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The Art of Collecting (APS Professional Session at CAA 2016)

When tasked with building a collection of prints for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1916, William Ivins set forth a clear mandate. He declared: “the print collection of a museum cannot be formed solely upon Yes and No answers to the question: Is it a work of art? Rather it must be, like the library of a professor of literature, composed of a corpus of prints in themselves distinctly works of art, filled out and illustrated by many prints which have only a technical historical importance. To make a museum collection on strictly aesthetic grounds would perforce end in amassing a body of material which would reflect rather the immediate personal predilections of the group of men who formed it than anything else.”

This session seeks to examine how specific collections of works on paper were thoughtfully and methodically assembled from the very beginning. In cases where inaugural curators or collectors record their objectives, how apt are these in hindsight? Who was identified and anticipated as the audience for the collection, and how did that impact the collectors’ goals for acquisitions? How did the collectors’ organizing principles-the internal categorization-play a role in the collections’ formation and development? Papers are sought that focus on collections whose main criteria were not solely aesthetic or nationalistic, and preference will be given to papers focusing on museum collections.

Please send proposals that are no more than 150 words and a CV to: Elizabeth Rudy, Harvard Art Museums, and Freyda Spira, Metropolitan Museum of Art, by June 12.

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