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New Library Collection Make Birmingham Museum of Art a Draw for International Study
Each of the new libraries represents different areas of scholarship, including prints and drawings, sculpture, ceramics, and other decorative arts that reflect existing strengths in the BMA’s permanent collection, including the finest collection of Wedgwood outside of England.

BIRMINGHAM, AL .- Significant new collections acquired by the Clarence B. Hanson, Jr. Library at the Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA) deepen the Library’s resources for national and international scholars. The combined Buten Museum Wedgwood Library and Archive, Artemis Library, and Robert Kaufmann Library bring the total collection to 30,000 volumes.

“The acquisition of these libraries is of national significance and shows our real commitment to scholarship,” says Jeannine O’Grody, PhD, Chief Curator and Curator of European Art at the BMA. “The Hanson Library is integral to our mission of interpreting our permanent collection of 24,000 works of art and serves as a resource for educators, students, and the community at large.”

Each of the new libraries represents different areas of scholarship, including prints and drawings, sculpture, ceramics, and other decorative arts that reflect existing strengths in the BMA’s permanent collection, including the finest collection of Wedgwood outside of England. The Hanson Library holdings further complement the Museum’s collections of African, American, Asian, Native American, and Pre-Columbian art, and facilitate research in these and other areas.

The Buten Museum of Wedgwood Library and Archive supports the study of the recently acquired Buten Wedgwood collection of more than 8,000 Wedgwood ceramic objects made by the Wedgwood factory in England dating from 1759. Combined with the Museum’s existing Dwight and Lucille Beeson Wedgwood Collection of more than 1,400 objects, the acquisition established the collection as one of a kind in the U.S., and as the largest and most comprehensive collection of Wedgwood ceramics anywhere other than England. With this acquisition Birmingham presents two and a half centuries of Wedgwood production.

The Buten Library and Archives consists of approximately 500 books, many rare or unique, as well as photographs, slides, and archival materials that document both the history of this important ceramics collection and the history of the manufacturing of Wedgwood ceramics. The Buten Library and Archive complements the Hanson Library’s existing body of research materials on Wedgwood, including the Elizabeth Chellis Wedgwood Collection and the Archives of the Wedgwood International Seminar. This collection, the most comprehensive on Wedgwood in the US, makes the Hanson Library a prominent location for the study of European ceramics from the 18th century to the present.

“We are thrilled that the Buten Wedgwood Collection has made its home at the Museum,” says Anne Forschler-Tarrasch, PhD, Curator of Decorative Arts at the BMA. “The Library and Archive is an integral part of our collection and an incredible resource for our community and the field of ceramics scholarship.”

Thanks to the generosity of its European Art Society and the help of private individuals, the Museum acquired the Artemis Library, the former library of Artemis Fine Arts in London. This collection of 2,700 books and 3,100 sales catalogs is dedicated to prints and drawings. It has been gathered and expanded since the 1970s, particularly by former head of Sotheby’s prints department Adrian Eeles, who joined Artemis in the early 1980s. Notably, he bought parts of the libraries of Colnaghi and Knoedler, well-known print dealers.

The Artemis Library is a fundamental resource for Museum curators, students, scholars, private collectors, and print dealers. The collection includes many catalogues raisonnés (complete listing of works by a given artist), catalogues from museums and galleries around the world, and documentation about European printmaking and its history from the 15th century. Among the most valuable items are the Delteil volumes, the Hollstein series and the Illustrated Bartsch. Most of these books have been out of print for decades and are now very difficult, if not impossible, to find. The Bartsch, a multi-volume reference dating to 1803, describes more than 50,000 prints by Dutch, Flemish, German, and Italian artists. The Hollstein comprises more than 100 volumes and is the standard reference for Dutch, Flemish, and German prints. “It includes every known print by every known printmaker up to the year 1700,”says BMA Librarian Tatum Preston. “We are the only library in the southeast with the complete run,” she says.

The Artemis Library also includes Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction catalogues for prints and drawings from around 1925 up to the present with a number dating back to the 1890s, many meticulously hand annotated with condition notes, sale prices, and, occasionally, buyers’ names.

“The purchase of the Artemis material underscores our commitment to scholarly excellence by supporting the research of our curators, patrons, and students, as well as scholars from beyond our region,” says O’Grody. “The remarkable depth of the Artemis Library makes the Museum the destination for prints and drawings research in the southeast.”

The Robert Kaufmann Library consists of approximately 2,000 volumes, including books on art history, Victoriana, and food culture and history. A Birmingham (AL) native, Kaufmann worked as a decorative arts librarian at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and bequeathed his library to the BMA. Kaufmann earned a BA at Birmingham-Southern College and a master’s degree in library science at Columbia University. From 1985 until shortly before his death on November 1, 2009, he worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, serving in the Costume Institute, Watson Library, and the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Library. Prior to that, he worked as librarian at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of the Smithsonian Institution and the Yale Art & Architecture Library.

His interest and expertise in 19th-century decorative arts led him to become a charter and dedicated member of the Victorian Society in America. He also was active in the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS). Kaufmann lectured, edited a variety of publications, and received a number of professional awards. He participated as a Ford Foundation Fellow in the international effort to rescue Italian art devastated by the 1966 floods in Florence. This venture kindled a love for Italy, to which he returned frequently.

“We are grateful for the support shown the Hanson Library from the community, donors, and Museum staff,” says Preston. “These three collections have increased our holdings by half and truly establish the Library as a national resource for study.”

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