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Friday, May 2 • 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Trade Catalogs: Opportunities and Challenges

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Sponsored by Washington Art Library Resources Committee (WALRC)


Trade Catalogs: Invaluable Resources - Mary Augusta Thomas, Deputy Director, Smithsonian Institution Libraries, and Stephen Van Dyk, Head, Art Libraries, Smithsonian Institution Libraries and Librarian, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
Through the Looking Glass: a Medium-specific Collection - Gail P. Bardhan, Reference and Research Librarian, Rakow Library, Corning Museum of Glass
From Stickley to Sears: Material Culture and Trade Catalogs - Emily Guthrie, NEH Librarian, Printed Book & Periodical Collection, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Trade Catalogs as Objects of Fine Printing and Design - Jared Ash, Special Collections Librarian, Thomas J. Watson Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Projects and Products: Building History in Architectural Trade Catalogs - Carolyn Yorke Yerkes, Curator of Avery Classics, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University 

Linda Seckelson, Principal Reader Services Librarian, Thomas J. Watson Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Politically, trade catalogs represent the industrial and commercial productivity and inventiveness of a nation – a measurement of its economic power in the post industrial world. They additionally promoted national styles that became adopted by countries as a form of identity and national pride. 

Trade catalogs are primary source materials for understanding the history and study of decorative arts and material culture. They are a specialized "genre" of art historical literature. Their care, acquisition, cataloging, organization and housing present particular challenges. There are large, recognized collections of them in some institutions, and smaller, scattered collections elsewhere. In some museum settings, they are considered "objects," and in other situations, they are in library collections. Their ambiguous status contributes to their complexity. Therefore, access to them is not always straightforward. 

The original purpose of trade catalogs was to illustrate and promote the use of manufactured products. Small mills and large corporations alike publish them as marketing tools for wholesalers, retailers and the public. Trade catalogs document existing products, new technologies, innovative design in products and packaging, and marketing methods. In addition, they chronicle diverse methods of printing and advertising layout. They are portable and accessible resources for disseminating new inventions and designs all over the world. They are important research tools for verifying manufacturers of objects, as visual resources for restorations and creation of facsimiles and as a means of understanding the style and taste of a place or time period. They document material culture in a way that links commerce, industry, design, taste and scholarship, and as such, are essential tools for the increasingly interdisciplinary study of art history, decorative arts and material culture. 

Each panelist will talk briefly about the collection at his/her institution and will emphasize important or unique contributions to study and research, as well as addressing any issues relating to cataloging, organization, digitization and collecting challenges for the future.

Friday May 2, 2014 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Room: Burnham Grand Hyatt 1000 H Street NW, Washington DC 20001

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