Corinne Butta: In the Collection

A stack of books, each tagged with a number.
Initiated by Jacob Fabricious in 2004, Old News is a second-generation, copyright free newspaper presenting a selection of articles and images cut from the newspapers by artists.

Over the past several weeks, I have been onsite at BAS and assisting with the cataloging process. The collection, which consists of over eight hundred artist publications, prints, and ephemera, is arranged on flat shelving and each shelf is curated to draw connections between the publications. While there may be several publications by the same author, they are often located differently within the collection, sometimes according to thematic content and other times according to size or format. In developing a system for cataloguing, it was important to prioritize that the system A) helps to locate books within the collection and B) at the same time, allows the visitor to identify works by the same artist. Each publication is assigned a number, moving chronologically beginning with the first shelf, and each subsequent publication by an author is given the same number followed by a letter, e.g. 1A, 1B. We simultaneously map each shelf by number so that the books are easily located. As we go, we record the publisher and publication city, year, and any other relevant information such as edition number and language.

As is common with many small-scale and artist-produced publications, information about the place, date of publication, and even occasionally the artist’s name can be difficult to find, so we’ve needed to research as we go. This has been a great way to get to know the publications in the collection and to learn more about those specifically spanning from the late 1990s-2000s, which comprises the majority of the collection. It has also provided an opportunity to think about the questions introduced in my reading that interrogate authorship as the primary classificatory system of the archive. While it was important to prioritize the artist in our numbering system in order to maintain a record of artistic production over time, the numbering system is also relational and simultaneously prioritizes the connections between publications as they are arranged on the shelf.

Assigning books location numbers.