ARLIS/NA Collection Development SIG Blog

For ARLIS/NA members interested in collection development issues.

Curated Donation from Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner increases Brooklyn Museum Libraries’ Holdings on Contemporary and Modern Art / Giana Ricci

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This past summer the Brooklyn Museum Libraries received the latest installment of an ongoing major donation from renowned art collectors Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner. As the 2016-2018 NYARC Kress Fellow, I was given the exciting task of accessioning, cataloging, and documenting this fascinating collection that predominantly pertains to modern and contemporary art from around the world. Spending time with each book and assessing its research topics has allowed me to create rich and accurate catalog records that reflect the importance of each contribution to our collection. While assigning call numbers for each item, I am able to understand how this donation is enriching our collection and where each book belongs within the scope of our entire library. Additionally, each record includes a credit line “From the Library of Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner” to match the bookplate designed by the donors. Westreich and Wagner started to give part of their private library to the Brooklyn Museum in 2009 and since then over a thousand items have been cataloged ranging from artists books to exhibition catalogs to monographs. By adding specific information to our records listing Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner as former owners, we allow researchers to easily discover which books once belonged to the donors and are now part of the Brooklyn Museum Libraries.

Many of the books are brand new, such as Body of Art edited by Diane Fortenberry and Rebecca Morrill and published by Phaidon in 2015. Glossy clean pages filled with large color photographs make for a beautiful display piece that also provides a fresh outlook on a heavily researched subject. Other books are older and less common, such as Early Color Photography by Sylvain Roumette and Michael Frizot, the first American edition published by Pantheon Books in 1986, which is now the only copy available in all three NYARC libraries. The acceptance of the Westreich/Wagner donation will allow the Brooklyn Museum Library to support a wider range of research in the field of modern and contemporary art. It can often be hard to supplement a collection through purchases alone. To have a curated collection of books gathered by two extremely knowledgeable and trustworthy art collectors, drastically reduces the amount of resources needed for collection development in this area. The opportunity to interact with this diverse collection has provided me with a chance to not only develop cataloging skills but also to gain a better understanding of the intricacies involved with collection development.

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