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The Persistence of the Real

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

30 November - 3 December 2016

Conference Theme

Digital opportunities and challenges for art libraries have been a recurring theme at ARLIS/ANZ conferences over the last 20 years. Papers have been given on projects to convert valuable card files and indices to digital databases. We have reflected on the changing nature of library spaces and the impact of emerging technologies on their services. There have been a number of presentations on digital initiatives in preservation and on the wide variety of issues around putting collections online.

At the 2014 Arlis/ANZ conference in Auckland, however, there emerged a renewed interest in the physicality of art libraries, from their collections of books, periodicals, artists’ books, ephemera and archives, to the physical space of libraries themselves and to the real people who staff them. Keynote speaker Courtney Johnston was enthusiastic about the new frontiers that the digital age has opened up, but she also acknowledged the many things unique to the physical object, which a digital surrogate could not provide.

How has the digital environment in which we all operate changed and improved our services, our collections and their management, our work patterns etc. since 2004 when the ARLIS/ANZ conference was last held in Sydney? Have there been surprises? What are the disappointments?

What has been the impact of the digital on our profession? Are we better placed to assist our users? How do we understand and harness the technical skills needed in the rapidly changing digital world? Have digital technologies provided any concrete solutions to the preservation of our collections? What about the continuing issues of the stability of digital platforms, on the need to preserve outmoded devices, on migration paths? And what about the costs? Have digital technologies delivered on their promise of saving us time, skills and storage space? Many of us envisaged one large outlay at the start of our digitisation projects and then a simple and economical management of them into the future. Has this occurred?

Our digital world has not diminished the continuing appeal of the real object, or an appreciation for the serendipity of encounter with the world provided by the real object in contrast to the digitally specific. Art book fairs are drawing large crowds and there has been a proliferation of small publishing houses specialising in limited editions. In the world of reading, ebooks have not replaced paper ones, just as in the world of music vinyl and the cassette continue to have a future. Archives and their unique collections are proving themselves increasingly relevant to the popular imagination.

These are just some of the questions and themes which we believe our theme of ‘The Persistence of the Real’ could open up for our 2016 conference.

Arlis/ANZ National Executive and 2016 Conference Committee

Elizabeth Little, Chair

Steven Miller, Treasurer

Barbara Rendall, Secretary

Vivian Huang, Website Administrator

Claire Eggleston, Committee Member


WElcome to Country

Charles “Chicka” Madden

Uncle Chicka is a respected Sydney Elder. He has lived in and around the Redfern and inner city area most of his life serving the Aboriginal community as Director or the Aboriginal Medical Service, Secretary of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Director of the Aboriginal Hostels NSW and is a life member of the Redfern All Blacks.

Along with being an active community leader, Uncle Chicka is also an important artist creating a number of ceramic sculptures and paintings inspired by his Gadigal country. He has been commissioned to create a number of works including a painting for St Vincent’s Health Australia and an istallation for the Redfern Community Centre’s Elders Lounge in collaboration with Nicole Monks.

Via Philanthropy Australia

Keynote: Treasure vs Trash

Ben Law

Benjamin Law is an Australian author and journalist. He is best known for his books The Family Law, a family memoir published in 2010, and Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East, a journalistic exploration of LGBT life in Asia. Via Wikipedia



The Babylon Project: A Site Specific Artwork at Waverley and Fisher Libraries

Andrew Christie

“The ship on which Theseus sailed with the youths and returned in safety, the thirty-oared galley, was preserved by the Athenians down to the time of Demetrius Phalereus. They took away the old timbers from time to time, and put new and sound ones in their places, so that the vessel became a standing illustration for the philosophers in the mooted question of growth, some declaring that it remained the same, others that it was not the same vessel.”1

This passage from Plutarch’s Parallel Lives marks the origin of what is most commonly referred to as the Theseus paradox. We see it applied today to the adaptive reuse of older buildings, the replacement of dying cells in the body and the anecdotal claim of a man possessing George Washington’s axe, only that both the head and the handle had been replaced. This provokes certain questions about reality. How much of a thing can we replace before it ceases to be what it was? How much can we trust the surfaces which we perceive?

  1. Plutarch, Plutarch's Lives. with an English Translation by. Bernadotte Perrin. Cambridge, MA (Harvard University Press. London. William Heinemann Ltd. 1914) 1

Is it a library or is it art?

Catherine Kerrigan, Adelaide Central School of Art


The Future Library. The Library of Unborrowed Books. The Reanimation Library. A Library of Approximate Location. These are not typical names for libraries but they are tantalising and they are real. Each of these libraries has been created by an artist and they are not the only ones. These libraries function both as libraries and as art installations and can be temporary exhibitions or permanent installations. Some are recognisably libraries and others are not. Some are tied to a specific place and others are peripatetic. They are scattered around the globe and, as well as investigating artistic themes of time, loss, place and memory, consider the library as subject as well as object. As such, they raise interesting questions for librarians. What does the library symbolise for the artist and the audience? What are the motivations of theartists involved? What purposes do these libraries aim to achieve? What does it mean for the artist to become the librarian? What are the implications for us as Library or art librarians? What can we learn from these artist libraries? This paper will explore hese questions and attempt some preliminary answers.



Virtual Tour of the Lenton Parr Music, Visual and Performing Arts Library at the University of Melbourne

Georgina Binns, University of Melbourne


Archives to the Rescue: Building Support Communities for Artifact Preservation

Kim Allen Scott, Montana State University

In a recent New York Times editorial, Nicholas Kristof tried to strike a blow for planetary optimism. In his essay “The Best News You Don’t Know,” Kristof cited statistics that give reasons for celebrating mankind’s important advancements against poverty, but one curious tidbit stands out. “For the entire history of the human species until the 1960s, a majority of adults were illiterate,” claimed the writer, “Now 85 percent of adults worldwide are literate and the share is rising.” While one might take heart that millions of humans have taken this first step to rise above a lifetime of penury, one might also ask the obvious follow up question: exactly WHAT are they reading? I suggest to you that the answer is “not a whole heck of a lot.”

Exciting Times/Challenging Times: developing meaningful art library collections in the 21st century

Laura Schwartz, University of California

The fields of art and architectural history are transforming with the ubiquity of 21st century technologies and the capabilities they offer. The College Art Association (CAA) and the Society for Architectural Historians (SAH) are addressing the evaluation of outputs that are mostly considered Digital Humanities or Digital Scholarship projects. Are we as a profession ready, willing, and able to handle these modes of scholarly production? How do we capture, preserve, and provide access to this scholarship? Furthermore, art information comes in a multitude of formats. Journals, books, and videos are no longer the standard, now we see apps, websites, online exhibits, e‐catalogue raisonnes, memory sticks, and the like. And then there is open content, commercial content and hybrid content. Do the creators of this content have libraries in mind as its consumers and preservers? ARLIS/NA’s Multimedia and Technology reviews has become an essential resource that informs art librarians about this evolving landscape but much of this content will never get reviewed. The outputs may be one‐offs and they are rarely in neat packages which are more prevalent in the sciences and social sciences. This phenomena makes acquiring, discovering, and preserving art information more challenging. What is the role and responsibility of scholars, publishers, and vendors to ensure that this content is packaged so that it can be acquired, made discoverable, and preserved? What is the role of the art librarian and what new skills are needed? Now more than ever, collection development involves deeper collaboration with colleagues in acquisitions, cataloging, preservation, and digital libraries.


Virtual Tour: Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial Library

Josephine Le Clerc, Deakin University

Callan Park Hospital 1883 [now Sydney College of the Arts] by  NSW State Archives   No Known Copyright  via  Flickr

Callan Park Hospital 1883 [now Sydney College of the Arts] by NSW State Archives No Known Copyright via Flickr

How do artists use libraries?

Sarah Graham and Celia Brown, Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney

The art school experience is not predicated on a prescribed body of knowledge to learn and then apply. Rather, art school presupposes a world of imaginative and intellectual approaches. Students discover these approaches through sources. These sources include contact with artists, academics, discussions with fellow students and attending talks and presentations by other students. It also involves being introduced to print and online library resources that will expand their journey of discovery. Yet studio art students do not always see how books and journals relate to their creative development as artists, often using the library only when writing assignments. Emerging contemporary artists at art school need to be engaged with current critical analyses of contemporary art practice and to develop a larger theoretical framework in which to discuss their work.

How Do Student-Practitioners Use Online Performing Arts Resources?

Ross Bruzzese and Elizabeth Smith, National Institute of Dramatic Art

Over the past five years, the publishing landscape in the performing arts has been slowly changing. Dramatic publishers, marketing to an audience outside the realm of academia, have been developing their own online resources for theatre practitioners to access content. Primarily consisting of text and streaming video content, these new resources build on existing academic resources for studying the performing arts, but are marketed explicitly to schools and practitioners. Over the same five years, teaching and learning styles at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) have increasingly emphasised online learning and engagement with screen and digital media. This is being practiced alongside, and interconnected with, traditional conservatoire-style theatre training.

Numerous studies have looked at the information seeking behaviour and needs of theatre artists and students, and how it can differ from research and study in academia. In this context, we at the Rodney Seaborn Library at NIDA wanted to know more about what our students were doing with online resources. For students who spend so much of their time being taught in tactile, embodied ways in the studio, how do they feel about using online resources, and are online resources meeting their creative needs?

We conducted a survey this year as a quick way of gathering feedback from students about their use of online resources – in particular, the specialist performing arts resources that have been developed over the past five years.

What we discovered was not just a glimpse into the ways students feel about using these resources. Our project led us to think beyond specific resources and to a recurring question for arts libraries – are we meeting all the creative and academic information needs that our students have in a rapidly evolving industry?

Art Institute of Chicago, Ryerson & Burnham Libraries

Art Institute of Chicago, Ryerson & Burnham Libraries

The Transformation of Access: Print and Digital Resources in an Art Museum Library

Karen Stafford, Art Institute of Chicago (co –authored by Stephanie Fletcher)


Digital projects and future plans of the Fine Arts Library

William Hamill, Fine Arts Library, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services

Unclogging the backlog

Michael Proud, National Library of Australia (paper co-authored by Nicola Mackay-Sim)

‘Backlogs’, ‘arrearages’, ‘unprocessed material’, whatever you call it, we all have them! Large or small, this material is useless until it is listed and described in some fashion—its existence restricts Collection Managers’ knowledge of the full extent of their collections, obstructs acquisition research and planned collection-building, and most importantly the public has no knowledge of the material let alone the ability to access it.

The Hurley Stack with backlog material flagged prior to processing

The Hurley Stack with backlog material flagged prior to processing


Virtual tour: Giesel Library, University of California, San Diego

Laura Schwartz, University of California

As a visual arts student in the late 80s and early 90s, I thought that I was in a special place at the University of California, San Diego. My professors were intellectually stimulating and there was an interesting mix of artists, historians, critics, and filmmakers. I was taught and influenced by the late David Antin, Newton Harrison, and your own Geoffrey Batchen. The Stuart Collection, the University Art Gallery, and the Arts Library were surrounding me. I then moved to Austin, Texas, went to Library School and served as the Art Librarian for 20+ years. The environment was very different, a more traditional department with clear divisions between art history, studio, design and art education. Art History was well‐represented with over 25 historians, most top in their area. It was during my time in Austin that I realized the uniqueness of UC San Diego’s Visual Arts Department.

Inside the Fleet Library

Inside the Fleet Library

The Fleet Library at Rhode Island School of Design: Physical Place and Virtual Commons

Mark Pompelia, Rhode Island School of Design

Exhibiting the Art Archive

Dr Peta Jane Blessing, National Gallery of Australia

How do we digitise the context, the feel, the intricate somewhat intuitive links that only the human eye and not metadata can detect in an art archive? Art archives are colourful, rich collections holding a vast assortment of documents and items, which themselves hold layers of information and meaning. Digitisation allows for easier dissemination of content but does this distract from the colour, meaning and context of art archives? Today I will be talking about four archive collections, in particular the most recent exhibition of the Mike Parr archive, the process involved to get it to display and how the inclusion of this collection allowed for a more ‘real’, physical experience.

Part of the Mike Parr archive collection

Part of the Mike Parr archive collection

The Abstract - journal reading room

The Abstract - journal reading room

The Abstract: Exhibition, reading room and metaphor

Romany Manuell, Monash University Library


Data migration lessons learnt by the Pictures team at the National Library of Australia

Eleanor Goodwin, National Library of Australia

Since 1997 the National Library has been developing technical systems for the management, storage and delivery of digital material. In 2002 we began using DCM - our Digital Collections Manager. This system was purpose built for the Library’s requirements and it served us faithfully for around 13 years. Technology has of course moved on and our library users now expect much more in terms of digital delivery.

With ever increasing demand for immediate access to high resolution images and features such in-depth zoom or interactive page turning – all intended to better simulate a physical object - online delivery is integral for meeting the needs of Pictures collection users. In 2013 the National Library began developing a replacement system. The resulting new Digital Library Collection - or DLC - can cope with a greater range of file types and also will allow us to better implement modern methods of digital delivery and storage. In addition to this it offers much greater all-round flexibility, allowing it to be adapted to meet future requirements.


Panel Discussion: Persistence of the Real

Chair: Claire Eggleston

Panel members: Kim Allen Scott, Steven Miller, Sarah Graham and Karen Stafford



Formal close of conference

Elizabeth Little, Arlis/ANZ Chair