11 March 2014

Archiving a Collection


From my time working in a gallery and my years spent wandering the Art Institute, the act of collecting is something that has come to be of great interest to me. Upon reflection, I don't consider myself to be a collector of anything. I didn't collect Beanie Babies, I don't really possess an art collection, and my eclectic mix of records wouldn't be considered worthy of the title "collection" to many music aficionados. And yet, I am drawn to collections. Collections that might not be my own have made their way into my life by way of lists. For you see, I am truly a list-maker.

One of my first projects at the Art Institute was to create a list of all living descendants of donors to the precious Thorne Miniature Rooms - a strange and fun challenge, given that the Thorne Rooms were so important to me as a little girl. I worked on this project diligently tracking down little histories of former donors finding interesting stories (one descendant bred miniature horses!), but also finding dead ends where questions would always be left unanswered.

What I took away from that project was that cataloging things comes naturally for me, regardless of what it is I am working to catalog. Which has led me to an exciting new project I'm pursuing in my free time. I'm currently working to organize, archive, and catalog a collection of photography for a dear family friend and great talent, Herb Nolan. My first visit to his home and studio was this past Saturday, and the work I encountered spanned decades, themes, subject matter, and location broadly and with grace. We whittled down the collection into genres that "made sense," piling photograph after photograph into the proper location based on theme and size. As we moved through the collection, Herb reminisced on memories and moments from an era long since past, and yet, the photographs rich in contrast and intimate in manner perfectly evoked the feeling of the time and place he so beautifully captured.

We only scratched the surface with our preliminary work on Saturday, but ideally an exhibition is in the works. Stay tuned! 

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