Monday, November 18, 2013

Growing into the Right Place

In the next few days, I will be involved in some very exciting events associated with welcoming the Walt Reed Illustration Archive to Washington University’s Modern Graphic History Library. I have been involved in the development of illustration collections at the university since 1999 or 2000. That’s when Jeff Pike and I traveled to Monterrey, California to assess the Al Parker collection–then mouldering in youngest son Kit and Donna Parker’s garage. (Kit and Donna are devoted stewards of Al’s work; they just weren’t in a position to care for it professionally, which is why they reached out.) 

Another time I will write about where such work has taken me, intellectually speaking. Suffice to say I have been engaged with (and fascinated by) the problems of studying such materials. In part as a result of that ongoing activity, last summer I was invited to assume a new position as faculty director of the Modern Graphic History Library. After some discussion about what success and failure might look like in such an event, I was pleased to accept the position (which hasn’t changed my job really all that much, since I am not teaching less, in accordance with my wishes). I do enjoy representing an institutional perspective, which is distinct from (though in alignment with) my own professional view. It’s fun; I’m happy. 

Especially, I am humbled and delighted by the opportunity to participate in the proper disposition of Walt Reed’s research collection. Amazing to say, over the past dozen years we have built a new institutional context for periodical illustration. We have grown into the right place to house Walt’s legacy. Honestly, incredible!

Images: Harry Beckhoff, fiction illustration for Collier's, April 9, 1938; Al Parker, American Airlines print advertisement, late 1950s; Orson Lowell, cartoon drawing for Life magazine, circa 1912. This last item is one of three in the Reed Collection; they're huge, though they ran small in Life. Virtuoso drawing technique. All three of the big Lowell drawings will be on display in the exhibition in the Art and Architecture Library on Wednesday the 20th. See you there! 

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