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CATEGORY: LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES

Posts in ‘Library and Archives’
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Have a Cow, Man

Recently I explored a collection of mail art held by the MoMA Library and put together a small show titled Analog Network: Mail Art, 1960–1999. It’s on view in the Education and Research Building through January 5. Read more

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May 15, 2014  |  Library and Archives, MoMA PS1
From the MoMA PS1 Archives: High-Class Couture in the Classrooms
Installation view of the MoMA PS1 exhibition, Fashion (Fall 1981): Homer Layne's Collection of Charles James Fashions (October 18–December 13, 1981). Photograph by Ivan Dalla Tana. MoMA PS1 Archives, I.A.631.

Installation view of the MoMA PS1 exhibition, Fashion (Fall 1981): Homer Layne’s Collection of Charles James Fashions (October 18–December 13, 1981). Photograph by Ivan Dalla Tana. MoMA PS1 Archives, I.A.631

On May 5 The Metropolitan Museum of Art held its annual star-studded Costume Institute Gala, complete with red carpet and paparazzi, timed to coincide with the opening of a new fashion exhibition about a legendary couturier: Charles James: Beyond Fashion. But possibly the first gallery exhibit of James’s work opened 33 years ago at MoMA PS1, Read more

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Modern Art through Contemporary Eyes: Correspondence from MoMA’s International Program
From left: Alexander Calder. The Big Gong. 1952. IC/IP, I.A.56. The Museum of Modern Art Archives; Installation view of Calder's The Big Gong (top) in Twelve Modern American Painters and Sculptors, Musée National d’Art Modern, Paris, 1953. IC/IP, I.A.64. The Museum of Modern Art Archives

From left: Alexander Calder. The Big Gong. 1952. IC/IP, I.A.56. The Museum of Modern Art Archives; Installation view of Calder’s The Big Gong (top) in Twelve Modern American Painters and Sculptors, Musée National d’Art Modern, Paris, 1953. IC/IP, I.A.64. The Museum of Modern Art Archives

This past year the MoMA Archives processed and opened to the public the full record history of MoMA’s International Council and International Program, a collection so large that it required the work of three staff members to complete it in one year. One benefit of processing a large collection as a team was the opportunity to share our most interesting discoveries with one another. Read more

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Once Upon a Time: Archives Tales at the Van Abbemuseum

One of the many Contexts vitrines in Once Upon a Time…the Collection Now at the Van Abbemuseum

What kind of stories do a museum’s archives tell when read in tandem with masterpieces in their permanent collections? After allowing me to explore innovative exhibition strategies for archival material last summer, this year, MoMA’s intern travel grant gave me the opportunity to visit a Dutch museum that is contending with that exact question. Read more

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October 7, 2013  |  Intern Chronicles, Library and Archives
Examining Archives Exhibition Strategies in Mexico City
Installation view of Arkheia exhibition Visita al Archivo Olivier Debroise: entre la ficcion y el documento, 2011.  Courtesy of Centro de Documentación Arkheia, MUAC, UNAM / Furniture design by Giacomo Castagnola.

Installation view of the Arkheia exhibition Visita al Archivo Olivier Debroise: entre la ficción y el documento, 2011. Courtesy of Centro de Documentación Arkheia, MUAC, UNAM. Furniture design by Giacomo Castagnola

Working with the fascinating collections in the MoMA Archives on a daily basis has led me to think about the ways in which archives share their unpublished material with the public. Read more

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Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Archives Open for Research!
Fluxus was founded as an international publishing company. Games, printed materials, and other multiples by various artists were united by George Maciunas’s unique design sensibility and brilliant typography. These qualities are visible here in this page from Maciunas’s ambitious 1962 prospectus, which lays out his grand plans for Fluxus. Silverman Fluxus Archives, V.F.B.

George Maciunas. Page from 1962 prospectus laying out his grand plans for Fluxus and exemplifying Fluxus’s unique design sensibility and brilliant typography. Silverman Fluxus Archives, V.F.B.

Are you intrigued by artists’ multiples? Engaged by innovative typography? Do you want to learn more about the roots of Conceptual and performative art today, and how artists’ innovation influences curatorial practice?

If so, then I am pleased to inform you that after several years, and more than a few surprises, the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Archives are open for research. Scholars will use the archives to study the history of Fluxus and its related artists. But while you might never use the archives, my work as an archivist still has an impact on your experience of Fluxus art at the Museum. The decisions made by myself and the other members of the Fluxus team affect what goes into the galleries, and how those objects are presented to the public.

When Fluxus collectors Gilbert and Lila Silverman donated their vast collection to MoMA in 2008, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. Before it expanded into performance, Fluxus was founded as an international publishing company by George Maciunas. Games, printed materials, and other multiples by various artists were united by Maciunas’s unique design sensibility and brilliant typography. This amazing collection—the world’s largest—had been carefully built for decades by Fluxus scholar Jon Hendricks, who aimed to present a complete history of Fluxus: not just artworks, but documentation and books as well. MoMA decided to split the Silverman Collection into three parts: works of art to the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books, for their facility at handling editions; documentation to the Museum Archives; and publications to the Library.

For the past two years, I’ve been the archivist responsible for processing the collection’s many wonderful manuscripts, notes, letters, and countless other documents into an organized research collection. That day has finally arrived—but getting here has been a long, strange journey.

Fluxus founder George Maciunas kept index cards which listed the works that were performed at concerts and festivals organized by him and his fellow artists. Along with photographs and recordings, written accounts such as these are the only records we have of such historical performances. Silverman Fluxus Archives, V.D.1.8.

George Maciunas kept index cards which listed the works that were performed at concerts and festivals organized by him and his fellow artists. Along with photographs and recordings, written accounts such as these are the only records we have of such historical performances. Silverman Fluxus Archives, V.D.1.8.

Fluxus thwarts all attempts at categorization. How can one distinguish “artwork” from “document,” when Fluxus artists actively strove to break down the border between art and life? How can we exhibit a work of performance art, when all that remains of it is a few photographs and written accounts? These are the sorts of documentary objects that researchers expect to find in archives, but as curators seek to display ephemeral and other dematerialized artworks, they are increasingly included in art exhibitions.

The image on the left is a lovely example of George Maciunas’s graphic design work, which is certainly a work of art. But as he used it as stationery – the letter to the right was written on its back in 1966 – it’s also an important archival document. Detail of Fluxshop stationery, with letter from George Maciunas to Betty Asher on verso, Silverman Fluxus Archives, V.A.1.1.

The image on the left is a lovely example of George Maciunas’s graphic design work, which is certainly a work of art, but as he used it as stationery—the letter to the right was written on its back in 1966—it’s also an important archival document. Detail of Fluxshop stationery, with letter from George Maciunas to Betty Asher on verso, Silverman Fluxus Archives, V.A.1.1.

Such quandaries are essential to understanding Fluxus. But they are particularly troublesome for an institution like MoMA, which is accustomed to maintaining separate departments for different types of objects. It’s no secret that MoMA didn’t collect many Fluxus works in the 1960s and 1970s, at the time of their creation, which means that the Silverman Collection fills a very significant gap. But in processing the archives, I came to understand our forebears’ reluctance: Fluxus is too fluid, too rebellious, too anti-institutional to enter an institution without a fight. It’s too many things at once.

That’s why myself and the other members of the Fluxus team quickly realized that we’d have to take a cue from Fluxus itself, and learn to be a little more fluid ourselves. We understood that sometimes artifacts need to be considered artworks, and other times works of art function like documents. It means that serious Fluxus researchers may need appointments with all three departments. But it also means that researching Fluxus will be as much of an adventure as processing it was.

To learn more about Fluxus, the Silverman Collection, or its processing, check out the finding aid online.

The Silverman Fluxus Archives can be consulted by appointment at the MoMA Archives reading room at MoMA QNS; open Mondays, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Appointments can be made through the Archives contact form.

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March 25, 2013  |  Artists, Library and Archives
From the Archives: Robert Motherwell at MoMA, in His Own Words
Robert Motherwell. Pancho Villa, Dead and Alive. 1943. Cut-and-pasted printed and painted papers, wood veneer, gouache, oil, and ink on board, 28 1/4 x 35 7/8″ (71.7 x 91.1 cm). Purchase. Art © Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Image permission granted by Dedalus Foundation, Inc.

Robert Motherwell. Pancho Villa, Dead and Alive. 1943. Cut-and-pasted printed and painted papers, wood veneer, gouache, oil, and ink on board, 28 1/4 x 35 7/8″ (71.7 x 91.1 cm). Purchase. Art © Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Image permission granted by Dedalus Foundation, Inc.

One of the most fascinating aspects of working in the Museum Archives is uncovering how iconic artists engaged with MoMA beyond their artwork in the galleries. As one of the most celebrated Abstract Expressionist painters, Robert Motherwell has a rich exhibition history at the Museum that is traceable all the way back to 1944, when MoMA acquired its first work by Motherwell. Read more

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February 6, 2013  |  Library and Archives, MoMA PS1
The MoMA PS1 Archives Are Now Open!
Exterior photograph of MoMA , c. 1978. Photographer unknown. MoMA PS1 Archives, VIII.I.27.

Exterior photograph of MoMA , c. 1978. Photographer unknown. MoMA PS1 Archives, VIII.I.27

More than four years ago, at the end of 2008, MoMA and P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center officially completed their 10-year affiliation process. At that time, The Museum of Modern Art Archives received custody of the organizational records, curatorial documents, exhibition paraphernalia, and other materials of historical importance saved by the institution over four decades of groundbreaking programming. Read more

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December 6, 2012  |  Behind the Scenes, Library and Archives
Victor D’Amico Papers Now Available in the Museum Archives
Victor D'Amico, Director, Department of Education, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. undated. Department of Public Information Records. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York.

Victor D’Amico, Director, Department of Education, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. undated. Department of Public Information Records, II.C.54. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York

The Victor D’Amico Papers are now processed and open for researchers to use onsite, by appointment at the Museum Archives reading room in Long Island City, Queens. The collection’s finding aid (inventory) is searchable online from any web-enabled device, along with MoMA’s other archival collections. Read more

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October 10, 2012  |  Behind the Scenes, Library and Archives
Artists in Their Own Words: The MoMA Oral History Program

The transcripts of the Oral History Program have long been a central part of The  Museum of Modern Art Archives, known to many in scholarly circles as an unrivaled primary source for the collective memory of MoMA’s history. Read more