All posts in “Library”

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are often considered works of art themselves.

People and Places in Dissonance
Continuing our exploration of the Harris collection of photobooks in the McCaw Foundation Library’s holdings, two photobooks in the collection bear witness to the lasting effects of human technological constructs on forest and farmland in rural Japan.

Ruin and Regeneration
Places can change in an instant, and for all time.

Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma (Blind Gallery, 2014), present a serene yet evocative pictorial commentary on life in Fukushima prefecture after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear disaster.

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

 

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

 

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

 

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

Foraging for wild mushrooms in the forests of Fukushima was once a common pastime for many people in the region. Many species grow robustly throughout the microclimates within the forests. Due to dangerous levels of radiation, foraging and ingestion of these plentiful fungi has been banned indefinitely. Still, the mushrooms themselves appear to flourish, even in the face of invisible, widespread, pervasive, sometimes invisible devastation.

Preservation vs. Progress
In the early 1960s, the Haneda Airport, or Tokyo International Airport, was struggling to support an ever-increasing volume of jet traffic. The growing number of flights—and the noise that accompanied the new jet engines that powered them—caused the Japanese transport ministry to seek an alternative location for a new high-capacity international airport.

A large farming area near the village of Sanrizuka, in Chiba Prefecture, was selected for the development plan. Construction of the Narita International Airport began in the late 1960s. This endeavor forever altered the abundant pastoral quality of life that had thrived there for generations.

<em> Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu)</em> by Kazuo Kitai

Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai

Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai (Waizu Shuppan, 2000), is a beautiful photobook that honors Sanrizuka’s traditional rich rural lifestyle, the bountiful agricultural landscape, and documents the protest to save it.

Page from <em> Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu)</em> by Kazuo Kitai

Page from Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai

 

Page from <em> Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu)</em> by Kazuo Kitai

Page from Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai

The decision to build the airport on top of the agricultural land was opposed for years by a group of residents and ideological activists. However, construction went forward and what was once farmland eventually became an airport. This photobook poignantly honors the struggle of the people of Sanrizuka and the beauty of the agricultural lifestyle and land they hoped to preserve.

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Photos: Natali Wiseman.
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Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are often considered works of art themselves.

People and Places in Harmony
Part of the Aomori Prefecture, Tsugaru is found at the far north of Japan’s main island of Honshu. The Sea of Japan meets its western shore, while the Pacific Ocean is to the east. Surrounded by water, this mountainous area is beautiful, remote, and endurably peaceful.

Map showing the Tsugaru Strait (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_of_Japan, access 8/9/17)

Two of the photobooks from the Harris collection give us glimpses of captivating people and places in Tsugaru.

Rugged, Deep, Delicate
Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka and Kojima Ichiro (Izu Photo Museum, 2014) opens a window that allows us to view everyday life in Tsugaru. The images that reach out from these pages convey the at-home attitude and the quiet sense of belonging expressed by the people who live in this vast, remote landscape.

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

These stunning images capture the sense of eternal clarity that suffuses the landscape and the people of Tsugaru. This masterful work depicts people living in harmony within the natural world, using images that are artistically compelling and evocative.

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Integrity and Integration
Masako Tomiya’s Tsugaru (self-published, 2013) is a study of individualists adapting to a beautiful, rugged world. The unique character of the landscape and people of Tsugaru is captured beautifully in this collection of black and white photographs.

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

It celebrates the majesty of the rugged rural terrain, whipped by fierce wind and snow in the winter, then bathed in summer’s balmy breezes. The people who live there are portrayed as the resourceful individuals they are, living life in tune with the call of the natural world.

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Photos: Natali Wiseman.
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La Cite de Animaux

Focus on an Artist’s Book: La Cité des Animaux by Lynn Skordal

Real Places That Don’t Exist: La Cité des Animaux

In Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect, we see how Wyeth masterfully conveys a sense of place, constructing a certain reality or vision of landscapes, domestic spaces, and people of rural Pennsylvania and the coastal villages of Maine. For the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library‘s current book installation, we examine an artist’s book that also conveys a sense of place, one that is carefully constructed yet imagined.

La Cite de Animaux

Washington artist Lynn Skordal considers herself a “paperworker.” After retiring from a career as an attorney nearly ten years ago, she returned to an early love—art. She now focuses on collage, artists’ books, and small works on paper that she creates from her collection of books rescued from local thrift stores, old magazines, used paper scraps picked up off the sidewalk, stamps and images torn from envelopes, cuttings from formidable reference works, and old engravings removed from disintegrating books. Her work has been described as “an exploration of real places that don’t exist.”1 One could certainly apply that idea to her thought-provoking artist’s book, La Cité des Animaux (Mercer Island, WA, 2011).

La Cite de Animaux

This unique, collaged, accordion-style artist’s book depicts “a parade of strange, whimsical animals creeping through a deserted white city under a chocolate sky.”2 Mammals, reptiles, birds, eggs, and stylized and extinct creatures are set against deserted architectural backgrounds, enclosed on both ends by maps. The artist asks, who built the city? What is it for? Is this what will happen after humankind is gone?3

La Cite de Animaux

From Natural History to a New Reality

Skordal’s source material for La Cité des Animaux included several antique works. One was Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio et iconibus artificiosissimis expressio, per universam physices historiam (Accurate description of the very rich thesaurus of the principal and rarest natural objects . . . ). This elaborately engraved thesaurus of animal specimens was the creation of scientist and collector Albertus Seba (Dutch, 1665–1736). The initial volume of the work was published in 1734, with several volumes issued posthumously through 1765.

La Cite de Animaux

Seba’s work was derived from his own “cabinet of curiosities,” a notion Skordal seems to reclaim by pulling the animals from the format of the scientific natural history book and inserting them into a smaller, precious book form. Whereas Seba’s intent was to record and illustrate the natural world truthfully, Skordal uses Seba’s images to construct a new reality.

I was charmed by the idea of animals taking over spaces built by man, but with man long gone. That thought comforts and amuses me. [My work conveys] both a sense of place and a story. I like to create new little worlds where the usual rules may not apply, and where there is a little bit of magic or mystery at work–an alternate reality. The goal is always to startle, amuse, or provoke.4

To get a closer look at these works, or other works in our Book Arts Collection, make an appointment to visit the Bullitt Library. Appointments typically take place Monday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian

Boxall, Scout. “Cut & Paste: Lynn Skordal.” The Daily Spread (July 5, 2013). https://dailyspreaddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/cut-paste-lynn-skordal/, accessed September 20, 2017.
Email interview with artist, September 29, 2017.
Ibid.
Ibid.
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Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are often considered works of art in themselves.

People, Places, and the Passing of Time
A recent donation of photobooks to the McCaw Foundation Library reminds us that all things are transitory. Chris Harris shares images with this generous and poignant gift from his personal collection of photobooks by important Japanese artists. These photobooks speak to us of family ties, of the natural world, and of ephemeral glimpses of urban life and landscapes. Focused mostly in Asian countries, these images are often haunting, sometimes playful, and entirely captivating.

Personal and Provocative
Love, time, and ties that bind.

The Red String by Yoshikatsu Fujii

The Red String by Yoshikatsu Fujii

People are the focus of The Red String by Yoshikatsu Fujii (Fujii, 2014). This rare, handmade, and self-published photobook tells the story of a family’s transitions and partial dissolution. Fujii shares his achingly personal and bittersweet family history in the form of a family album. The images in the album include the family posed in rural landscapes, cities, casual snapshots, and formal portraits; there are also drawings and handwritten notes in Kanji (transcribed to English) that also carry the voice of intimate moments—moments that are mundane, yet precious. The author reflects:

“. . . legend has it that a man and a woman who have a predestined encounter have had each other’s little fingers tied together by an invisible red string since the time they were born. Unfortunately, the red string tying my parents together either came untied, broke, or perhaps it was never even tied to begin with. But if the two had never met, I would never have been born into this world. If anything, you might say it is between parent and child that there is an unbreakable red string of fate.”
– The Red String by Yoshikatsu Fujii

Progression: Person and Place Over Time
A return to the old home town . . . or is it?

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Tokyo is the place that we visit next with Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji (Zen Foto Gallery, 2011). This is a collection of black and white photos of that city, captured during two significant periods of the artist’s life. The first series is comprised of gritty, sometimes eerie images taken in 1995. The street scenes and askew glances of the people in them share with us a youthful insider’s view of 1990s Tokyo.

Nakafuji returned over a decade later, in 2010, and generated a second series of photos. Even with the continuity provided by using black and white, gritty-grainy images for both time periods, it is evident that both the city and the artist have matured. It is the same city, the same artist . . . yet both are intrinsically, irrevocably transformed.

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library, downtown at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Photos: Natali Wiseman.
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Preserving SAM’S Historic Media Collection: Part Two

This blog post is a follow-up to our first post, Preserving SAM’S Historic Media Collection: Part One, where we introduced you to SAM’s Historic Media Collection and discussed the initial work being done to inventory, assess, and ultimately, preserve, and provide access to its contents. As a quick recap, the collection contains valuable SAM-related audio and video content from the 1930s to the present, held on media in various time-based formats, such as: reel film, cassette tape, and DVD. Due to the importance of the content and the fragility of the media, it was determined that this collection had urgent preservation needs. The Historic Media Collection includes rich content associated with the museum, but also includes content on important community members, architecture, and more. Recognizing the community impact and institutional value of the collection, a donation from an anonymous donor and a 4Culture Heritage Collections Care grant have assisted in creating a stewardship project to develop and preserve this notable collection.

Broadcast Tape

One dimension of the project was to reach out to local community experts for advice and recommendations. At least 400 items in the collection are on formats not readily viewable on available equipment at the museum’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library, including ¾” U-matic, Betacam (SP and Digital), Hi8, and 1-inch Type C tape. In order to evaluate these items, we reached out to MIPoPS (Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound), another recipient of funding from 4Culture. MIPoPS is a nonprofit corporation formed to help preserve the cultural heritage of Puget Sound by assisting archives, libraries, and other organizations with the conversion of analog video recordings to digital formats according to archival best practices.

Michael & Libby

The team at MIPoPS (Rachel Price and Libby Hopfauf) graciously offered to assist with the evaluation of these materials and to provide budget recommendations for the digitization process. I have been viewing media at MIPoPS bi-weekly, stuffing a large black bag full of videotapes and hauling the media to their location in Seattle City Hall. Along with evaluating media items, Libby has been training me on the digitization process and on the usage of a variety of media players. Due to a lack of documentation formatted to instruct archivists or individuals without a production background on maintenance of equipment and image quality control, Libby has created a manual to aid in the instruction of collaborating institutions. Libby believes that it is essential to share this knowledge with other archives due to the impending magnetic media crisis.

Months of viewing materials have unearthed some fascinating content, including the silent footage of the 1933 opening of the Volunteer Park building (the original location of the museum and current location of the Seattle Asian Art Museum). The film features such Seattle luminaries as Mayor John F. Dore and museum founders Dr. Richard E. Fuller and Margaret MacTavish Fuller. Other found footage is the inspection and construction of the downtown  location prior to its opening in 1991. This footage presents an entirely different downtown environment than we see today, highlighting SAM’s involvement with neighborhood development.

We have digitized several tapes in order to promote the collection and raise awareness of the types of content available. This ongoing and time-consuming process emphasizes the urgent necessity of preserving these materials. The footage has been useful not only in the context of the museum, but also in shedding light on the magnetic media crisis. In February, MIPoPS hosted their second Moving History screening night, Moving History Returns: Saving Our Magnetic Media, at the Northwest Film Forum to highlight material digitized recently by partnering institutions. View the digitized version of that black and white silent film of Volunteer Park and the building and opening of the Seattle Art Museum in 1933 below:

If you have any questions about this project, please post them in the comments section below.

If you have questions about MIPoPS, you can contact Libby Hopfauf at libby@mipops.org.

– Michael Besozzi, former Project Coordinator: Historic Media Collection, Seattle Art Museum and Libby Hopfauf, Program Manager/Audiovisual Archivist, MIPoPS

Photos: Micheal Besozzi
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Women’s Book Arts in the Bullitt Library

The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum has been quietly developing a book arts collection for the last two years. Materials in this collection include artists’ books, zines, one-of-a-kind books, and other rarities. With a scope focused on works created by artists in SAM’s collection, works related to an exhibition at SAM, or works that reference art or artists generally, the Book Arts Collection has grown to nearly 90 titles.

Currently, we are featuring work by women book artists and zine creators from this collection in the Bullitt Library and you can visit this installation through October 6. The works include a serial zine focused on women, a tunnel book, an accordion book with floating panels, a mini carousel book, and limited edition exhibition catalogue in a box.

Issues of "Hey Lady" by Regina Schilling

Hey Lady

The Hey Lady zine series (2015– ) is produced by Northwest artist, Regina Schilling. She selects a female subject for each issue and invites women artists worldwide to contribute portraits. It began with Yoko Ono and sixteen friends, and quickly expanded to include the work of hundreds of artists internationally, a focus on crucial women in various fields, and exhibits around the country.

“Women are truly invisible in this world. The purpose of Hey Lady, and of all my work, is to lift the cloak of invisibility and say we are here, we have always been here, and we’re here for each other. I want women to experience a creative outlet that is nurtured, validated and celebrated, for Hey Lady to be a place where people can be a part of something good, and to celebrate women who have done such an incredible job at being humans.”
— Regina Schilling

Venice: Piazza San Marco

A view of the Piazza San Marco in Venice is one of Boston book and paper artist, Laura Davidson‘s, “favorite views” that she incorporates in an ongoing series of tunnel books. Other books in the series include Florence and Paris, as well as her hometown baseball stadium, Fenway Park, and a view of Boston’s “Big Dig.” Unlike the summertime tourist-laden Venetian square, Davidson’s Venice: Piazza San Marco (2010) view of the Basilica di San Marco and the Campanile is tranquil and allows us to look upon a peaceful setting through Venetian Gothic windows.

As evidenced in the recent exhibition, Seeing Nature, views of Venice have inspired a number of artists, like Claude Monet, Edward Manet, Thomas Moran, Joseph Mallord William Turner, and others. Davidson’s work reminds us of two paintings in SAM’s collection which feature views of Venice: The Doge’s Palace and the Grand Canal, Venice (ca. 1710) by Luca Carlevariis and The Riva degli Schavoni, Looking West (ca. 1735) by the Studio of Canaletto. Davidson’s book is yet another inspiring take on a beautiful city.

Possession is Nine-Tenths: Historical Detritus of Syria (Volume I)

Internationally-known book artist, Elsi Vassdal Ellis, has been teaching digital pre-press, offset and letterpress printing, graphic design history, materials and finishing, and book arts for 40 years at Western Washington University. Her work, published under the imprint EVE Press, explores a number of subjects: politics, ethics, family, domesticity, identity, and more. Possession is Nine-Tenths: Historical Detritus of Syria (Volume I) (2015) is an accordion book with floating panels from the 30-volume set, Desert Dreams: Explorations & Excavations of HK. Speaking from the viewpoint of fictional archaeologist, “HK,” Possession is Nine-Tenths addresses the ethical issues of collecting ancient artifacts:

“Who owns what is a major point of discussion between countries liberated of their historical wealth and the public and private collectors, as well as museums, that house (and protect) them. Without such plundering, many artifacts may have been lost or destroyed, as evidenced by the actions of ISIS at Nimrud and years ago, the Taliban at Bamiyan. [The items found in the work are] part of HK’s private collection: restrung ancient beads, a tile from the emperor’s feasting hall representing Justice found in Shahbah, a pottery shard without provenance, a small clay tablet without provenance.”
— Elsi Vassdal Ellis

Centered

Centered (2008) is a mini carousel book created by book artist, Maria G. Pisano under her imprint Memory Press. The work incorporates three pop-ups, and is hand cut to reveal colorful, intricate designs inside. For this work, Pisano—who is Italian—focused on the pottery traditions of Deruta, a town in the province of Perugia in the Umbria region of central Italy. Deruta is known for ceramics—≠especially its maiolica pottery industry.

Pisano’s work is reminiscent of the maiolica in SAM’s collection, much of which can be found in the Italian Room. Enhanced color decoration is a hallmark of maiolica pottery: blues, greens, yellows, oranges, white, black, and brown, as well as tones of luster colors such as ruby red, pink, yellow, and reddish brown were developed as early as the 15th century. Colors similar to these are readily apparent in Pisano’s intricate work.

Imagine Peace: Featuring John & Yoko’s Year of Peace 

Conceptual artist, Yoko Ono, designed this limited edition exhibition catalogue in a box, Imagine Peace: Featuring John & Yoko’s Year of Peace (2007), for an exhibition organized by the Emily Davis Gallery/Mary Schiller Myers School of Art at the University of Akron. Varying greatly from the standard bound exhibition catalogue, this version includes a rubber stamp, button, small flashlight, instruction card, and various postcards stating “War Is Over,” “i ii iii I Love You,” and “Spread Peace” all in a white box with black lettering: “Imagine Peace.” The exhibition focused on the thematic ideals of peace and love, and followed the work of Yoko Ono and John Lennon chronologically as solo artists, as a couple in the 1960s, and also included Ono’s recent solo works.

In 2009, SAM’s exhibition, Target Practice: Painting Under Attack, 1949–78, included two works by Ono: Painting to Be Stepped On (1960/2009) and Painting to Hammer a Nail (1961/2009). She remains an audience favorite.

To get a closer look at these works, or other works in our Book Arts Collection, make an appointment to visit the Bullitt Library. Appointments typically take place Monday–Friday 10 am–4 pm.

— Traci Timmons, Librarian

Photos: Natali Wiseman.
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Creating the Unseen Land of the Olympic Sculpture Park

The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library‘s latest book installation, to coincide with the exhibition, Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, introduces a work that recently came into the library’s artists’ books collection. This illustrated book, with original pen-and-ink drawings and watercolors, was created by Seattle author, illustrator, zine creator, and book artist Jessixa Bagley. Bagley is best known for her award-winning children’s picture books: Boats for Papa (2015) and Before I Leave (2016). Her latest book, Laundry Day, was just published by Roaring Book Press in February 2017.

The work is the first in our collection to be born out of a Seattle Art Museum program. The Land of Unseen is a culminating storybook inspired by a collaborative process with visitors to SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park. The “Summer at SAM” program was entitled “Build a World with Jessixa Bagley” and took place over several weekends in August 2016. Jessixa invited participants to help her “create the unseen imaginative world of the Olympic Sculpture Park and give voice to all the creatures and animals that live within it.” Each week, visitors participated in interactive, open studio sessions that explored a different aspect of Bagley’s creative process. These sessions included plot development on vintage typewriters supplied by Carriage Return, character advancement through collage, and landscape mapping with watercolor and mixed media.

To construct this unseen land, the first group of park visitors were given prompts and encouraged to use typewriters to create stories about characters that live in the Olympic Sculpture Park. Next, Bagley had a different group of visitors develop those characters by creating collages based on the writings of the first group or from free-form ideas. One participant imagined an otter wearing a hat participating in plein-air painting, creating a colorful landscape. Another imagined a crow strumming a banjo surrounded by hats reminiscent of National Park Service ranger hats, in a background of rich organic textures of yellow, green, and blue. The final group of visitors was asked to create Mad Libs–style stories based on the collages, and ultimately a map of this hidden world began to take shape. From there, the book was born.

Bagley’s normal practice is to create her work alone indoors, but for this experience she really enjoyed creating work on-site at the Olympic Sculpture Park, being outdoors and working with so many visitors. This was the first time she did this type of collaboration with a group of strangers, and she found that the experience offered a very different type of inspiration.

The Seattle Art Museum is celebrating the Olympic Sculpture Park’s 10th anniversary this year. In addition to considering how the park has changed since its opening, it’s also rewarding to reflect on the many thoughtful, creative projects like this that have been inspired by it.

–Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Photos: Natali Wiseman.
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Building a Digital Collection: The Photographs and Lists of William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains

Do you ever wonder how Seattle Art Museum acquired enough porcelain objects to fill an entire room? Through my Directed Fieldwork (DFW) at the University of Washington I decided to illuminate a piece of the provenance story behind some of SAM’s porcelain objects in the beloved Porcelain Room.

Not much is known about the New York dealer, William H. Lautz’s life outside of the porcelain world, however William Lautz was a key figure in the growth of eighteenth-century porcelain in the United States during the 1940s and 50s. I’ve created a digital collection of porcelain object photographs and associated descriptive lists from the New York dealer, William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains, from the physical collection held in SAM’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library.


As a dealer of European porcelain, Lautz helped form the Warda Stevens Stout Collection at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis1, the Martha and Henry Isaacson collection in Seattle, and the Blanche M. Harnan Ceramic Collection, also in Seattle; the latter two now located partially at the Seattle Art Museum.


Both Martha Isaacson and Blanche Harnan were founding members of the Seattle Ceramic Society, which stimulated the collection of European porcelain through study groups. Their stated goal was to collect European porcelain worthy of exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. To that end, they connected with important dealers in the field.

In the mid-1950s, Lautz sent barrels of porcelain to the Seattle Ceramic Society, accompanied by photographs and descriptive lists of the pieces. In turn, the Ceramic Society members selected pieces and returned empty barrels to Lautz with checks for their purchases. This method became known as the “Seattle Scheme” and continued while the Seattle Ceramic Society members grew their individual collections.2

Over time, the Seattle Ceramic Society and its members held five exhibitions of their European porcelain collections at the Seattle Art Museum between 1949 and 1964. Many active members of the Ceramic Society donated pieces of their collection to the Seattle Art Museum, including the aforementioned Martha and Henry Isaacson and Blanche M. Harnan, along with Dorothy Condon Falknor, DeEtte McAuslan Stuart, and Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser.

To create this digital collection, I scanned all of Lautz’s photographs into JPEGs and all of his descriptive lists into PDFs. Using Adobe Acrobat’s OCR function, I made the lists keyword searchable. I then created a spreadsheet with the associated metadata for each file to improve online navigation and searching. The files and associated metadata are now available on Shared Shelf Commons, which allows you to browse and view them alongside contributions from many other institutions.

Once the collection was in Shared Shelf Commons, I used Omeka to create an online exhibition by linking photos of the Lautz pieces that ended up at SAM with their descriptions. By providing online access to William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains photographs and descriptive lists I hope to encourage researchers and others to investigate the porcelain objects in SAM’s collection and to visit the Porcelain Room at SAM to see some of the objects in person.

–Nicole Sonett, Intern, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Note: We want to thank Julie Emerson, the former Ruth J. Nutt Curator of Decorative Arts at the Seattle Art Museum, for her assistance in identifying porcelain objects from William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains that are now featured in SAM’s Porcelain Room.

1 Nelson, Christina H., and Letitia Roberts. A History of Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain: The Warda Stevens Stout Collection. Memphis: Dixon Gallery and Gardens; Easthampton, MA; New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2013.
2 Sebastian Kuhn in “Collecting Culture: The Taste for Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain,” in Cassidy-Geiger, Maureen et al. The Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain, 1710-50. New York, NY: Frick Collection in association with D. Giles London, 2008.
Photos: Natali Wiseman.
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Something Great in Something So Small: The SAM Research Libraries’ Pamphlet File Collection

Library visitors might not expect materials like pamphlets to constitute a substantial place in the Seattle Art Museum Research Libraries’ collections. In fact, reflecting on their own use of pamphlets and the fact that they are generally small in comparison to other published materials, many might even view them as disposable items. Yet, despite their small stature, they contain a powerhouse of information!

Pamphlets are relatively small, ephemeral publications which generally focus on a specific event, artist, or piece of artwork. Many pamphlets contain biographies, lists of exhibits and artwork, as well as artist or curator statements. In addition, they often contain reproductions of artworks illustrating the design preferences and artistic styles of an era. For many artists, particularly lesser known Pacific Northwest artists, pamphlets may be the only form of written material available making them incredibly important for the overall history of art in the Pacific Northwest.

Many pamphlets of different, ages, colors, sizes, and exhibitions!

Pamphlets are generally published by the museum or gallery hosting the exhibition, and may have originally been intended as takeaway items for visitors. The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at SAM, in particular, houses pamphlets from institutions large and small, and has been actively building its collection with items from smaller galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest. This collection of materials enables researchers to build a more complete picture of a gallery’s history including locations, curators and directors, name changes, and more. The collection also includes pamphlets from around the world giving users a glimpse at the reach a particular artist might have at a given time. Following the progression of pamphlets through the years provides an interesting look into the changing views and portrayals of cultural issues such as race, indigenous rights, women’s rights, etc. It’s a great visual means of understanding the issues of importance to artists, museums, and the public at large.

Glossy pamphlets!

Over the past few months, we’ve created a more bona fide pamphlet collection, adding incoming pamphlets there, rather than into our general book collection (where we had been putting such things in the past). We’ve also begun the process of relocating pamphlets currently in our book collection to the pamphlet collection. Collocating all of the pamphlets provides better access to the materials overall and allows researchers to get a clearer picture of the type of information they might find. For example, if you were looking for critical theory on Picasso, you may not find the pamphlets particularly helpful given the amount of other materials pertaining to Picasso within our collection. However, if you were looking to put together a timeline of a lesser known artist, you would likely find pamphlets very useful.

We’ve made the pamphlet collection as easy to find as possible. When searching the library catalogue, just look for the term “pamphlet” either at the end of the title or in the call number to determine whether or not the record you are accessing is a pamphlet. To see a full list of the pamphlets we’ve acquired thus far, see the Pamphlet Collection title list.

–Terri Ball, Volunteer, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Photos: Terri Ball.
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