Special Issues in Art Librarianship: Developing Critical/Decolonial Praxis

Curator: Sam Regal, CalRBS Project Manager


CalRBS Curated Course Special Issues in Art Librarianship: Developing Critical/Decolonial Praxis will be led by a series of art library, conservation, and related practitioners invested in antiracist praxis and critical approaches to the profession. Each instructor will leads a day-long session in their particular professional area.

Instructors and instructional session abstracts:

Simone Fujita (Getty)

Kit Messick (Getty Research Institute) – Moi Égal à Toi : Inclusive Description in Art-Based Special Collections


Participants will be introduced to the activities of the Anti-Racist Description Working Group at the Getty Research Institute, will discuss the principles of inclusive description for special collections materials and the particular challenges in applying this work to art- and art history-based collections, and will learn strategies for scalable implementation of inclusive description and retrospective metadata review at their home institutions.

Participants will need a laptop for this session.

Lylliam Posadas, Repatriation Manager @ the Autry

Hailey Loman (LACA) – Determining an Artist Archive


An artist’s ability to shape their own archive allows them to be in control of how their work is historicized or remembered. By using a collaborative role in archiving artistic materials, we can negate larger institutional agendas and frameworks of preservation. Determining an Artist Archive explores collaborative archival methods from both theoretical and practical bases. Attendees will gain skills and methods to integrate artistic methodologies into archiving.

The Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA), an artist archive and artist book library, will be used as a case study in the duration of this course. LACA works closely with contributing artists, requiring donors to play an active role in determining what they find valuable enough to donate to the collection. Artists determine their own descriptive meta-data and shape their finding aids and the tagging of their object donations. This approach is not devoid of its own contradictions, which is a topic that this course will contemplate at length. We will also explore ephemeral art practices such as performance, land art, and temporal sculptures and how LACA works alongside artists to discover the best methods to index such “mediums.” Last, this class will introduce participants to debates that situate the archive within a broader political frame. How can art help facilitate entry points into knowledge-building for antiracist, antisexist, antihomophobic, class-conscious work. Can art archives focus on social justice issues and still center art? How can art help tell stories?

Participants will:

  1. Critically analyze various community library and nonprofit governance systems.
  2. Develop an art vocabulary list by examining various standards in contrast to the realities
    of an ever-changing language that shapes contemporary art.
  3. Design an artist contract and a certificate of authenticity and be able to discuss how these
    function in the art archive.
  4. Analyze various reappraisal methods and how an art archive plays a unique role in the art
  5. Make informed decisions on digitizing materials for content versus methods for digitizing
    an artwork. (For instance, we will ask each other the following: When the archivist
    stitches together an artwork does this make the archivist an author of the artwork as
  6. Discuss ways in which archiving art can potentially be performative and part of the
    artist’s practice.
  7. Participants will learn hands-on methods such as experimental approaches to gathering
    meta-data, assess value, tag objects, and develop an archival workflow for artists who
  8. Discuss case studies that draw attention to the limits of art preservation, thereby raising
    ethical concerns around its implementation. (For example, what is the best method for
    slowing down eroding art? What if the intention of the artist was for the material to not
    last? Does an artist’s wish take precedence over the archivists duty to protect materials in
    the archive? How can archive’s work with artists collaboratively to best care for
    conceptual items?)