Collecting Contemporary Artist Archives

If you are an artist working in glass interested in donating materials that document your life and career, we will be collecting items for our artists’ file at the Rakow Library during the Glass Art Society (GAS) conference, June 9-11. You can also stop by to talk with our archivists about your archives and how best to preserve them at our Ask an Archivist table in the Rakow Library on June 8, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, and June 10, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

The Rakow Research Library is home to the sketchbooks, photographs, letters, videos, design drawings, journals, and other papers of artists from around the world. The personal archives of these artists are important not only because each reveals the history of an artist, but also because they offer background and context to that artist’s work.

Harvey Littleton at the furnace, [1975-1985?], Spruce Pine, NC, Marvin Lipofsky photograph collection, CMGL 150776.

Harvey Littleton at the furnace, [1975-1985?], Spruce Pine, NC, Marvin Lipofsky photograph collection, CMGL 150776.


Artists’ records are an extension of their artwork, documenting their production methods and the progression of their pieces. Researchers rely on artist files and archives for many reasons, including to establish chronologies and exhibition histories, to assemble retrospective exhibitions, to discover physical evidence of an artist’s intent, to review stylistic developments, to assess the critical reception of an artist over time, and to reveal how individual artworks fit into an artist’s larger body of work. Artist’s records also provide evidence of ownership or sale of a work and, sometimes, the records contain the only evidence of works that have been lost.

Just as sketches, models, drafts, and diaries give us insight into an artists’ practices and thought process, they also help us understand artists’ personal lives, their identities in relation to their artwork, and how they and their work fit into a broader cultural history. Artists’ records show the twists and turns of their careers, the ways in which they see the world, and the challenges and failures they may have experienced. Artists’ collections trace the creative process, but they are also part of the process, blurring the lines between art and documentation, making the archive a work of art in itself. Consider the beauty and creativity of the “Tiffany girls’” watercolors, the Czech designs in the Steinberg Foundation Collection, the stained glass drawings and models of Robert Sowers, and the model drawings of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka.

Detail of medium-sized model for stained glass window

Detail of medium-sized model for stained glass window for American Airlines Terminal at JFK Airport, circa 1957-59, CMGL 44132.

We are currently collecting the records of Studio and contemporary glass artists. The Rakow’s holdings include the collections of Marvin Lipofsky, Dan Dailey and Linda MacNeil, Dominick Labino, Bandhu Dunham, Debbie Tarsitano, Paul Stankard, Robert Kehlmann, Paul Marioni, Richard Posner, and others. In these collections one can find journals, photographs, digital images, slides, videotapes and audio cassettes, books, sketches, DVDs, slides, posters, exhibition catalogs and much more.

It’s all right here, in the archives, waiting to be explored, discovered, revealed.

The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9am to 5pm every day. We encourage everyone to explore our collections in person or online. If you have questions or need help with your research, please use our Ask a Glass Question service.

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