(All pictures by Violet Fox)
First stop: The Henry Art Gallery
Rachael Faust, the Assistant Curator of Collections & Academic Programs, gave us a brief history of the Henry and graciously showed us around. The Henry Art Gallery started from a private collection in 1926. In 1997, it quadrupled its building space, spiraling down to the library and neighboring storage areas. Rachael brought us to the Eleanor Henry Reed Study Center, which provides physical access to the Henry’s collection; it’s located next to storage for easy access to materials.
Judy Sourakli, the Curator of Collections, gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the Study Center. She has been at the Henry for 35 years, and started working with the Costume and Textile Collection. When she began, part of her job was creating a physical card for each object with information about its function, technique, materials, etc. Later, she did the same with the Fine Arts Collection. She showed us the original catalog of subject headings, a hefty black binder. Gradually, Judy migrated the analog cataloging system to an electronic (MS-DOS!) database. Their current internal database is an outsourced Oracle system.
The Reed Collection’s relatively recent online presence was helped along by a grant in 2007 to build their online databases. Judy has had to get image permissions for each of their objects in order to show them online. But it’s definitely worth it! The Digital Interactive Galleries are an awesome way for online visitors, especially researchers, to get a sense of the Henry’s collection and learn the vocabulary. Judy and her team are looking forward to a new catalog interface debuting in February which will add new features and make browsing more user-friendly. Judy also admitted that managing these databases are a full-time job and there are many hands-on opportunities at the Henry – volunteer/intern alert!
Next stop: Built Environments Library in Gould Hall
We high-tailed it over to Gould Hall, where we were met by Alan R. Michelson, the head of the Built Environments Library. It is one of the few imbedded libraries in the UW Library system, a situation that truly benefits the students of the College of Built Environments, which includes the Departments of Architecture, Construction Management, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Design and Planning. Gould Hall has an open floor plan, so that visitors can see onto each floor, where students are working at all hours in the studios.
First, we visited Joshua Polansky, Director of the Visual Resources Collection, who is also an iSchool MLIS alum. The Visual Resources Collection consists of many cabinets filled to the brim with slides and printed images of architecture and art. Professors use these slides to create their slide shows for class and presentations. Students use the Beaux-Arts method of tracing images to practice their drafting and drawing skills. Joshua explained that they are slowly digitizing their collection using the Madison Digital Image Database, which is an open source digital media management system. In the meantime, they still have their card catalog.
Alan then led us through the library offices, which were stuffed end-to-end with books, papers and cabinets, into the library itself. In the center of the library is a model of downtown Seattle in 2000, which Alan saved from the dumpster. One of his goals is to preserve student and faculty models from the Architecture department. They require hours of hard work and dedication, and many of them are just tossed after the assignment is complete.
The library has 50,000 volumes and, thanks to an endowment, a number of Charles Eames chairs, as well as other examples of other famous modern furniture designers. A sitting area by the entrance has a table with Legos, to allow students to relieve some stress. Since the Built Environments Library is technically a branch library of the UW system, Alan and his staff have a little more autonomy than most. For instance, it’s the last library on campus to have unfiltered computer access, which means you don’t need a UW Net ID to use the computers.
Alan, who has a PhD in addition to his MLIS, also gave us a brief overview of his day-to-day activities, which include: collection development, reference (he has seen his one-on-one consultations increase), instruction sessions for dissertation seminars, creation and maintenance of online reference tools, and library committee meetings and responsibilities. For those of you who want to work as an Art Librarian, Alan recommends getting a Master’s in Art History.
Thanks to everyone who made it out to this crawl! We hope to see you at our next one. And a very special thanks to Tal Noznisky and iArts for an awesome library crawl!