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Reimagining Canadian Art Practices and Art Collections: From Research to Publishing, and Preservation to Promotion


Reimagining Canadian Art Practices and Art Collections: From Research to Publishing, and Preservation to Promotion

Dufour, Jenna, Ellis, Sara and Latour, John (2021) Reimagining Canadian Art Practices and Art Collections: From Research to Publishing, and Preservation to Promotion. Art Documentation, 40 (1). pp. 81-103. ISSN 07307187

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The authors examine two Canadian art initiatives that librarians from Canadian universities have undertaken at individual and institutional levels. The first project addresses an in-progress artists’ biographical dictionary that focuses on an under-documented form of art practice and situates the dictionary within an evolving landscape of biographical art reference resources in Canada. The second initiative reports on a collection management project that assembles essential Canadiana print material and recontextualizes it with renewed visibility and access. These projects are supplemented with an extensive literature review by a third art librarian that parses the library and information science literature related to these two topics and focuses on Canadian scholarship, where available, as a frame of reference. Together, the three sections of this article enrich the bio-bibliographic information about, and exhibition histories of, Canadian artists while improving access to essential research publications and collections.

Divisions:Concordia University > Library
Item Type:Article
Authors:Dufour, Jenna and Ellis, Sara and Latour, John
Journal or Publication:Art Documentation
Date:5 June 2021
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):10.1086/713835
Keywords:Canadian art, Canadian art libraries, Canadian artists, Collection Management, Preservation, Promotion, Pseudonyms, Publishing, Research
ID Code:988601
Deposited By: John Latour
Deposited On:24 Aug 2021 13:26
Last Modified:05 Jun 2022 00:00


1. The publication is regarded as an artist’s book as it plays with conventions associated with artists’ biographical dictionaries. For example, it includes a secret entry for a (fictitious) alternate identity for the author/artist.

2. The dictionary will likely use the CC BY-NC-ND (Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs) license. For more information about Creative Commons licenses, see https://creativecommons.org/licenses/.

3. The Art Libraries Society/UK & Ireland formed in 1969, the Art Libraries Society of North America formed in 1972, Art Libraries Journal began in 1976, and Art Documentation started publishing in 1982.

4. Loren Singer, “Canadian Art Publications: History and Recent Developments,” Art Libraries Journal 8, no. 1 (1983): 4–57, https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1017/S030747220000331X. This essay also includes a statistical study of Canadian art publications from 1975 to 1980 based on data from Canadiana (Canada’s national bibliography) including types of art publications, language, publishing output, place of publication, periodical literature overview, and recent books.

5. Melva J. Dwyer, “Art Book Publishing in Canada,” Art Libraries Journal 17, no. 3 (1992): 34–37.

6. Jo Nordley Beglo, “Canadian Art Publishing, 1990–1993: An Overview of Monographs and Exhibition Catalogues,” Art Documentation 13, no. 1 (Spring 1994): 19–26, https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1086/adx.13.1.27948609.

7. Patricia Fleming and Yvan Lamonde, eds., History of the Book in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004).

8. Gwendolyn Davies, “Canadian Book Arts and Trades at International Exhibitions,” in History of the Book in Canada, Volume II, eds. Patricia Fleming and Yvan Lamonde (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), 109–110.

9. David McKnight, “Small Press Publishing,” in History of the Book in Canada, Volume III, eds. Patricia Fleming and Yvan Lamonde (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), 308–17.

10. Claudette Hould, “Livre d’artiste in Quebec,” in History of the Book in Canada, Volume III, eds. Patricia Fleming and Yvan Lamonde (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), 372–73.

11. Paula Gustafson, "Craft Publishing in Canada," Art Documentation 22, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 46–50, https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1086/adx.22.1.27949235.

12. Anne Whitelaw, “‘If You Do Not Grow You Are a Dead Duck’: Funding Art Publications in Canada from the 1940s to the 1980s,” Journal of Canadian Art History 36, no. 1 (March 2015): 29–51, https://www-jstor-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/stable/90021451.

13. Intermedia was a Canadian artists’ association formed in the late 1960s and based in Vancouver, Canada. See Catherine Rebecca Fairbairn’s “A Short Trip on Spaceship Earth: Intermedia Society, 1967–1972” (master’s thesis, University of British Columbia, 1991), http://hdl.handle.net.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/2429/30553.

14. Whitelaw, “If You Do Not Grow,” 40.

15. As cited in Felicity Tayler, “Perpetuating the ‘Eternal Network’: Bibliographies of Five Canadian Artist-Run Centers,” Art Documentation 26, no. 2 (Fall 2007): 4, https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1086/adx.26.2.27949463, quoting Lewis from a 1977 issue of Parallelogramme.

16. Tayler’s 2007 article explains that the publishing network of artists falls into two groups: publication as an accepted form of communication (such as a critical anthology) and publication as art (such as an artist’s book). Similarly, Whitelaw contextualizes artist-initiated periodicals by arguing that they “functioned as much as informational documents of ongoing activities as manifestos for a new way of thinking about contemporary art” (42).

17. See Sally McKay, “Making Books the Hard Way: Off Printing: Situating Publishing Practices in Artist-Run Centres (Tiré à part: Situer les pratiques d’édition des centres d’artistes),” Fuse Magazine, November 1, 2005, and Felicity Tayler, “Artists’ Publications, Artist-Run Centres and Alternative Distribution in Canada,” Art Libraries Journal 30, no. 1 (2005): 29–36, https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1017/S0307472200013821.

18. Tayler, “Artists’ Publications, Artist-Run Centres and Alternative Distribution in Canada”; Tayler, “Perpetuating the ‘Eternal Network.’”

19. Felicity Tayler, The Grey Guide to Artist-Run Publishing & Circulation, ed. Anne Bertrand (Montréal: Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference, 2017). Tayler explains how ARCs operating outside of the commercial system provide the potential to create publications that go beyond traditional methods of communication accepted in the contemporary art world.

20. Tayler, “Perpetuating the ‘Eternal Network,’” 5. In 1999, the Canada Council ceased funding publishing initiatives from those ARCs that received their operational funding from the Council, “thus forcing the ARCs to conform to funding programs [such as the Arts Writing and Publishing Grant Program] unsuited to their publishing patterns.”

21. Whitelaw, “If You Do Not Grow,” 43–44. The extension activities as a funding priority (under which the publication of exhibition catalogs fell) was criticized as it came at the expense of the museum’s already limited human resources and the high financial cost associated with fully bilingual catalogs.

22. AA Bronson, Museums by Artists (Toronto: Art Metropole, 1983), quoted in Tayler, “Artists’ Publications, Artist-Run Centres and Alternative Distribution in Canada.”

23. Leah Sandals, “Art Book Publishing in Canada Takes a Hit,” Canadian Art, February 1, 2018, https://canadianart.ca/essays/black-dog-publishing-bankruptcy-canada/. Sandals’s article was written in response to the bankruptcy of UK-based publisher Black Dog Publishing, which left several Canadian artists and galleries in limbo with pending publications. An article published two months later in the Toronto Star shared a less stark response from Jim Sheddon, publishing manager at the Art Gallery of Ontario, that “the reality of art book publishing in Canada is rarely rosy, but it’s not hopeless.” See Murray Whyte, “Does Black Dog’s Bankruptcy Spell the End to Canadian Art Book Publishing?,” The Toronto Star, April 2, 2018, https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/2018/04/02/does-black-dogs-bankruptcy-spell-the-end-to-canadian-art-book-publishing.html.

24. Andi Back, “The Collecting Practices for Art Exhibition Catalogs at Academic Libraries in the United States and Canada,” Art Documentation 37, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 104–118, https://www-journals-uchicago-edu.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/doi/10.1086/697272.

25. Common methods include faculty recommendations, dealer catalogs/newsletters, vendor slips, approval plans, social media, and in-person museum visits or published exhibition reviews/announcements. Collecting trends include firm orders, approval plans, and gifts. It is less common for institutions to participate in exchange programs.

26. Library literature from 1970s/1980s includes a history of the exhibition catalog and acquisition considerations (Anthony Burton, “Exhibition Catalogues,” in Art Library Manual: A Guide to Resources and Practice, ed. Philip Pacey (New York: Bowker, 1979), 71–86), the exhibition catalog’s function as an essential art research gateway and challenges with collecting (Lois Swan Jones and Sarah Scott Gibson, Art Libraries and Information Services: Development, Organization, and Management (Orlando, FL: Academic Press, Inc., 1986), and dealer perspectives (Brian Gold, “Exhibition Catalogues,” ARLIS/NA Newsletter 8, no. 4/5 (1980): 116–17; Brian Gold, “Acquisition Approaches to Exhibition Catalogues,” Library Acquisitions: Practices and Theory 7, no. 1 (1983): 13–16). More recently, a 2003 survey by Susan Craig discusses collecting trends for exhibition catalogs (Susan Craig, “Survey of Current Practices in Art and Architecture Libraries,” Journal of Library Administration 39, no. 1 (2003): 91–107), and D. Vanessa Kam’s comprehensive 2014 two-part article asks what is the state of collection development in art and architecture libraries today (D. Vanessa Kam, “The Tenacious Book, Part 1: The Curious State of Art and Architecture Library Collections in a Digital Era,” Art Documentation 33, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 2–17; D. Vanessa Kam, “The Tenacious Book, Part 2: Publishers’ Views on the Once and Future State of the Art Book,” Art Documentation 33, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 18–26).

27. Gustavo Grandal Montero, “Art Documentation: Exhibition Catalogues and Beyond,” in The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship, 2nd ed., eds. Paul Glassman and Judy Dyki (London: Facet Publishing, 2017), 111, https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.29085/9781783302024.

28. There is a small amount of literature that touches peripherally on this topic, such as Cyndie Campbell’s article “Keeping It All Together: National Gallery of Canada Exhibition Records and Other Exhibition-Related Material,” Art Documentation 17, no. 2 (Fall 1998): 46–50, which focuses more on the challenges of describing and making discoverable catalogs and exhibition records rather than collection development issues.

29. Stephanie Beene, Laura Soito, and Laura Kohl, “Art Catalogs Unbound: Overcoming Challenges through Engagement,” Art Documentation 39, no. 2 (Fall 2020): 29, https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1086/709449.

30. Beene, Soito, and Kohl, “Art Catalogs Unbound,” 42.

31. Louise Kelp, “Artists’ Books in Libraries: A Review of the Literature,” Art Documentation 24, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 5–10, https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1086/adx.24.1.27949342.

32. Principles include selecting items that serve as valuable teaching tools/curricula support, examples of contemporary art, a diversity of formats (codex, accordion fold, scrolls) or artist (reputation, location, gender). Less common but more fruitful acquisition strategies include working directly with artists and galleries and partnering with established publishers. Printed Matter is discussed as a critical partner for both guidance and distribution.

33. Courtenay D. McLeland, “Artists’ Books Collection Development: Considerations for New Selectors and Collections,” RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, & Cultural Heritage 18, no. 2 (Fall 2017): 80–92, https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.5860/rbm.18.2.80.

34. Stephen Bury, “1, 2, 3, 5: Building a Collection of Artists’ Books,” Art Libraries Journal 32, no. 2 (2007): 5–9, https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1017/S030747220001912X.

35. Annie Herlocker, “Shelving Methods and Questions of Storage and Access in Artists’ Book Collections,” Art Documentation 31, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 67–76, https://www-jstor-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/stable/10.1086/664736.

36. Nola Farman, “Artists’ Books: Managing the Unmanageable,” Library Management 29, no. 4/5 (June 2008): 319–26, https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1108/01435120810869101.

37. Tony White, “Artists’ Books in the Art and Design Library,” in The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship, 2nd ed., eds. Paul Glassman and Judy Dyki (London: Facet Publishing, 2017), https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.29085/9781783302024.

38. White, “Artists’ Books in the Art and Design Library,” 102. Donors often do not realize the added cost for libraries in order to process, catalog, and preserve artists’ book donations.

39. McLeland acknowledges the early canonical contributions of Clive Phillpot through the 1977 publication Art Library Manual: A Guide to Resources and Practice (London: Bowker) in which his chapter “Artists Books and Book Art” addresses the role of artists’ books in library collections as well as considerations for selection. Also discussed is the 1982 special issue of Art Documentation that was edited by Phillpot and devoted to evolving the conversation around collecting artists’ books.

40. “Every Item in the Artists’ Books Collection,” Banff Centre Library and Archives, https://banffcentrelibraryandarchives.tumblr.com/. This collection holds over 5,000 artists’ books.

41. Artists’ Books Canada, https://artistsbookscanada.wordpress.com/.

42. Several artists of this generation, including the members of General Idea and Anna Banana, were prolific publishers of artists’ magazines including GI’s FILE Megazine (1972–1989) and Banana’s VILE (1974–1979, 1983). These titles were usually published under the artists’ alternate names.

43. This digital literacy activity was held on October 29, 2020, as part of a series of workshops organized by Artexte and partner organizations. For details, see “Contemporary Arts X Wiki Virtual Workshops,” Artexte, https://artexte.ca/en/2020/09/contemporary-arts-x-wiki-virtual-workshops/.

44. The creation or development of such authority records would serve to document artists’ names and variant names, thus facilitating the retrieval of works published by or about them. Ideally, this work could be undertaken in collaboration with the artists.

45. John Latour, “A Conversation with John Latour,” interview by Hélène Brousseau, Articles, November 17, 2018, https://artexte.ca/en/articles/a-conversation-with-john-latour/.

46. Colin S. MacDonald, ed., A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (Ottawa: Canadian Paperbacks, 1967–2006).

47. “Research Publications and Resources,” National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, https://www.gallery.ca/research/research-publications-and-resources.

48. Russell J. Harper, Early Painters and Engravers in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970).

49. Bob Burdett, Peter Newell, and Pauline Leung, Canadian Artists in Exhibition/Artistes canadiens: Expositions (Toronto: Roundstone Council for the Arts and Canadian Art Publications, 1972–1974).

50. Biographies of Inuit Artists (Ottawa: Canadian Arctic Producers Co-operative, 1981).

51. Blake McKendry, A Dictionary of Folk Artists in Canada: From the 17th Century to the Present with Inclusions of Popular Portrait, Topographical, Genre, Religious and Decorative Artists of the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries (Elginburg: Blake McKendry Limited, 1988).

52. Marketa Newman, ed., The Biographical Dictionary of Saskatchewan Artists (Saskatoon: Fifth House, 1990).

53. Contemporary Canadian Artists (Toronto: Gale Canada, 1997).

54. Blake McKendry, A to Z of Canadian Art: Artists & Art Terms (Kingston: Blake McKendry, 1997). McKendry subsequently published The New A to Z of Canadian Art, Artists & Art Terms (Kingston: Blake McKendry, 2001).

55. Joan Reid Acland, First Nations Artists in Canada: A Biographical, Bibliographical Guide, 1960 to 1999/Artistes des premières nations du Canada: Une guide biographie, bibliographique, 1960 à 1999 (Montreal: Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, 2001).

56. “The CCCA Canadian Art Database Project,” CCCA Canadian Art Database/Base de données sur l’art canadien CACC, http://ccca.concordia.ca/inc/english/about.html?languagePref=en&context=about.

57. Bill Kirby, “Bill Kirby [Internet Archive of Canadian Professional Artists],” interview with Clara Hargittay, Canadian Art 18, no. 3 (Fall 2001): 42–43.

58. “The CCCA Canadian Art Database Project,” CCCA Canadian Art Database/Base de données sur l’art canadien CACC, http://ccca.concordia.ca/inc/english/about.html?languagePref=en&context=about.

59. Brenda Dionne, Institute Administrator, Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, email message to author, July 23, 2020.

60. “About this Site,” Ruins in Process, https://vancouverartinthesixties.com/about.

61. “Archive index / People,” Ruins in Process, https://vancouverartinthesixties.com/archive.

62. Lorna Brown, associate director and curator, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, email message to author, July 22, 2020.

63. Peter Trepanier, “The Artists in Canada Reference Database: Revised, Updated and Enlarged,” Art Documentation 14, no. 1 (Spring 1995): 9, https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1086/adx.14.1.27948706.

64. For example, a search for the artist Vincent Trasov will provide biographical information on the artist (including Trasov’s alternate identity of Mr. Peanut) and a list of nine contributor libraries that hold an artist’s file for Trasov.

65. “About us,” Artexte, https://artexte.ca/en/about-us/. The author worked at Artexte as an information specialist and librarian from 2004 to 2014.

66. “Collection,” Artexte, https://artexte.ca/en/collection/.

67. For more information about e-artexte, see Corina MacDonald, Tomasz Neugebauer, and John Latour, “The e-artexte Digital Repository: Promoting Access in Canadian Contemporary Arts Research and Publishing Community,” Art Libraries Journal 39, no. 1 (2014): 10–16, https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1017/S0307472200018125.

68. “Building the Main Library, 1923–1925,” University Archives, University of British Columbia Library, 1998, 2001, https://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/mainlib/library.html.

69. Katherine Kalsbeek, “Featured Room: Ridington Room,” New at Rare Books and Special Collections: Updates, Announcements, and New Resources, University of British Columbia Library, January 26, 2011, http://blogs.ubc.ca/rbscnew/2011/01/26/featured-room-ridington-room/.

70. Diana Cooper and Peggy McBride, “Reflections through the Looking Glass: The Story of the Fine Arts Library at the University of British Columbia,” History of Art Libraries in Canada, 2006, 71–73, http://canada.arlisna.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/arlis-hal-2012-11.pdf.

71. Cooper and McBride, “Reflections through the Looking Glass,” 73.

72. “UBC Opens $79.7M Irving K. Barber Learning Centre,” News Release: Office of the Premier, University of British Columbia, April 11, 2008, https://archive.news.gov.bc.ca/releases/news_releases_2005-2009/2008OTP0084-000512.htm.

73. The MAA Library negotiated with the Technical Services Department to set data parameters and run the report. Each item was identified by thirteen facets, including Call Number, Bib ID, Copy Count (Bib ID data used to distinguish unique and duplicate items), Barcode, Author, Title, Publisher City, and Imprint.

74. Duplication resulted from pulling data from across all library holding locations where a title with multiple copies or editions might be held in several locations. Titles are not duplicated in the Canadian Art Exhibition Catalogue Collection. For duplicate titles, the cleanest copy was sent to the Canadian Art Exhibition Catalogue Collection (non-circulating), and additional copies were sent to open stacks or ASRS (circulating).

75. GLAMs = Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums.

76. See “The Belkin,” https://belkin.ubc.ca/, “Museum of Anthropology at UBC,” https://moa.ubc.ca/, “AHVA Gallery,” https://ahva.ubc.ca/ahva-gallery-home/, “Hatch Art Gallery,” https://www.hatchartgallery.com/.

77. See “Catalogue of the … exhibition of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts,” UBC Library Catalogue, http://resolve.library.ubc.ca/cgi-bin/catsearch?bid=1177012.

78. This included catalogs that were irreplaceable, out-of-print, had fewer than twenty-five institutional listings in OCLC WorldCat, had high valuations from sellers or appraisers, or had unique local features.

79. “Artist Files Revealed: Documentation and Access,” The Artist Files Working Group, Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA), http://artistfiles.arlisna.org/artist-files-revealed-documentation-and-access/.

80. “Cataloging Exhibition Publications: Best Practices,” ARLIS/NA Cataloging Advisory Committee, https://www.arlisna.org/publications/arlis-na-research-reports/147-cataloging-exhibition-publications-best-practices.

81. IBPoC = Indigenous, Black and People of Colour. “Its origins are in the US where the term is expressed as BIPOC. […In] striv[ing] to consistently place ‘First Peoples first’, […] the Indigenous-first acronym - IBPoC” is used here. “IBPOC Artistic Practices,” Primary Colours/Couleurs Primaires, https://www.primary-colours.ca/sections/3-generating-knowledge.

82. 2SLGBTQIA+ = Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer (or Questioning), Intersex, Asexual. “The placement of Two Spirit (2S) first is to recognize that Indigenous people are the first peoples of this land and their understanding of gender and sexuality precedes colonization. “Equity & Inclusion Glossary of Terms,” UBC Equity & Inclusion Office, https://equity.ubc.ca/resources/equity-inclusion-glossary-of-terms/.

83. “Library Strategic Framework,” University of British Columbia Library, June 6, 2019, https://about.library.ubc.ca/about-us/strategic-framework/; “Shaping UBC’s Next Century: Strategic Plan 2018–2028,” University of British Columbia, https://strategicplan.ubc.ca/, 41, 49, 70.

84. “About the Society: ARLIS/NA Strategic Directions,” ARLIS/NA Art Libraries Society of North America, March 2016, https://arlisna.org/about/strategic-directions.

85. These considerations relate to the frames “Information Has Value,” and “Research as Inquiry,” from the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, Association of College & Research Libraries, January 11, 2016, http://www.ala.org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/acrl/standards/ilframework#frames.
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