23 April 2018

5 Asian art books you need for your library this spring

From a newly published exploration of the Silk Road to beautifully illustrated exhibition catalogues, this list of 5 Asian art books is sure to bring your library collection up to date.

Global by Design: Chinese Ceramics from the R. Albuquerque Collection
Focused on Chinese ceramics of the late 16th to the 18th century, this catalogue that accompanied the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, details 60 spectacular pieces from the never before seen Brazilian private collection. The entries demonstrate change in design reflecting Chinese and Islamic influences of the period, the transformation of dining styles and the story of the trade of Chinese Ceramics in Asia and its introduction in Europe and the Americas.  
Click here to buy
Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on the Silk Road
The famed Mogao grottoes along the Silk Road in northwestern China are one the world's most important sites of Buddhist art. Carved into the 45,000 square metres of cliff rocks at the edge of the Gobi desert, wall paintings and sculptures have been preserved for one thousand years and detail the intense spiritual and artistic history and cultural exchanges along the Silk Road. This book that accompanies the exhibition at LACMA celebrates more than 25 years of collection between Getty Conservation Institute and the Dunhuang Academy to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site. It represents more than 40 exquisite treasures discovered at Mogao in 1900 in Cave 17, known as the “Library Cave.” including sutras, prayer books, illustrated manuscripts and medieval silk paintings.
Click here to buy

Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan
The pinnacle of Japanese artistic expression is often considered as the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Devotees of the time sort to obtain salvation in the afterlife through making Buddhist imagery and believed the realistic form of deities would achieve the ultimate ritual unification. With the custom of placing relics and texts into miniature icons grew, these sculptures played an important role is bringing worshippers into closer proximity with deities. This richly illustrated catalogue accompanying the exhibition, contains essays by scholars exploring these magnificent sculptures of this period that display greater realism through stylistic and technical innovations such as naturalistic sense of movement in drapery and animated facial expressions. As sculptors began to sign their artwork, this catalogue examines the development of individual and workshop styles and allow us to trace generations through traditional and new practices. 
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Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave
Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) is one of Japan's most famous and influential artists. This personal beliefs and encyclopedic knowledge of nature and myth are expressed in his paintings, woodblock prints and illustrated books along with his desire to live to one hundred years old. This publication shrines a light on the finest collection of Hokusai's paintings and prints in Japan and around the world created in the last thirty years of his life up to his death at the age of ninety. It also draws attention to his daughter Eijo (Ōi) and accomplished and accompanying artist in his later year. This catalogue accompanies the successful major exhibition at the British Museum, where a Hokusai inspired menu was also well receive in the Great Court Restaurant (read here
Arts of Korea: Histories Challenges and Perspectives
This beautifully illustrated volume presents 16 case studies of collecting and exhibiting Korean art from UK and US museums. This monumental addition to the field of Korean art and the varied experience of Korean art acquisition over the past century including topics such as gallery design at the British Museum, collectors and benefactors at the National Museum of Scotland, Buddhist paints at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the prevalence of ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It also represents the reception of Korean art internationally from prehistory to present through the reflection of Korean and Japanese scholars and the future challenges in introducing Korean art to an international audience.  
Click here to buy

15 May 2017

Exhibition review: Celebrating art and music: the SOAS collections at the Brunei Gallery

Exhibitions are a great way for libraries and organisations to highlight the strength of their collections through a creative narrative and relaxed environment. Exhibitions are also a great way to for librarians to increase public access to the collections. 

In April, the Brunei Gallery opened its Centenary Exhibition, 'Celebrating art and music: the SOAS collections'. This exhibition explores visual arts and music of Asia, Africa and the Middle East through the rich history of collections at SOAS, with a combination of manuscripts, books, painting, photographs, 3D objects and audio-visual display. 

I got my ticket for the official launch of the exhibition and headed of the gallery on May 3rd and I was amazed by what I saw on display. Curator Anna Contadini introduced the exhibition with Nigerian artist Sokari Douglas Camp's modern welded steel sculptures. I loved her sculpture of a woman blowing kisses titled "Kissss Me" because it resembled the colour of a red lipstick. I also smiled at her stand alone sculpture of a mother, father and daughter dancing probably at a church as they each wore 'Jesus loves me' slogans. 

The exhibition continued through North African and the Middle East. Contadini stated that although some instruments were normally played by men during the Ottoman Period, women were depicted playing flutes and santurs. It was great to see this within the exhibition. The displays slowly changed toward Asian artworks with a long 17th-century Japanese scroll depicting a procession of Korean Ambassadors on horseback. This recently restored piece was beautiful and full of vibrant colours.  

We then encountered a set of 20th-century drums, metallophone, xylophone and gongs from across South-east Asia as the exhibition moved downstairs. To my surprise, we were led into a great live musical performance of a large Thai gong circle, that was also on display. Afterwards, our performer explained the significance these instruments played in the development of ceremonial music and the variety of set play variations that were introduced across the region. The gongs continuing to playing in the background really set the scene for the rest of the exhibition. 

I highly recommend you viewing the pioneering work of South Asian Ethnomusicologist Arnold Adriaan Bake; listening to the recording made from a Tibetan manuscript record of chants; photography from Mustang by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf and looking at the LP album covers of a collection of songs from the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The exhibition closes on June 24th.

My main take away from the exhibition and talk by Contadini was the emphases she placed on the collections being central and reflective of the scholarly engagements at SOAS. From students playing many of the instruments on display and the new research analysis of music from art. 

Another perk about attending this exhibition opening evening was discounted sale of the accompanying exhibition catalogues. I took full advance of the 50% off to acquire the catalogue for my library collections. Unfortunately, this offer has now passed but you can pick up your copy of Celebrating art and music: the SOAS collections edited by Anna Contadini here

7 May 2017

'Printing and the Mind: Seventeenth-Century Transformations' Archive Evening

Straight after work on April 24th, I went to the Stationers' Company Annual Archive Evening. This year they held a forum on 'Printing and the Mind: Seventeenth-Century Transformations' in combination with an exhibition in association with Cambridge University Library.
The formal talk of the evening began with Liverymen and President of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain, Gordon Johnson. He emphasised the importance of heritage assets been conserved and accessible and the great expansion of the history of the book in business and intellectual terms. He also made key announcements of the Stationers' Company effects in doing this, including a new digital publication of the Stationers' Company Archive with Adam Matthew Digital. 'Literary Print Culture: The Stationers' Company Archive, 1554-1984" is a valuable resource to explore the history of the book trade from 1554 to the 20th century. Also, a there is new Archives and Library facility due to open in November 2017 back in the Stationer's Hall.

Johnson followed up by introducing co-chair, Ian Gadd, book historian and Professor of English Literature at Bath Spa University. He reiterated the need for organisations to celebrate achievements in scholarly publishing before introducing our two speakers. Mr Scott Mandelbrote, Perne Librarian of Peterhouse, Cambridge, outlined the circumstances of learned printing presses predominating in London at the end of the 16th century. For example, problems in the cost of acquiring scholarly books mostly printed in Europe and the time taken for scholars to make language translations to print. 

Dr Freyja Cox Jensen, a lecturer at Exeter University, followed by giving an intriguing speech highlighting the English cultural history of classical learning. Once exclusive to rich predominantly white men, classical learning began to spread after 1711. To compete with European stationers, who at the time were at the forefront of scholarly publication, English stationers increased the quantity of printing with the development of new typefaces and metal engraved illustrations. This caused a reduction in book price as more scholars were able to purchase their own copies. I found it quite fascinating that the introduction of English language translations during the mid-17th century encouraged a rise in literacy as printing moved away for the limited knowledge of Latin. 

It was quite clear that classical learning and the development of printing technology greatly influences present day in terms of culture and thinking. Furthermore, its was quite interesting to know that as a few individuals tried to stop these new contributions to English literature, they had to learn to cope with the revolution of printing technology that has taken us into the digital age. Nonetheless, the history of university printing presses like Oxford and Cambridge through this revolution is important to conserve to understand how far we have come. 

After the talk and a brilliant spread of nibbles and refreshments, I took the opportunity to look around the exhibition. Curated by Liam Sims of Cambridge University, the exhibition displayed various manuscripts including Robert Hooke's Micrographia (1665), Joseph Moxon's Mechanik Exercises (1682) covering all aspects of printing and Thomas Sprat's History of the Royal Society (1667) opened on the beautiful frontispiece of Charles II being crowned surrounded by many scientific instruments. It was also wonderful to see the intricate illustration of the opening page of the Stationers' Company charter issued by Charles II on display. 

The exhibition also highlighted new technologies for librarians and researchers from Cambridge University. For example, Cambridge Core, an academic platform bringing together 30,000+ eBooks and 360 journals in one platform. Also, Cambridge Archive Editions, a digitised research material of 1000 volumes of government records available in MARC format such as 'America and Great Britain: Diplomatic Relations, 1775-1815'. I took the opportunity to speak with presenters about the one-time fee for perpetual access available to institutions.
Furthermore, the exhibition showcased the important work of conservators such as the National Conservation Service whose repaired volume of 'Liber A' from the Stationer's Archive was on displayI met the Honorary Librarian, Andrea Cameron who introduced everyone to the Stationer's Foundation Library Fund, for the conservation and preservation of books and manuscripts in the Stationers' Company Library and Archives. If you would like to contribute to the restoration of the books you see below join-in the Support-A-Book scheme. 

To read more about the book trade check out these new titles from Palgrave Macmillan's New directions of Book History series:


30 April 2017

Art Librarianship as a Career Option

On April 19th, I attended my first ARLIS/UK & Ireland event 'Taking the Plunge: Art Librarianship as a Career Option' held at Goldsmiths, University of London. I recently volunteered to give a presentation about working in art libraries and I thought attending this workshop would give me a great introduction to the profession and the different skills needed to progress within my career.

Walking through the vibrant media hub on the ground floor of the Library, I was led to a large but quiet room. There were a variety of speakers from libraries, museums and special collections at different points in their careers. There were also avid listeners from art and creative backgrounds and a few graduate trainees due to start postgraduate courses in Librarianship in Autumn.

Nicholas Brown started off the workshop with a brilliant welcome speech signalling that "the book" is not dead. Despite the growing digital trend in the sector, print is still a dominate format and means of information in the arts. Brown describes one benefit of entering an art librarianship career as the flexibility of part-time work that supports artists, dancers and other business ventures. I was quite surprised to hear that he believed that there was a move away from subject specialism to functional based specialism such as the role of copyright librarians. Though, it is evident that there is a widening in scope for research in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences such as bibliometrics and digital humanities. There are currently not many jobs in this areas but it provides food for thought for prospective librarians.

This is not to say that role of a subject librarian is no longer needed, as highlighted by our first speaker, Antonia Lewis. A Subject Librarian for Art, Design and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths Lewis emphases that subject knowledge from her BA in Sculpture greatly assisted in her career. It not only helped her develop subject specific library collections but also create engaging workshops with art students and informative online Libguides. Lewis started out her art librarianship career working as a Library Assistant at the Royal College of Art during her (then CILIP accredited) MA in Information Management in Cultural Organisations at City University. Taking up a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) while in her current role has supported her responsibilities in information literacy of students and teaching about library resources. Lewis does mention that while a PGCE qualification is helpful for working in an academic library, it is not a requirement. An MA in Librarianship is also not a necessity it may be a factor is future career progression.

Our second speaker, Jonathan Franklin discussed his experience working internationally in museums or gallery libraries. Outlining his career history, he highlighted the differences in providing access to collections by the general public compared to curatorial staff while working at the National Portrait Gallery for 3 years. It was interesting to hear that even while going on to work at the National Gallery of Canada, libraries had a small number of staff members and government funding was an issue. This a no different from some UK galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAMs) as Franklin is now the sole professional librarian at the National Gallery in London with one non-professional assistant. 

It is important to note that working independently developing your own projects can create job satisfaction. However, there could be a lack of career progression due to small departments which could determine which type of library you work in.This may sound like a bleak outlook, however, Franklin recommends acquiring on the job cataloguing experience or through a cataloguing and classification course. Many art museum libraries do not have a dedicated online catalogue and knowledge of card catalogues and RDA standards in cataloguing will be essential as more projects focus on retrospective conversion. For further reading, he recommending "Art Museum Libraries and Librarianship" edited by Joan M. Benedetti (2007).

Our next speaker’s experience working in a special collection was profoundly interesting to me. Althea Greenan is the curator of the Women's Art Library at Goldsmiths. In museums, photographic slides would usually be acquired as objects into the collections. However, at Goldsmiths is a separate special collection completely project led by artists to raise the visibility of their own practice. Green demonstrated that the library continuously grows due to its simple remit to collect works of women artists. She has developed an artist in residence program which contributed to over 100 paper files on female artists. Greenan demonstrates that art librarians can also be thought of as curators continuously researching and development a collection.

Another speaker, Diana Palmer (@dianapalmerart) a recent graduate with an art background highlighted the benefits of part-time cataloguing work at Trinity College, Ladan and the National Portrait Gallery. She also highlighted the new experiences gained from researching and cataloguing photography at the National Portrait Gallery. I was quite intrigued that her graduate traineeship in the Courtauld Institute of Art focused on skills in Information literacy, independent cataloguing, interlibrary loans, special collections and displays. Palmer’s MLIS degree further built on her knowledge as she took historical bibliography and advanced preservation courses. I believe such depth of experience helps to decide what skills you would like to develop in an art librarianship career.

Sue Hill Recruitment’s Jeremy Clarke closing remarks to review work appraisal documents to identify current skills, networking with people and invest in your CV really resonated with me. Many cataloguers or sole librarians can feel quite secluded but networking with different people from this small circle of art librarians can be helpful socially and professionally. I had a lot to take away from it workshop from new contacts, information to encourage others to join the profession and a renewed sense of my own career journey. 

Overall, this workshop met my expectations and I would like to thank ARLIS UK/Ireland for the opportunity to attend and Goldsmiths for being a wonderful host. May there be many more workshops like this in the future. 

This post was written for the ARLISmatters blog. 

23 April 2017

Copyright or copywrong?

The last time I tried to write this post, I was comfortably sitting in Costa when I tragically lost internet connection and all that I wrote. Over a month later, I am back to reflect on the Association of Pall Mall Libraries Copyright Workshop with Naomi Korn.

The prior knowledge of copyright for some librarians participating in the workshop was the familiarity of photocopying under "fair dealing". For some, this is easily defined as the ability for library users to photocopy a chapter or up to 10% of a book or one article from a periodical, if it is used for non-commercial private study or research and the source is acknowledged. Although this may sound simple, copyright rules are much more complex. 

29 March 2017

The impact of library administrative responsibilities

One of the biggest changes since taking on library administrative responsibilities is the reduction in traditional library tasks such as the reference desk. I am still required to supervise and assist library readers, but this is only needed when they have booked an appointment to use the Library and its facilities. The awareness of the libraries within the organisation is growing through object handling and teaching sessions with students. However, requests to use library materials are only a few per month.

This has freed up my time to organise and manage library projects such as the Southeast Asia books move, while continuously cataloguing our retrospective stock. The ability to personally shape the library's collection development through administering library budgets in acquisition, journal subscription and binding, has allowed an overall strategic plan for the library to develop.

For example, my budget management responsibilities have assisted me to effectively resource manage and reduce overspend in unused supplies. Financial record keeping has also been important. They provide information about previous acquisitions that have yet to be catalogued and help reduce the likelihood of unwanted duplication. I also oversee potential book orders which have identified subject areas in high demand. I believe one of my best achievements in my role is the ability to show leadership in delegating all this information to volunteers and assign priority tasks over time.

Administrative responsibilities such as these may take time away from cataloguing and being within the Library. However, I have learnt that they are essential to influence the direction of library operations. Therefore, I have been looking forward to influencing the Library's future development.

11 July 2016

Visit to V&A Archives

Joining mailing lists such a APML is a great way to find out about upcoming events and tour. My most recent tour was of the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) Archives at Blythe House located in Olympia. Initially the Head Office of the Post Office Bank in 1900s, the grand building was taken over by the V&A, British Museum and the Science Museum in the 1950s. With the addition of a study room, storage facilities and Textiles Room, Blythe House became known as the building to house the archives and collections of these 3 institutions. 

At the start of the visit, Christopher Marsden, Head Archivist of the V&A Archives printed the picture of the development of the V&A archives. With focus on design education in 1830s, mainly British art and design industry from 1920s and the Great Exhibition of 1982 the importance of archives and record keeping policy came into play. It became necessary to record correspondence to matching objects in the V&A collection in nominal files and information about the V&A building design itself. Logbook of materials, photographs also became an important source to track the history of and locate objects.   

The collection has continued to grow in areas of children's literature books such as Beatrix Potter, theatre performance, fashion and textiles. It now comprising of 4 units: 

·         the Archive of Art and Design
·         the Beatrix Potter Collections
·         the V&A Archive
·         the V&A Theatre and Performance Archive
Open 4 times a week the V&A Archives is available for consultation by appointment only. It is heavily used by enthusiasts, students and academics. I definitely enjoyed seeing the collections of art and design related to British and British based companies, some still in business today. Some of the material on show was the Ideal home photograph album, designs from Garrard silverware and House of Worth items. 

I would encourage others to visit these archives to learn more about specialist collections such as art and design. You can see a few pictures of the visit below. 

N.B. Permission was granted to take photography on this visit.