By Catherine Petersen and Elizabeth Bradshaw
Readers were introduced to our new Museum Library cataloger/archivist (short i: AR kĭ vist ), Elizabeth Bradshaw, a few blogs back. Elizabeth will focus on developing the Museum Archives (long i ) over the next year, and so in this month’s blog series we hope to share with you the goals and priorities for our Library archives.
Merriam-Webster defines archives as “a place in which public records or historical documents are preserved; also: the material preserved —often used in plural.
An archive entails anything that holds significant, historical, and enduring value to a particular collection, institution, or individual. The Archivist’s responsibility is to identify, protect, preserve, and make available this information. With the advent of the digital age, archiving takes on varying responsibilities than it did before. Archives now expand to digital preservation, but still maintain their foundations in paper-based materials. Although libraries and archives have been closely related for several years, they are different in that libraries house information that is published, and archival materials are unpublished. Many libraries collect the same information and resources, but archives seldom retain duplicate items, as their holdings are unique, or one of a kind, making it a special collection.
Just a few examples include: Mary Cassatt’s (1844-1926) letter to an unidentified man written in the French language. Cassatt hopes that the man can persuade Degas to sell his pastel portrait of Mademoiselle Fleury to the Havemayers who “are in Paris at the moment.”
In a letter to Frank Waller, President of the Art Students League in New York, Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) explains, “The clay is for me to shape into muscles and show during my lecture how they are laid upon the bones and where…I shall start a new head tomorrow.”