Tuesday was my first day working with Michael Joseph at the Alexander Library. The Special Collections department is located in the basement, and his office is a long, interior room with no windows and lots of antique books. And artwork.
As we sat in his office discussing how the day would progress, I learned that Michael is putting together a journal about Suellen Glashausser's work. As a foray into my independent study work, Michael asked me to immerse myself in her artists' books (all 60 or so of them) in the Special Collections. Glashausser's books make up the lion's share of the artists' book collection, so it only made sense for me to spend some time with them.
Michael also asked me to reconcile the collection with the accompanying list and descriptions he has of Glasshauser's books. He is concerned that some may not be co-located with the rest of the easily accessible books he keeps in his office.
The other important factor was the need to work with the Libraries' conservators in order to conserve and preserve the books. Some have already been housed in acid-free boxes, but the vast majority are unprotected. Yesterday, during my visit with the books at a long wooden table in the Special Collections reading room, I also discovered that several works (the Garden series) were experiencing acrylic paint flaking from their glassine bodies. This worried me immensely, and I was glad to speak directly with the conservators about my concerns. Tim, the conservator who stepped up to handle my concerns, seemed like he would address them well, and I will see him again on Thursday to pick up some boxes to house the other works.
As I said to Michael, I'm very glad that my summer internship at the Zimmerli Museum gave me so many opportunities to learn about art handling and storage (and a small amount of preservation and conservation). It definitely prepared me for working with the artists' books in a sensitive way.
A few things that I also learned relate directly to the deliverables of this project. Michael let me know that descriptions and photographs of the artists' books already exist. However, after working with the descriptions to match them to the artists' books I viewed yesterday, I can see that in order to create adequate and consistent metadata, I will need to spend some time with each of the descriptions.
Speaking of metadata, tomorrow, Michael and I will meet with an expert on EAD, a markup language for archival materials. I'm very much looking forward to this meeting and will try to prepare by reading up on the topic.
Overall, I very much enjoyed my first day and am looking forward to the next for a handful of reasons:
1. Michael Joseph is an engaging teacher and a font of interesting information.
2. Many of Glashausser's books are lively, colorful, and exiting pieces that I feel honored to have the opportunity to experience in such a tactile way.
3. The Special Collections have a completely different feeling than the rest of the Alexander Library. Despite the fact that it's hidden in the basement, away from the atrium feel of most of the rest of the newer parts of the building, it is a welcoming place. In fact, I was warmly welcomed by Weatherly from my Art Librarianship course over the summer, who was working at the front desk.
EAD – Encoded Archival Description. (2009). In Metadata reference guide. Retrieved September 9, 2009, from http://libraries.mit.edu/guides/subjects/metadata/standards/ead.html
Education and the book arts in New Jersey, or, preaching what we practice (n.d). Retrieved September 9, 2009, from http://www.libraries. rutgers.edu/rulib/abtlib/danlib/bookarts/ba-seg.htm