Last Tuesday, Research Library manager, Karen Johnson attended an entertaining talk at the Powerhouse given by Shelley Bernstein, Chief of Technology at the Brooklyn Museum .
Shelley spoke about BM’s commitment to engaging online with the local Brooklyn community. The aim is to encourage public participation in the museum’s online and physical presence via social platforms such as blogging, FaceBook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter. This sort of community ‘conversation’ with museums is relatively new and not without challenges. One word comments from online participants such as ‘awesome’, ‘cool’ ‘wow’ are regarded as closed remarks and lacking purpose, whereas constructive comments are open and invite further dialogue between participants.
Shelley said that in spite of the difficulties, the hugely positive outcomes for the Museum have been worth it. According to Karen, the talk offered practical ideas for integrating an online presence with museum business in a way that benefits both the museum and its community.
Shelley was in Australia courtesy of the Australian Museum and the Transformation in Cultural and Scientific Communications Conference held in Melbourne 5-6 March 2009.
Another week and two more visits from Fiona Alldis, a UTS fashion student who is doing a Bachelor of Design in Fashion & Textiles/Bachelor of International Studies, a 6 year course that includes a foreign language component with a placement at a fashion centre in Italy or France. Now in her third year, Fiona is focusing on the application of couture techniques – working with flat patterns on fabric for everyday fashion design, as well as doing the draping/shaping of fabric directly on to a mannequin that is part of haute couture. This semester, she has to create a haute couture bodice in the style of a given designer, in Fiona’s case, Elsa Schiaparelli . For comparison, she is studying the works of French designers of the period such as Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, Jeanne Lanvin.
Luckily, as Fiona says, she is passionate about the creative process of haute couture. She has promised to bring in some of her millinery inventions. Watch this space…
The last two weeks have seen visits from several out of towners. First was Hilary Kay from the UK who was researching Australian studio pottery of the 1940s and 50s. Hilary spent a couple of hours consulting books and pamphlets for images and information about Australian ceramics and their makers of that time. I kept feeling that I’d seen her before, so after she’d left, I looked up the website on her business card:
No wonder her face was familiar. If you’ve ever watched “Antiques Roadshow”, you’ll know what I mean. For some reason I hadn’t recognised her when she was in the Research Library, possibly because she was out of context. Has that ever happened to you?
The latest out of town visitor was artist Vicki Mason from Melbourne. Vicki is a jeweller/metalsmith who works with PVC fabrics and thread. As she puts it she’s “a bit of a hybrid”. She’s far too modest. Have a look at these images from the cover and inside cover of Textile Fibre Forum no.91, 2008:
Twelve months after the Research Library set up a subscription, JSTOR continues to impress. JSTOR (Journal Storage) is a not-for-profit organisation that has digitised a huge inter-disciplinary archive of scholarly journals. This archive is being expanded continuously, with frequent updates about additions. For example, an update this week announced that pamphlet collections from leading UK libraries are to be released into JSTOR, giving access to more than 20,000 19th Century British pamphlets, a unique resource for matters of social history.
IP authenticated for the Museum, JSTOR access enables Museum staff to search, locate and download the full text of articles, as well as high-quality images from more than a thousand academic journals covering a wide range of disciplines. Journals are published in full, from the first issue. As some journals have been around for a long time, coverage can be up to 200 years. One of the earliest is a Royal Society paper of 1800.
Response from staff has been enthusiastic as shown in a recent email from Assistant Curator Geoff Barker: “…The journals in JSTOR have provided me with information it would have been impossible to access without expensive travel costs and even then many references would have been impossible to locate without electronic access….Many thanks for this wonderful initiative.”
It’s a fact that as a reference librarian you seldom see the result of research you do for clients. You search a variety of sources for an answer, hand over the material and that’s it. So it’s especially satisfying to see what turns out from the raw material gathered during the research process.
Last June, I had a phone call from artist Rachel Wells who made an appointment to visit the Research Library to consult texts about architectural details such as window frames and doors. This was in preparation to her forthcoming exhibition in The National Grid I checked our online catalogue and dug out books with illustrations/photographs/diagrams. Next day, however, when Rachel saw them, she realised she needed images of a more intricate design, such as pointed arches, rib vaults, foils, arcades, flying buttresses, clerestory windows, gargoyles – in other words, Gothic architecture. No problem. I gathered a slew of these from the shelves for her to peruse. Rachel works in the encaustic medium whereby (and I had to look this up) dry pigments are mixed with molten wax on a warm palette before being applied. The exterior of the finished painting is then exposed to a heat source, such as a heat gun, to burn in the colours by fusing and bonding them to the surface.
A few weeks later, Rachel kindly sent images of some of her exhibition works. They are in the encaustic medium whereby (I had to look this up) dry pigments are mixed with molten wax on a warm palette before being applied. The exterior of the finished painting is then exposed to a heat source, such as a heat gun, to burn in the colours by fusing and bonding them to the surface.
Anyway, here are the pictures, somewhat reduced in size. To see more of Rachel’s works, visit her website www.rachelwells.com.au
1 : The District // 20 x 122 cm // Encaustic on canvas
2: Grocer and Tea Dealer // 71 x 30 cm // Encaustic on canvas
3: Camouflage // 30 x 30 cm // Encaustic on canvas
4: Blue Light 1 // 30 x 30 cm // Encaustic on canvas
5: Red Sky at Night Sailors Delight // 20 x 122 cm // Encaustic on canvas
6: Verde 1 // 30 x 83 cm // Encaustic on canvas
7: Verde 2 // 30 x 83 cm // Encaustic on canvas
Rose Coloured // 120 x 83 cm // Encaustic on board
The Research Library at the Powerhouse Museum provides reference and research services to a diverse range of internal and external clients. As Reference Librarian, I am constantly surprised by the eclectic nature of information requests which I receive. Anything from Australian architectural photographers to zoological gardens, with Erté designs, Pan Am landing rights and Singer sewing machines in between!
In addition to the core research which I undertake in support of the Museum’s exhibitions, publications and programs, I respond to external requests for information assistance; emanating both from within Australia and from overseas. External clients include members of the public, authors, academics, other libraries, museums, galleries, film production companies, fashion designers and jewellery craftspeople.
This blog is a digest of my past and current research, and at the same time an information expedition. I hope that you enjoy the journey, and I welcome your contributions when you read about a research request which is within your area of expertise.
“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it”. Samuel Johnson, 1775.