As the Loans Coordinator in the Preservation Department, I got wind of a potential loan request from the Morgan Library and Museum in June 2018. Rachel Federman, a curator of modern and contemporary prints from the Morgan, had visited Library Special Collections (LSC) to view part of the Original 99 collection which contains original works of art on paper by many different artists from 1790 to 1980. She was interested in one artist in particular, Rick Barton, who was active in the San Francisco Beat scene in the 1950s and 1960s. LSC had over 700 of his drawings, acquired in one lot in 1971, which were in less-than-ideal housings. As soon as Chela Metzger, the Head of Conservation, and I took a look at the drawings, we wanted to rehouse them.
The drawings themselves immediately struck a chord with me. Barton’s medium was mainly ink on paper which he used to create beautifully intricate, intimate line drawings. I was particularly drawn to the interior scenes detailing everything from the weave on a wicker chair, to the telephone lines outside the window, to depictions of his own hands drawing. In some drawings, the perspective and scale make it so you need a few seconds to understand what you’re seeing. Even now, having gone through the collection several times, I still find new details hiding in the corners.
Knowing that the drawings were going to be the focus of an exhibit at the Morgan, we wanted to improve not only the housing of the entire collection but also the information available to researchers. LSC Curator Genie Guerard proposed that the drawings be separated from Original 99 to preserve the integrity of the Rick Barton collection, and that it be rehoused, processed, and described. I volunteered to do the rehousing and inventory, and set to work making custom folders for the drawings in flat boxes. Previously, the collection had been organized more or less chronologically as the majority of the drawings were dated (thank you Rick!). We chose to keep this arrangement with oversized drawings housed separately from the smaller ones. Stephanie Geller, our pre-program intern, and Chela worked to rehouse the handful paintings in the collection. Exhibits, both in-house and outgoing, are one way that treatments and condition concerns are brought to the Preservation Department. The loan request from the Morgan is one example of this collaboration between LSC and Preservation, and a rewarding, successful start to the loans process.
With very little information available online about Rick Barton, we are thrilled that Rachel found her way to UCLA and hope that our work with this collection will make it more accessible to future researchers. For more about Rachel’s curatorial adventures, see her first blog post(opens in a new tab) in the series.
The finding aid for the collection can be found here.