have been instrumental in a variety of important contributions, from processing and describing archival materials, to digitizing images for online accessibility, to clearing copyright and cataloging library resources, just to name a few!