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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.

 each issue includes an Hermes maskno. 26 Fantasy: each issue includes an Hermes mask this whimsical issue includes 10 toys customized by 10 designersno. 44 Toys: this whimsical issue includes 10 toys customized by 10 designers This issue includes vials of perfumeno. 42 Scent: This issue includes vials of perfumeVarious issues and variantsVarious issues and variants

 the cover is made from a jean jacketno. 31 Blue: the cover is made from a jean jacketAnticipating 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!

Examination complete the issues are given a temporary housingExamination complete the issues are given a temporary housingEach 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!


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visionaire unpacking party

I am very encouraged to see that NYPL is taking such painstaking measures to protect our cultural heritage. Keep up the great work --- looking forward to future updates.

What a fascinating glimpse

What a fascinating glimpse into the 'behind the scenes' work of the library and its unique collections. I'd love to see more about how this unusual publication is preserved.

Good work

What fascinating materials. I enjoy the creativity that artists invest in their works. And how fortunate for all of us that libraries aquire such items. Thank you for the look at the materials and the process.

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