Staff at Gelman Library have a new special collection focused on the arts after GW acquired the Corcoran College of Art + Design.
About 40,000 new books were moved from the halls of the Corcoran to the stacks of Gelman, according to a University release, in a step faculty members said could help boost GW’s reputation in the arts.
The artists’ books special collection, or works of art that are actualized in the form of a text, is now stored with Gelman’s other collections. Professors and administrators said adding so many books to GW’s existing collection would help improve the University’s fine arts and art history department.
“It’s a tremendous boon and a huge benefit to everyone involved,” said Alexander Dumbadze, an associate professor of art history. “It can be the backbone of the department of fine arts and art history.”
Kerry McAleer-Keeler, the head of the Corcoran’s Art and the Book master’s program, said the texts were necessary for art students to succeed in their fields.
“The reason why artist books are important is that you see them in person because they require people to experience them from the standpoint of touch and feel and in the moment, and not online,” she said. “It’s something where the pacing is important, where you’re turning the page and interacting with the material in the here and now.”
McAleer-Keeler said she was glad the texts were now on campus so her students could spend more time working with them one-on-one.
The school’s entire library was transferred to Foggy Bottom as well, replacing other reference texts on the first floor of Gelman.
“There’s a really wide range. It’s quite a nice collection in its own right,” McAleer-Keeler said. “It’s something that I think a lot of [GW] students would really benefit from just spending a day just kind of going through the stacks.”
Plans for the transition were made over the summer and led by the head of access services, Barbra Giorgini.
The texts could not be transferred to campus until Aug. 21, when the Corcoran’s agreement with the National Gallery of Art and GW was finalized, leaving librarians with little time to physically move the books from the Corcoran campus and fully incorporate them into the GW library catalogue by the first week of classes.
Previously, to access the books, GW students would have to travel to the Corcoran campus or request them through the library consortium, which allows texts from institutions in the D.C. area to be shared among libraries.
Shira Loev Eller, the art and design librarian for Gelman, said the library would hold a reception during Colonials Weekend to introduce the GW community to the new collection.
Barbara Prior, an art librarian at Oberlin College, said having the texts on campus would make it easier for students to become familiar with the pieces they study in class.
“It would be hard to rationalize an image by just doing a Google search,” Prior said. “When you have [the books] it helps to contextualize the image.”
The addition of new volumes without dipping into the library’s annual budget comes months after the Board of Trustees approved an increase in the amount of money allocated for the University’s collections.
University Librarian Geneva Henry told the Hatchet earlier this year that she hopes to completely renovate Gelman Library over the next several years, adding labs and more research materials for professors.