The following was written by current St. Kate's MLIS student and archives volunteer at the American Craft Council, Heather Carroll.
The Library and Archives of the American Craft Council (ACC) have something of interest for almost anyone. For a little over a year, I have been helping process the archives of the Museum of Contemporary Crafts (MCC) which are housed here in Northeast Minneapolis. These archives are a cornucopia of primary source materials - from research and correspondence to drafts of catalogs and posters, press clippings, sketches, photographs and more. Just as intriguing is the fame, drama, rejection and transformation contained in these seemingly modest file boxes. Here are just a few of the highlights I’ve come across:
Not many people get to claim they are Frank Lloyd Wright’s buddy. While processing the materials for the Dorothy Liebes Retrospective, I came upon a handwritten letter from Mrs. Liebes, renowned textile designer, to Museum of Contemporary Crafts director Paul Smith. It was written on her personal stationary - thin bright yellow paper with a printed kelly green personal logo, roughly A5 size paper - recounting her first meeting with Mr. Wright at her studio. Before the meeting at her studio Mrs. Liebes hid away her in-process projects and all the bits of fibers and yarns she thought the illustrious architect might disapprove of – especially those with bright colors and metallics. However during his visit, he spotted some of the flashy yarns peeking out and asked her about these projects specifically. This was the wellspring of an enduring friendship.
Noted architect, Paolo Soleri, sent a copy of a letter addressed to Arthur Drexler (curator/director of the Museum of Modern Art’s Architecture and Design Collection from 1951-87) to Paul Smith. The reason for the letter was two-fold: first, Mr Soleri states “… the museum [MoMA] would substantially fail people, sponsors and all, by refusing an exhibit [of Soleri’s work] that at the least would make a splashy landing on space-concepts and graphics. To put it bluntly, I am saying that the foolishness of not having such an exhibit may stain the good name of the museum.” Second, Mr. Soleri was upset that Mr. Drexler wouldn’t see him when he dropped into the MoMA one day.
Mr. Drexler’s response, also copied to Paul Smith, was polite, pragmatic and sincere,“Most people who work in museums do so because they like art and artists. I am no exception. But quite often it is just those artists with whom one would most like to spend a quiet hour in conversation that arrive unannounced.” “There must be many ways to bring your work, which I admire enormously, to the attention of a wide audience. It would be interesting to know how you think this might best be done.” I did a little research and found that Paolo Soleri did indeed have an exhibition at the MoMA several years later. I think this unusual exchange is a priceless example of the intricate navigations of personality and politic that can happen behind the scenes of a large-scale exhibition, then and now.
Famed photographer Richard Avedon oh-so-politely rejected an invitation from the MCC to submit work because he was simply too busy working on exhibitions for the Minneapolis Institute of Art and MoMA. Richard still gets points in my book though – Charles and Ray Eames (as far as I can tell from the archives) never responded to a similar request for the same exhibition.
From the conception of an idea, to a sketch, to a finished work exhibited, which was then photographed and published in newspapers, jewelry artist Mary Lee Hu’s process is captured in the archives and digital collection.
For more information:
All photos by Heather Carroll used with the permission of American Craft Council Library.
Lost in the Stacks (from Georgia Tech librarians Charlie Bennett and Ameet Doshi)
Check ‘em out at the following link! Lost in the Stacks via WREK
International Committee of the Red Cross Archives (ICRC)
Learn more about the ICRC and their Archives.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives
Check out the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame library and archives.
Archivists in the Digital Era
The New York Times published an article highlighting archivists in the digital era.