Monday, December 7, 2009

British Library Training Day

The Art & Design Postgraduate Training Day at the British Library featured specially tailored talks, workshops and networking opportunities. The delegate information pack included an excellent visual guide to Library's Electronic Resources and advanced use of the Integrated Catalogue.
The Introduction and Overview of Library Collections were followed by the opportunity to take part in two workshops led by Curators. My first choice was Book Arts/Artists' Books led by Stephen Bury, Head of European & American Collections. This proved to be a fascinating experience - not least being taken into the main Library (past my favourite seat/artwork) and through a maze of inner rooms to where we were to be shown some of the collections highlights. Stephen had chosen a wide selection; books by artists, books about artists, catalogues of artists exhibition and artist made books. One of the great delights for me was the tiny 'Auras - Homage to Marcel Duchamp / Levitations - Homage to Yves Klein' by Susan Hiller (2008). A dual aspect book of images appropriated from the Internet this is one of her 'archival' projects that was previously unknown to me - I'd love to buy a copy but suspect they are few and far between.
An interesting point that came up in discussion was how the Library handles limited edition books. The Library appears to take the view that if the edition is small enough then it is not really a book in the public realm and therefore there is no legal obligation to provide them with a copy. If they are given a single edition artists book it would be placed in Manuscripts rather than with the books.
My second workshop was Sound by Artists, led by Stephen Cleary of the Sound Archive. This was a wide ranging workshop covering music, film and performance soundtracks, sound installations and the spoken word as performance, oral history and artist interviews. The archive also includes wildlife and soundscape recordings. The holding is vast with over 40,000 items, 23,000 of which are available to the general public. For me the most immediate useful area will be the 1,000 hours of recordings made at the ICA between 1981 and 1994. Speakers include Quentin Crisp, Alexi Sayle, John Berger and Fay Weldon.

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