Advancing Art Libraries and Curated Web Archives: Notes from a National Forum

February 28th, 2019

by Karl-Rainer Blumenthal, Web Archivist for Archive-It

Art and museum libraries are on the move! Fifty librarians, archivists, and technologists from around the country assembled at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) for Advancing Art Libraries and Curated Web Archives, a two-day national forum sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS). Day 1 featured a symposium of talks, panels, and open discussions about the emergent themes in web archiving, and about where they align with born-digital collecting trends in art and museum libraries generally. Attendees reconvened on Day 2 for workshops that empowered them to envision how they would curate, maintain, and share new collections of web-published materials at their home institutions and/or in collaboration with one another. The project team at the Internet Archive and New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC) learned a tremendous amount about these libraries’ and their networks’ ambitions for web archiving. Stay tuned: we look forward to sharing them with you in upcoming reports and webinars, beginning this spring!

Photo of Deborah Kempe opening the forum at SFMOMA.

Deborah Kempe (NYARC, Frick Art Reference Library) opens the forum at SFMOMA. Photo by NYARC.

Artist Jenny Odell stirred the creative pot by introducing attendees to her practice. Odell’s body of work relies heavily on de- and re-contextualizing digital collections. She and attendees discussed the ways in which librarians and archivists help her, her students, and her colleagues to do so.

Two panel discussions followed, to focus and frame the forum’s remaining discussions on digital collecting and preservation (with special guest speakers from the Baltimore Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Art, and Museum of Modern Art) and web archiving at distinct scales (Clark Art Institute, Ivy Plus Libraries, and University of Pennsylvania). These conversations seeded ideas and questions among rotating discussions about collection development, outreach, resource allocation and policymaking, and digital storage and preservation–the key themes that emerged from the project team’s background research.

Photo of Sumitra Duncan moderatimg a discussion of web archiving at scale

Sumitra Duncan (NYARC) moderates a discussion of web archiving at scale with Samantha Abrams (Ivy Plus Libraries), Andrea Puccio (Clark Art Institute), and Coral Salomón (University of Pennsylvania). Photo by NYARC.

All of the above helped attendees to imagine altogether new collections and even new kinds of collections that they could curate and preserve collaboratively. The project team facilitated, but attendees’ ideas led, two workshop sections to articulate these collections’ scopes, stakeholders, policies, technical and human resources, and partnering institutions. The project team will reconvene with key stakeholders in April to further detail these initial plans.

Photo of workshop group at SFMOMA Library & Archives

Reviewing web archive discovery and access strategies at SFMOMA’s Library & Archives. Photo by NYARC.

Watch this space and the ARLIS/NA Learning Portal for more updates on those plans, for our full reports from San Francisco, and for live and recorded webinars with the project team this spring and into summer. In the meantime, we thank IMLS and the staff of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Head of SFMOMA Library & Archives David Senior especially, for facilitating and warmly hosting these events and their collaborators.