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A Room of One's Loan

modern chromatics

Ogden N. Rood, Modern Chromatics: With Applications to Art and Industry (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1879). Gift of A. Hyatt Mayor. Shown in The Met's 2017 exhibition Seurat's Circus Sideshow

In order to create records for library materials that were being "loaned" for exhibitions, and thus to comply with rules set by The Met's Registrar's Office, Watson Library was granted the rights to use The Met's object cataloging software/database, The Museum System (TMS), in 2015. (I put "loan" in quotes because we also contribute books and manuscripts to internal exhibitions, which are technically counted as loans even though the stuff never leaves the building.) Creating a record in TMS also provides the option of pushing the record to the online collection, meaning that objects can appear on The Met's website, if desired. Over the past few years, our loan activity has increased, as our materials are used in exhibitions more frequently. As a result, we've added dozens of "objects" online.

old website

Fifty highlights from the libraries' collection, as seen on The Met's website on June 21, 2000

For nearly the last twenty years, the Libraries' presence in The Met's online collection consisted of fifty "highlights" selected in 1999. Above is a screenshot of the Libraries' highlights page—dated June 21, 2000!—culled from the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. (The first preserved instance of a Watson Library page is here.)

Dan Lipcan

Using our camera stand to digitize a map from the 1905 limited edition of Newport: Our Social Capital by Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer. Photo by Robyn Fleming

Thanks to support from the Lifchez-Stronach Foundation, we had the opportunity to fund a photography stand to document our materials for these purposes, and we collaborated with The Met's amazing Imaging Department to get the right equipment and make sure our imaging specs were ISO 19264 compliant—an international standard for artwork reproduction that The Met helped create!

Timothy Leary

Left: Timothy Leary, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (New York: University Books, 1972). Right: Francesco Carradori, Istruzione elementare per gli studiosi della scultura (Pisa: Impresso nella tipografia della Società letteraria, 1802).

The cover of The Psychedelic Experience was displayed in the exhibition Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950-1980, organized by and held at The Met in fall 2017. Christina Ferando, then of the Museum's Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, wrote a Timeline of Art History essay on the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova, in which she referenced Francesco Carradori's manual for sculptors, Istruzione elementare per gli studiosi della scultura. The human skeleton image wasn't used in the essay, but it was impossible to resist photographing it as we documented the plates she requested.

attica book

Attica Book by the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition and Artists and Writers Protest Against the War in Vietnam. Published by Custom Communications Systems in South Hackensack, New Jersey, ca. 1971

The front cover of Attica Book was loaned to the David Zwirner Gallery and displayed in their exhibition Alice Neel, Uptown, curated by Hilton Als, held at the gallery's West 19th Street New York location from February 23 to April 22, 2017.


Left: John Golding, Cubism: A History and an Analysis, 1907-1914 (New York: George Wittenborn, 1959). Right: Its installation in Birds of a Feather, April 2018. Photo by the author

This annotated copy of John Golding's book Cubism with its original dust jacket—depicting a 1913 Juan Gris painting—is included in the 2018 Met exhibition Birds of a Feather: Joseph Cornell's Homage to Juan Gris. Joseph Cornell had a copy of this edition in his library.


Jean-Aimar Piganiol de La Force, Nouvelle Description des Chateaux et Parcs de Versailles et de Marly (Paris: Chez la Veuve de Florentin Delaulne, 1724). Both volumes of the set are installed in this picture. Photo by the author

Several eighteenth-century Watson volumes, such as Nouvelle Description des Chateaux et Parcs de Versailles et de Marly, above, are installed in the current exhibition Visitors to Versailles (1682-1789). These books, some of which include foldout maps, served as travel guides for visitors to the palace and its gardens.

The exhibitions won't stop, so we're guaranteed to be adding more over time. You can view all 197 of our "objects" in The Met's online collection. Keep your eye on the collection—and on our galleries—for more Watson Library books coming soon!


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