Examination: Visionaire Unpacking Party
The New York Public Library has recently acquired the complete run of Visionaire, a contemporary art and fashion publication, which incorporates multi-media and three-dimensional materials including cosmetics, perfumes in glass vials, vinyl records, starch-based "flavor strips," textiles, and various plastics with text and images.
The Visionaire acquisition includes 53 issues with each possible variation to comprise over 66 total volumes. The formats of the earliest issues are similar to traditional printed text and image heavy magazines. As the publications grew in popularity and circulation it became heavily influenced by contemporary fashion and art. The format of each issue evolved to be very interactive and whimsical, often with limited edition inclusions or variants.
Anticipating that Visionaire would present quirky storage and handling requirements, Clayton Kirking, Chief Art Information Officer in the Art & Architecture Division, contacted Sarah Reidell, Associate Conservator for Books and Paper in the Barbara Goldsmith Conservation Lab, and Werner Haun, Collections Care Conservator. We began examination of the collection during what we called the "unpacking party."
Three conservators were paired with library staff members to examine and organize the collection by date and issue number, and remove the individual issues of Visionaire from their original packaging. Each team noted the size of the issue, any condition or damage issues, whether it needed to be stored upright or flat, and if any special support structures would be needed due to its shape or components. Some of the issues were a real challenge to open and put together—we had a great time seeing how all the pieces came together!
Each issue was given a temporary preservation quality wrapper while they were transferred to the catalogers. Now that we had created an initial list of the condition and dimensions of each issue we could determine a course of action. In some cases a issues exhibited various types of physical and/or chemical damage. We had to plan and implement a rehousing campaign, suggest storage conditions and handling guidelines, and assess damaged issues for conservation treatment.
Stay tuned to our next update to learn more about what kinds of steps NYPL conservators took to safeguard these new acquisitions to the A&A collections!